Scottish Power threatens to take wind farm investment to America

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The Independent Online

Scottish Power has warned that it may shift a large portion of its proposed £1bn-plus investment in wind farms to the US unless the planning process is reformed.

Scottish Power has warned that it may shift a large portion of its proposed £1bn-plus investment in wind farms to the US unless the planning process is reformed.

Britain's largest wind farm developer is becoming frustrated by the Ministry of Defence and airports operator BAA, which are objecting to the wind farm applications. They are worried that the turbines may interfere with their radar systems.

According to the British Wind Energy Association, the MoD objected to 48 per cent of wind farm applications before the planning stage last year. It is understood that BAA and its regulator, the Civil Aviation Authority, objected to a similar proportion.

Ian Russell, the chief executive of Scottish Power, said: "We will invest over £1bn this year, much of it going towards wind farm development in the UK and the US. However, projects in the US renewables industry can be developed much faster than their UK equivalents. The slower pace could cause problems for the UK as a whole as it tries to meet the government target of 10 per cent [of renewable energy] by 2010.

"The faster pace in the US makes investment there attractive for our strategy of organic growth." Through its US Pacificorp subsidiary, Scottish Power already owns around $830m (£460m) worth of wind farm developments and has plans for another $2bn.

Two Scottish Power wind farm schemes - Whitelee near Glasgow and Black Law near Edinburgh - are being held up by objections from the MoD and BAA.

The MoD and BAA are concerned that aeroplanes sometimes "disappear" from their radar when flying close to wind farms. Scottish Power is working with telecoms company Marconi to develop a new radar system at Glasgow airport, costing £2m.

A spokesman for BAA said: "We reject any suggestion that we are frustrating the application process. We are totally committed to renewable energy. Our objections are down to safety - of the aircraft, passengers, the crew and the communities on the ground."

The Department of Trade and Industry is responsible for promoting renewable energy. A spokeswoman said: "We remain confident that the [renewable energy] target will be achieved." She added that a DTI working group, established to look into the issue, "will tackle aviation-related barriers and resolve any issues there may be between the wind industry and the aviation community."

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