THE public will be expected to fork out around £20 million over the next 20 to 25 years to subsidise wind farms in Caithness.
That is the figure revealed to the John O’Groat Journal by the chairman of Caithness Windfarm Information Forum, Stuart Young.
Mr Young said the feed-in-tarrifs – payments made by energy suppliers to anyone who generates renewable electricity – used to pay wind-farm owners could “bankrupt the country”.
The cost of the renewables subsidy is passed on to the average householder through electricity bills (around £15 per person according to Mr Young) as well as through rising prices of other consumer products that have had electricity involved in their manufacture.
“No-one understands that all these nice ‘green’ wind turbines are being paid for them personally,” said Mr Young.
“If you don’t have a turbine then you are paying for everyone else’s and that’s what people need to understand.”
However, local MSP Rob Gibson said the public purse is needed to develop these renewable sources now – as the rising cost of fossil fuels would prove to be much more expensive when stocks start drying up.
“The feed-in-tarrifs were developed so that there was more domestic input into the national grid and people could reduce their own costs by using power they generated,” said Mr Gibson.
“This reduces the need for using fossil fuels which are very expensive and growing more so. The support is out of consumers’ pockets, but it is to do with the fact that all consumers have to help pay for the grid in order that we have electricity.”
Mr Gibson, an ardent supporter of renewable energy, said the scheme is so profitable at the moment to ensure the industry grows at a suitable rate and climate change targets are met.
But Mr Young believes it is an unsustainable scheme.
The forum is making plans to object to a proposed development at Dunnet Head which, according to Mr Young, will be a good money maker for the developers.
The 282ft single turbine is being planned by the Draper family who own the estate where it could be built.
The plans are currently going through a screening process ahead of a formal planning application being submitted to the Highland Council.
Mr Young argued if the single turbine produced £46,000 worth of electricity for the main grid a year, it would earn around £270,000 in subsidy.
“This turbine would take in around £6 million in subsidy over the course of it’s lifetime [20 to 25 years] which would be paid for by all the other consumers who don’t have a turbine. This is how the feed-in-tarrifs work.”
Mr Young claimed the monetary value of the electricity single turbines produce is outweighed by the amount of money paid into them in subsidies by the public.
A reduced rate of subsidy is due to come into effect in October but Mr Young pointed out that all the wind farms that are in the Highland Council’s planning system at present will be given the current inflation-proof rate of subsidy for the lifetime of the turbines.
“If everything in planning for Caithness got approved, and most do, the turbines in Caithness will earn around £900,000 a year to the owners, paid for by the energy consumer,” he said.
Despite repeated attempts, the Groat was unable to speak to the Draper family about Mr Young’s claims