Big surge in solar panels and wind turbines

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A GRASSROOTS campaign to adopt solar and wind energy in some of Yorkshire’s most isolated communities is under way as the Government predicts the green technology sector will lead to a new industrial revolution.

There has been a massive surge in the number of homes which have had solar panels, turbines and biomass boilers installed over the past 18 months.

The groundswell of support has been attributed in part to a growing awareness as often traditionally conservative rural communities have begun to witness first-hand the benefits of using the technology.

The Yorkshire Dales National Park includes some of the country’s worst fuel poverty blackspots, and hundreds of residents have inquired about the use of renewable energy in the last year.

Statistics from the Yorkshire Energy Partnership have revealed the number of green technology installations has risen dramatically.

There were 509 installations on properties in North Yorkshire during 2010/11, but there have already been 836 installations in just the first six months of this financial year.

The data is revealed as Energy Secretary Chris Huhne is set today to attack “climate sceptics and armchair engineers” for criticising renewables on the economic benefits of green energy.

There have been concerns that subsidies for green technologies including onshore wind will be dramatically scaled back.

A review of feed-in tariffs that pay people for the electricity they generate from small scale renewables is also expected to slash payments.

The industry claims the expected move will hit jobs and growth in the sector but the Energy Secretary will say that renewable energy technologies will deliver a new industrial revolution.

Mr Huhne will tell RenewableUK’s annual conference in Manchester: “I want to take aim at the curmudgeons and fault-finders who hold forth on the impossibility of renewables, the climate sceptics and armchair engineers who are selling Britain’s ingenuity short.

“Yes, climate change is a man-made disaster. Yes, the UK is only two per cent of global carbon emissions. But if we grasp the opportunity now our businesses and economy can be much more than two per cent of the solution.”

Yorkshire is at the forefront of the green energy revolution with developers unveiling a series of schemes in the past six months totalling nearly £350m of investment to create more than 2290 jobs.

Major projects include two biomass plants at Drax power station which will create up to 1,500 jobs. The world’s largest off-shore wind farm is due to be built at Dogger Bank, 80 miles off the Yorkshire coast.

But it is smaller scale technologies have seen a dramatic rise in popularity. In the Yorkshire Dales National Park, more than 600 people attended events in the last year to inquire about solar panels and biomass boilers.

The Green Communities scheme has targeted Clapham, Grassington and Threshfield, Horton-in-Ribblesdale and Stainforth, Malhamdale and Raydale.

Installing solar panels on an average family home costs as much as £12,000, although annual savings of about £1,000 can be made on energy bills.

Project officer Jill Armstrong said: “There is often a lot of scepticism in rural communities, who are not normally swayed by jumping on a bandwagon.

“But people are seeing the benefits of technology like solar panels in their own communities. People are always more persuaded by what their neighbours say than what the Government tells them.”

The Upper Dales in Richmondshire and Craven are some of the worst hit areas nationally for fuel poverty – defined as the need to spend more than 10 per cent of household income on fuel to maintain adequate warmth.

Homes in deeply rural locations are off the national gas network and need to rely on oil or liquid propane gas for heating, which can cost twice as much.

A fifth of Yorkshire’s households were classed as fuel poor in 2009 compared to an English average of 18.5 per cent.