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Sunday Times Wind Farm Boss Puffs Up Labour's Election Funds 22 May 2005

The owner of a wind farm company which stands to make millions from Labour’s push for alternative energy will this week emerge as one of the party’s biggest donors during the general election campaign.

Nigel Doughty, a venture capitalist, gave Labour £250,000 after a dinner with Tony Blair held for potential donors earlier this year. His investment company owns LM Glasfiber, the world’s biggest wind turbine manufacturer, which is likely to profit from the huge expansion of wind power under Labour. It has already won many major contracts in Britain.

The donation will be disclosed by the Electoral Commission this week. A senior Labour source said it was one of its most significant gifts in the run-up to the election. “Doughty is a major donor, one of our most important. He was brought in after a private dinner with the prime minister for potential donors,” said the source. “His connections with wind farms are known.” The gift from a businessman operating in a field sensitive to government policy will again raise concerns about Labour’s sources of funding.

Doughty, who is also chairman of Nottingham Forest football club, has never previously given money to Labour although he did sign a public letter of support for the party before the election. A leading venture capitalist, he keeps a low profile, living in a large home in Hampstead, north London, owned by an offshore trust. He is joint 916th in the The Sunday Times Rich List with a fortune put at £52m. His venture capital firm, Doughty Hanson, bought LM Glasfiber, a Danish company, in 2001. He is expected to raise about £500m by floating it on the stock market.

Other investments include Umbro, the sportswear firm fined for fixing football shirt prices, and Priory Healthcare, a firm of clinics popular with celebrities fighting addictions. It is not known if Doughty discussed wind power with Blair during the dinner arranged by Sir Ronald Cohen, a venture capitalist and leading Labour donor.

But Labour’s support of wind farms is certainly important to his group. Last March, at a presentation to investors, LM Glasfiber boasted that the British market was one of its most important and was set for “substantial growth in 2005”. It has already supplied numerous wind turbine blades in this country including those for the Cefn Croes wind farm in Wales.

The government has pushed ahead with plans to construct more than 5,000 wind turbines in remote areas despite massive local opposition. Blair has said wind farms are necessary to meet the country’s commitment to produce energy from renewable sources. The government’s target is 10% of electricity from renewable sources by 2010 with an ambition to double the figure to 20% by 2020. More than £1 billion a year will be given in state subsidies to the renewable energy industry to meet the target. Critics believe that the relatively small amounts of energy produced by each turbine do not justify the damage they cause to the landscape.

Yesterday David Willetts, the shadow trade and industry spokesman, said people were “baffled” by Labour’s obsession with wind farms. “Who knows what the donor has discussed with the prime minister about wind farms,” he said. The issue will be top of the political agenda next month when the government sets out its long-term energy needs.

Doughty declined to comment yesterday. Labour said all its donations were in accordance with Electoral Commission rules. It declined to comment on Doughty’s gift.

  Wind farms require a considerable infrastructural network of pylons, cabling and maintenance roads, as well as there being scenic and health concerns (flicker, noise, distraction etc.). There are also the longer term effects on landscape and drainage of there having to be many tens of thousands of huge concrete-filled bases underground to stabilise these turbine towers -- a seriously different reality to the minimal or limited duration environmental damage that's misleadingly claimed by vested-interest advocates of that industry. The damage done by windfarms would last for thousands of years.
Greedy developers, government sycophants and greenie fetishists blatantly lie that their wind-turbines are safe and attractive edifices. In perverse defiance of all common-sense, the government is still determined to inflict these machines on the British countryside and its people. And all for their -- oops, your -- own good, of course. Or the good of someone else, somewhere. Or whatever (just like their imposition of ID cards, a centralised stazi state and the negation of democracy, any excuse will do). So why don't the government set an example, by sticking a very big wind-turbine on top of Big Ben? Wind Farm 'Catastrophic' for Isle 18 May 2005

The environmental impact of the world's largest proposed onshore wind farm could be 30 times worse than expected, a peatland expert has warned.

A report commissioned by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds says a massive wind farm on the Isle of Lewis could be "catastrophic".

Richard Lindsay, of the University of East London, said the developers had undervalued the quality of the habitat.

Lewis Wind Power Ltd said it would not comment until it had read the report.

RSPB Scotland has submitted a formal objection to the 234-turbine wind farm. About 5,000 have been lodged in total, opposing the plan.

The findings of this report provide the final nail in the coffin for the Lewis Wind Power proposal

Mr Lindsay, the university's head of conservation, said the wind farm on the Hebridean island could have a devastating impact on the internationally important peatland site and the environment as a whole.

He claims Lewis Wind Power Ltd has also hugely underestimated the area of carbon-rich peatland which could be affected.

An evaluation undertaken by Mr Lindsay indicates the impact of the proposed wind farm could be up to 30 times greater than that predicted in the company's own environmental statement for the site.

Carbon emissions

"We build wind farms in order to reduce carbon emissions, we then build our wind farms on peat," Mr Lindsay said.

"Yet peatlands represent the one land-based habitat that is a major long-term carbon store.

"By building the wind farm on peat, we release this carbon store as carbon emissions to the atmosphere."

He also points out that peat contains less solids than milk and that if it is built upon and disrupted, it can lead to catastrophic "bog slides" such as the recent one at a wind farm in Co. Galway, Ireland.

In that incident, 2km of peat hillside poured down across the landscape for a distance of more than 20km.

In February this year, RSPB Scotland submitted its formal objection to the Lewis wind farm on the grounds of its likely impact on birds and the environment.

Commenting on Mr Lindsay's findings, the charity's planning and development manager Anne McCall said: "The findings of this report provide the final nail in the coffin for the Lewis Wind Power proposal.

"The RSPB strongly supports the need to tackle climate change and recognises that renewable energy developments will play a critical role in doing so.

'Sensitive habitat'

"But it makes no sense to allow a development on a site which is highly valued by local people, internationally important for birds and made up of a highly sensitive peatland habitat."

The developers' environmental statement acknowledges that the development will result in the loss of at least 20 red-throated divers, 50 merlin and 50 golden eagles due to collision during the 25-year lifetime of the development.

It also says 350 pairs of golden plover and 314 pairs of dunlin will be lost to the population due to displacement.

The Western Isles Council meets next week to consider presentations from local communities and environmental organisations.

James Reynolds
Scotland faces 40% Slump in Electricity Supply The Scotsman
17 May 2005

Scientists warned yesterday that Scotland will face a 40 per cent drop in its electricity generating capacity unless tough decisions are taken on replacing current nuclear power stations.

At the launch of an inquiry into Scotland’s energy supply, scientists at the Royal Society of Edinburgh (RSE) said that while demand is expected to double over the next half century, almost half of our electricity supply is expected to be lost as nuclear power stations near the end of their life.

Although the Executive wants to source 40 per cent of all energy from renewable sources such as wind, wave and tidal power by 2020, critics have argued that renewables are too inefficient to be relied upon as heavily as ministers intend. The result could mean Scotland will have to change its role from an exporter of electricity to a net importer.

Lord Sutherland of Houndwood, the RSE’s president, said: "There is an urgent need for us to identify appropriate means for the sustainable delivery of Scotland’s energy needs. Meeting energy demands while protecting our environment must be paramount."

Professor Maxwell Irvine, chairman of the inquiry, said: "Energy is the single most important commodity for our survival. The provision of a sustainable, secure and safe supply should thus be every nation’s highest priority."

All electricity generating options, including the building of replacement nuclear power stations, will be considered by the inquiry, which will deliver a report about a year after consulting on the issue.

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