Local newspapers paint the real picture on wind power

Last month I was in North Wales – a coastline which is home to the UK’s first large scale offshore wind farm called North Hoyle.

It currently has one other operating offshore wind farm – Rhyl Flats, and a massive development is underway further out to sea at Gwynt y Môr offshore wind farm which, when completed in 2013, is set to provide electricity to cover nearly one-third of homes in Wales.

While this blog frequently focusses on wind power reporting in national-level newspapers, the regional-level or local newspaper does not get as much attention as it perhaps merits.

There is, of course, local opposition. On this particular stretch of coastline the opposition group is called Save Our Scenery – slightly ironic given that the new offshore farm is 18 km offshore and will be frequently out of vision thanks to the often dense banks of Welsh cloud.

Save Our Scenery does get quoted by the local press – not always in the best light – but then so do the real stories: jobs for local people and boosts to the local economy. This week Wales Online noted that “at least another 100 long term, skilled engineering jobs will be created at RWE npower renewables’ operations and maintenance base at the Port of Mostyn.” That’s in addition to the hundreds of design, engineering and construction jobs already created by the farm, and the over £300 million it has already generated for the UK economy, the news source noted.

The Bangor and Anglesey Mail picked up on another job and investment-related story: “£10 million wind farm deal struck to secure North Wales jobs,” its headline said. According to the story, a local firm from Holyhead had just been awarded its biggest ever contract to provide six crew transfer vessels for Gwynt y Môr. “Bosses at RWE npower renewables, which is in charge of building the wind farm, said the contract brings the total investment in Wales to more than £80 million,” the article said. “It has created new jobs, all of which are local, so it is great news for the area,” the transfer vessel firm added.

And it’s not just in Wales that Gwynt y Môr is creating jobs: The Belfast Telegraph reported that the wind farms’ substations have created jobs in Belfast where the substations were made. “The substations have been designed, engineered and built here, which is a huge boost to UK manufacturing and local job creation. It is also a demonstration of the ongoing vibrancy of the renewables sector and its potential for the UK economy”, it quoted Gwynt y Môr project director Toby Edmonds as saying.

Local newspapers do help to paint a real picture, but for the bigger picture, you’ll be interested to note that recent EWEA research has found that the wind industry added 30% new jobs from 2007-2010 and employed 238,154 people directly and indirectly in 2010 at a time when unemployment is rising across Europe. The ‘green growth’ report also found that if EU Member States agree to binding renewable energy targets for 2030 – like those in place for 2020 – wind energy employment would rise to 520,000 full time jobs in the EU by 2020.