Local communities offered more say over wind farms

 
Wind turbines in Cowdenbeath,  Fife, Scotland Onshore wind farms generated 3% of the UK's electricity supply in 2011

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Local communities are to be given more powers to block onshore wind farms, but also offered greater incentives to accept them, the government says.

Planning guidance in England will be changed to ensure local opposition can override national energy targets.

But the measures will see a five-fold rise in the benefits paid by developers to communities hosting wind farms.

The subsidies - worth about £100,000 a year from a medium-sized farm - could be used to reduce energy bills.

Alternatively, the money could pay for energy efficiencies in the host community or fund other local initiatives.

The government said the measures would ensure local communities had a greater stake in the planning process.

It said it expected the energy industry to improve its community benefit packages by the end of the year.

Protection of landscape

This increase will be from £1,000 per megawatt (MW) of installed capacity per year, to £5,000 per MW per year, for the lifetime of the wind farm.

This means a medium-sized 20 MW wind farm could produce a benefits package to the local community worth £100,000 a year.

It will be up to local communities and developers to decide how any money is spent.

For example, a similar scheme run by the wind farm company RES at its Meikle Carewe operation, near Aberdeen, will see local residents get £122 off their annual electricity bills.

Energy Secretary Edward Davey said: "It is important that onshore wind is developed in a way that is truly sustainable - economically, environmentally and socially - and today's announcement will ensure that communities see the windfall from hosting developments near to them, not just the wind farm".

Analysis

It is with exquisite timing that the government announces it will make it harder to build wind farms today - World Environment Day.

If there were to be a major fall in the number of wind farms being built it would present a problem for the government's long-term legally binding targets on cutting CO2 emissions.

It would also result in a rise in bills, as onshore wind is by by far cheaper than offshore wind or nuclear.

Having said that, It clearly makes sense for developers to compensate people whose house value is lowered by turbines, and to consult much better. Green groups would support all that.

Other European countries avoided mass wind farm protests because they ensured that locals benefited. In Denmark a wind power revolution was driven by community ownership - every village wanted its own turbine.

Today's announcement does not appear to address another real problem area with wind farms - the pylons. In mid-Wales for instance locals have in the past been generally relaxed about turbines on flat hill tops where they can't be seen - but very cross about pylons in the valleys.

The Department for Communities and Local Government will make sure local people have more say in the planning of wind farms and that the need for renewable energy does not automatically override the planning concerns of communities.

"We want to give local communities a greater say on planning, to give greater weight to the protection of landscape, heritage and local amenity," said Communities and Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles.

Planning approvals for wind farms in England have dropped in recent years, a situation the government is keen to turn around.

In 2008, about 70% of applications were approved, but approvals were down to 35% in 2012.

More than 4,000 turbines are in operation across the country, with almost 6,000 under or awaiting construction or in the planning system.

In 2011, onshore wind farms generated 3% of the UK's electricity supply, generating enough power for the equivalent of 2.5 million homes.

BBC deputy political editor James Landale says the coalition government wants to generate more renewable energy, but wanted to shift the balance of decision-making more in favour of local communities.

'Coalition tensions'

A Conservative source said the prime minister felt it was important to take local people into account so that if they did not want wind farms they could stop them.

Start Quote

We want to see wind farm developers spend far more money on community investment than they are in England at present”

End Quote Paul Miner Campaign to Protect Rural England

But Lib Dem sources emphasised other changes, namely the increased subsidy from developers - a greater incentive for residents but also a greater cost for developers, our correspondent says.

He adds that the bottom line is that these changes will almost certainly mean fewer onshore wind farms and they will add to coalition tensions.

Maria McCaffery, chief executive of trade association RenewableUK, said the proposals would signal the end of many planned developments and that was "disappointing".

She said: "Developing wind farms requires a significant amount of investment to be made upfront. Adding to this cost, by following the government's advice that we should pay substantially more into community funds for future projects, will unfortunately make some planned wind energy developments uneconomic in England.

"That said, we recognise the need to ensure good practice across the industry and will continue to work with government and local authorities to benefit communities right across the country which are hosting our clean energy future."

Paul Miner, of the Campaign to Protect Rural England, welcomed the measures.

"We want to see a fairer and more open planning process, more discussions before planning applications are submitted... but we also want to see wind farm developers spend far more money on community investment than they are in England at present," he said.

"They're only spending typically half the amount in England that they spend in Scotland."

Meanwhile, Roberta Blackman-Woods MP, Labour's Shadow Planning Minister, said the government's plans lacked detail.

"The Government has announced these changes without any clarity on the size of wind applications to be included, the extent of powers that communities will have to stop unpopular applications and even if communities without a local plan will benefit," she said.

 

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  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 60.

    Since the 70s the Danish government subsidised local wind farms. My mum and local community were encouraged to buy a share in them in return for lower energy bills. 6 were put up in some field just outside the village and everyone was proud of them. Still there 35 years on and the Danes are leaders in world wind farm development. Pity scheme to build a wind turbine plant on Sheerness was stopped.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 59.

    @25 "Wind turbines are quite simply a total waste of money.
    The only ones who benefit are the land owners"

    And the company that makes them, their employee's, environment scientists, MPs and anyone involved in carbon trading (which can be exploited for money laundering).

