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BT blows £250m on wind power

Dialling down the carbon footprint

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BT is investing a whopping £250m in a series of wind farms that will generate 25 per cent of the firm's energy requirements by 2016.

BT currently accounts for almost one per cent (0.7 per cent) of the UK's entire energy consumption, making it the biggest single consumer of power we have.

The move has been welcomed by the government, with the main cheese at the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform, John Hutton, describing the move as "a great example of how businesses can contribute and help us meet our ambitious target to dramatically increase the amount of energy we get from renewable sources".

A BERR spokesman told us BT is not alone in its attempts to be greener, although the scale of the project is unprecedented. He noted that McCain (of oven chips fame) has installed three wind turbines at its Cambridgeshire plant that are generating 60 per cent of the energy it needs. Ford in Dagenham has also installed a turbine, the spokesman added.

But the BT project is the biggest investment in sustainable energy outside of the energy sector. It will see the construction of enough wind farms to generate a total of 250MW, enough to meet the power needs of a city the size of Coventry.

Richard Tarboton, BT's head of energy, told us many of the turbines would be installed on BT owned land. For those that wouldn't be, the firm wasn't looking at acquiring land, so much as doing deals with adjacent landowners.

"We'll be working in partnership with our neighbours to acquire the rights to build on their land. A turbine doesn't take up much space, so on a farm, for instance, they could still work the land. It will be a question of working out a deal with the landowner on a case-by-case basis."

The firm confirmed that it has applied for permission to build test sites at Goonhilly Satellite Earth Station in Cornwall, Wideford Hill Radio Station in Orkney, and Scousburgh Radio Station in Shetland.

If the firm's planning applications are okayed, it says it'll have 100MW, roughly 50 turbines, of capacity up and running by 2012. The remaining 150MW will be in place by 2016.

Tarboton explains that the electricity generated by the turbines will be pumped into the grid. "We'll be working out a contract with an energy provider that we'll then just take the equivalent amount of energy back," he told us. "It'll be very straightforward."

The firm says that while electricity is by far the biggest carbon contributor on its books, it was working on five main areas to reduce its carbon footprint: the network; its estate; transport, travel and data centres.

After bringing down the overall electricity bill, data centres probably have biggest room for improvements, he said. Upgrades to the network technology would also see significant savings.

Jonathon Porritt, programme director of Forum for the Future, said: "It's a substantial investment, guaranteeing very low carbon energy for BT for the foreseeable future, and precisely the kind of decisive, ambitious intervention that more and more companies are going to have to come forward with." ®

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