Monday, March 27, 2006

Wind power 'ahead of predictions'

Onshore wind farms will provide about 5% of Britain's electricity by 2010, according to the British Wind Energy Association (BWEA).

In a new report, it says turbines are being installed faster than predicted.

If this is correct, onshore wind farms will take the government halfway to its target of generating 10% of electricity from renewable sources by 2010.

The report comes a day before the government unveils a major review of its climate change policies.

Entitled Onshore Wind: Powering Ahead, the report claims to be the most comprehensive assessment of the UK's onshore wind sector ever undertaken.

It forms part of the BWEA's response to another ongoing government review on energy which is due to conclude in the middle of the year.

Half full

Our research proves that onshore wind will bring major benefits to the economy and the environment
Chris Tomlinson
The BWEA says that projects already constructed and those already approved will give a capacity of 3,000 megawatts (MW) by 2010.

Taking into account potential barriers such as planning consent and grid capability, it identifies a further 3,000MW capacity which it says is "forecast to be consented and built" by the decade's end.

"Onshore wind can play a hugely significant role in meeting renewable energy and climate change targets," said the BWEA's head of onshore, Chris Tomlinson.

"Our research proves, very clearly, that onshore wind will deliver, bringing major benefits to the economy and the environment while securing our energy supplies."

Onshore wind farms are more advanced than any other renewable energy sector in Britain, though installation lags well behind some other European countries such as Denmark and Germany.

A 2004 reform of the planning process aimed at easing approvals has proven only a partial success, with a number of recent applications refused or scaled down.

But despite opposition from a few high-profile figures such as TV naturalist David Bellamy, polls suggest the public approves, with a Guardian/ICM survey in 2005 showing about 70% of the population endorsing wind farm construction within 20 miles (32km) of their home.

If the onshore wind industry is as healthy as the new report suggests, the challenge for the government is to stimulate the remaining 5% of renewable capacity needed to reach its 2010 target.

BWEA figures show that only four offshore wind farms are currently in operation. Though output can be higher per turbine and wind more consistent, construction costs are also higher and grid connection is a bigger issue.

Photovoltaic solar panels produce less than 1% of the nation's electricity, and wave and tidal technologies remain in the development stage.

Pakistan have upper hand in Test

First Test, Colombo: Sri Lanka 185 v Pakistan 124-4

Pakistan hold the upper hand in the first Test against Sri Lanka in Colombo after dismissing the hosts for 185.

At the close on day two Pakistan were 124-4 in reply, with Imran Farhat hitting 69.

Sri Lanka were put in to bat in overcast conditions and with the ball darting all over, slumped to 30-5.

Tillakaratne Dilshan (69) and Farveez Maharoof (46) put on 111 for the sixth wicket as fast bowler Mohammad Asif took 4-41.

Sri Lanka got off to a torrid start when play finally got under way after the first day was washed out with opener Upul Tharanga out for a duck, lbw to Asif, with the fourth ball of the day.

Sanath Jayasuriya, playing his first Test match in six months, Kumar Sangakkara and skipper Mahela Jayawardene also failed to reach double figures.

But Dilshan and Maharoof fought back before and after lunch until Maharoof became Asif's fourth victim after he was dismissed thanks to a great reflex catch by Younis Khan at second slip.

Dilshan was hoodwinked by spinner Danish Kaneria, who took 3-44.

Pakistan were in trouble themselves at 28-3 before Farhat hit 69 off 90 balls before losing his wicket in fading light.

Captain Inzamam-ul-Haq was unbeaten on 30 at the close.

The home side were forced to go into the match without regular captain Marvan Atapattu and key paceman Chaminda Vaas, both sidelined by injury.

Pakistan, without fast bowling spearhead Shoaib Akhtar, suffered a late setback when batsman Mohammad Yousuf was ruled out by a hamstring problem.

And Pakistan pace bowler Rana Naved-ul-Hasan was also unavailable because he has returned home to see his wife, who is ill.

Lanka president wins tsunami case

Sri Lanka's Supreme Court has awarded President Mahinda Rajapakse $5,000 in damages after ruling that a probe into tsunami aid money breached his rights.

The investigation last year followed a complaint that donations were siphoned off in Mr Rajapakse's constituency when he was prime minister.

The court ordered the opposition MP who complained and two top police officers to pay the bulk of the damages.

Mr Rajapakse, who was elected president in November, always denied wrongdoing.

'Attempt to discredit'

The allegations arose last September when a magistrate gave police the go-ahead to investigate how 83 million rupees ($830,000) in public donations ended up in three private accounts in Mr Rajapakse's Hambantota constituency in southern Sri Lanka.

The opposition MP brought the court case... as soon as Mahinda Rajapakse was nominated as presidential candidate
Chief Justice Sarath Silva

Two weeks later the Supreme Court ordered the probe to be halted.

In their verdict on Monday, three Supreme Court judges unanimously ruled that Mr Rajapakse's fundamental rights had been breached.

They ordered the complainant, Kabir Kasheem of the opposition United National Party (UNP), to pay $1,000 in damages to the president.

National police chief Chandra Fernando and another senior police investigator must each pay $1,000 to Mr Rajapakse. The state was also ordered to pay him $2,000.

Chief Justice Sarath Silva said the court case had been brought as soon as Mr Rajapakse was nominated as a presidential candidate.

"The court sees this as an attempt to get political mileage for [UNP leader] Ranil Wickramasinghe and to discredit Mahinda Rajapakse."

'Not a cent'

Mr Rajapakse told parliament last year that the cabinet was aware of the existence of the private fund, known as Helping Hambantota.

His office said he had held donations privately to try to speed up the rate at which aid money was being handed out to victims of the 26 December, 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami.

The money in question had been put in a state account and Mr Rajapakse had not taken "even a cent" for his use, his secretary Lalith Weeratunga told the AFP news agency at the time.

Sri Lanka received millions of dollars in foreign aid following the tsunami, which killed more than 31,000 people, left hundreds of thousands homeless and devastated long swathes of coastline.