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 58.

    Why can't all new houses be built with the means to generate their own energy needs, solar panels, wind sails etc? Oh wait, because then they wouldn't be able to sell us energy, would they?

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 57.

    It seems as if the majority of people like the windmills, unless they are situated near their house or spoiling their veiw.

    We may need them when Russia cuts of our gas as an alternative energy supply

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 56.

    I can't see how this is going to work without it eventually feeding through as higher bills for the rest of us. And after the towers are up who has the sub-station and the pylons? Are they going to be bought off as well? Are we ever going to get a profile showing the 24/7/52 generation from these inland installations? These thousands of homes will only get electricity when the wind's blowing!

  • rate this
    +7

    Comment number 55.

    I love wind farms - they have a mystic beauty about them. They are of course just one solution - we need to solve the problem of excessive energy use to start with.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 54.

    "Wind powered farms is undoubtedly one of them."

    And how do you work that out? Winds contribution to load is tiny even when the wind is blowing. When it doesn't they contribute zilch. Without huge taxpayer subsidy no one would go near investign in wind and if you want to see cronny capitalism at its worst you need to look no further than the wind turbine industry. .

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 53.

    What would our great great grandchildren think, knowing we had the fledgling technology to create clean energy but lacked the willpower or strength of conviction to develop it?

  • rate this
    -16

    Comment number 52.

    We are heading for an energy crisis?

    One of our own making.

    Re-open / dig new Coal Mines, we have enough Coal under this country to provide energy for the next 500 years, and we can extract gas from coal, and it is possible to process and make fuel for cars.

    The problem is not the lack of available energy, the problem is the Politics and the stupidity of belief in "Global Warming"

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 51.

    29.nichman

    "I really dont understand what people's problems with wind farms is, they are certainly better looking than pylons."

    Unfortunately you also have to have pylons to carry the electricity away.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2012/jul/31/powys-pylon-route-windfarm

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 50.

    Given that we are an island, our attitude of handing on to the next generation the cleaning up operation of our ill conceived ideas on power stations is scandalous.
    Harnessing wind and wave energy is a one off capital payment that will save fast amounts of money for generations to come.
    Not only do we think its alright to hand on debt from our public sector largess, we also kill off innovation.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 49.

    Without energy storage, windfarms are dreadful waste of money.

    The people who run them are paid HUGE sums by the National Grid to turn them off in high winds to avoid blowing the grid.

    They have been built with the benefit of very large subsidies - "subsidy farms" not wind farms.

    Tidal is the way to go - invented here, predictable and unobtrusive - but no subsidy, so it won't happen.

  • rate this
    +54

    Comment number 48.

    I have a nice landscape out of the back of my home. My view is littered with pylons, and recently, the farmer sold a section of his land close to my home for a mobile phone mast. I did not complain, because i own a mobile phone. I can't really say i don't want that mast, yet use its technology, Same for those about wind farms. You use it? You need it. So do you bit and stop passing the book!

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 47.

    I think this is a great idea. Although quite expensive (£100,000 to communities as well as the high cost of the turbine), I'm one of these annoying people who thinks renewable energy is the only sustainable option. Although it's great more gas has been found in the Northeast, it's not going to last forever.
    This should hopefully result in some real long-term thinking for the first time!

  • rate this
    -38

    Comment number 46.

    Thank God - wind farms are hideous, often sited where there is little wind, very, very noisy, and a blight on our what remains of our beautiful countryside. Have you seen those on Bodmin? Of course we need alternative sources of energy - the least destructive is nuclear. Very few sites, rarely dangerous if sited properly and managed well, and renewable for ever.

    All the others are anathema.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 45.

    Wind turbines are not inefficient, not ineffective and the Kwh price is just slightly higher.
    It's a small price to pay for an energysource WITHOUT: Danger, without soot, without SO2, without NO2, witout CO2, without mining, without oilspills on beautiful wildlife, without radiation, without nuclear waste storage problems without energydependency... must I go on?

  • rate this
    +28

    Comment number 44.

    The choice should be A) wind farm, B) disconnection from the grid.

    I'm sick of wealthy Brits (which include my parents) stopping any development near their house and instead presuming 'someone else' will accommodate what they need..... which effectively explains why the Trent valley & South Yorkshire is full of big coal fire power stations dumping pollution on us.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 43.

    We simply need clean energy, wind is part of the mix.

    We should be giving locals a wider responsibility for their energy consumption and where their energy comes from.

    There are lots of us consuming large amounts of energy but doing nothing about helping generate it and significantly cut consumption

    Those unwilling to help should pay the price, eg: it could cost more to use more.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 42.

    We have seriously ugly electricity pylons and their cables strewn across the whole countryside, but we're not too bothered by that. Tens of thousands pass J24 of the M1 daily to see Radcliffe power station guffing steam and CO2 24/7: do they complain? Most of the UK will be fracked for between 4800 and 14,000Km3 of Gas and we rejoice. But graceful, clean, wind turbines? "NOOOOooo..!" It's madness!

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 41.

    As long as pro-wind farm locals get as much say as nimbys, I think this hsould create a good debate.
    The UK is heading for an energy crisis and solutions really need to be found. Wind powered farms is undoubtedly one of them.

 

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