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
    -1

    Comment number 180.

    173.Lord Horror

    Sorry to disappoint you, but if wind farms generate such small amounts of electricity how come the lights don't go out all over Germany - a country that actually has less wind than the UK?

    I suggest you do some research and come back when you have done - and I don't mean read up on the usual torrents of NIMBY propaganda!

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 179.

    Whatever the power source the lights will start going out in 3-5 years as successive governments have fluffed decisions on generating capacity whilst older stations are due for closure. With any luck we will be able to buy power from France with it's 58 reactors. The French did what was right for France. Not listen to every pressure group going.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 178.

    168. rrrobs
    Still the children receive 800 to 5500 becquerell where 20 to 50 is normal.
    --
    A bequerel is a unit of radioactivity not dose (thats measured in millisievert) . A bequerel is also so tiny that the little pot of radioactive thymidine (3H) I used for cancer research contains 37 MEGA Bq. I hold that in my hand wearing a latex glove

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 177.

    Wind farms are a total waste of time, noisy, ugly, and not cost effective. Bribing local communities with cash to accept these monstrosities on their doorstep will only increase the cost of electricity for everyone else.

    Time to send turbines to the scrapheap.

  • rate this
    +10

    Comment number 176.

    #155 Keep in mind that 95%+ of what is called nuclear waste is stuff we can use to generate power, but it's politically unpopular to use it. With proper use of the "waste" a tiny amount of actual waste would be left, and that so inactive that it would have neglegable radiation compared to the background

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 175.

    @162 "Research what actually caused Chernobyl"

    When you look at the crazy stuff that Russians get up to (especially on Youtube), you kind of get a pretty good idea of what REALLY happened at Chernobyl.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 174.

    I would absolutely support having wind farm near wherever I live. Would I say yes to nuclear power plant? NO. And to shale gas? Read up how poisonous that is. The newpapers are lying about shale gas fracking, saying it's extracting using water + sand. The truth is it is using water + sand + dangerous cancer causing chemicals and we have to block it before it poisons us.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 173.

    @ATNotts

    "NIMBYs that find wind turbines so disagreeable would feel when their power is turned off for 2 hours a day because we're not generating enough electricity"

    Since Wind Farms generate tiny amounts of electricity then that's what will happen if we rely on them in any way and the power will be off for more than a few hours!

    Lights going out = Public outrage that will end Wind Farms!

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 172.

    How many wind turbines would we need to supply enough power for a city, then multiply by the number of cities plus towns and villages then add another 15% for emergencies plus more as only half would generating at any one time and you would soon realise that we would need a vast no of them and they would take up needed farm land. Time for a re-think on them.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 171.

    What I really hate are wind farm protestors who move from cities into the rural areas, build lots of houses on previously unspoilt countryside to the extent that it is no longer unspoilt countryside, then moan that the countryside is being spoilt by windfarms!

  • rate this
    -3

    Comment number 170.

    The position is as follows:
    1) Wind farms are a blot on the landscape.
    2) PV is too expensive.
    3) Nuclear power is dangerous.
    4) Fossil fuels pollute.
    5) Hydropower kills fish
    6) etc.. etc... etc...
    Perhaps we should go back to the Stone Age and save the Planet........

  • rate this
    -2

    Comment number 169.

    No-one has mentioned that we need to duplicate wind and solar generation with conventional (gas for quick start) generation ready for when they are not generating (most of the time).
    We have solar electricity and water panels and all that they generate is the government subsidy. Any power is at the wrong time.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 168.

    Children are going back to their radioactive school".

    This NEW school is well outside the evacuation zone. and will be for a long time.
    Still the children receive 800 to 5500 becquerell where 20 to 50 is normal.
    A very ethical decision indeed, but they are not your children.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 167.

    @156 "I guess someone best tell the sun that nuclear power generation isn't natural. Best shut it down and replace it with a giant wind turbine!"

    The difference is fission and fusion. If we could replicate the fusion power of the sun all would be well in power terms - but we can't!

  • rate this
    -2

    Comment number 166.

    It a shame HYS wasn't available for the snoops law reported yesterday. This will make a mockery of Information Governance in the NHS, bank records etc as all this information will become available to MI5, MI6, FBI etc on the grounds of security. This is outrageous and the BBC spineless not to allow HYS.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 165.

    @144
    How do you ruin Skegness not with wind farms. I've been to Skegness!

    Yes the view out to sea may have the odd wind turbine visible but if you turned around and looked at Skegness you would rather live on a wind turbine.

    Fill Skegness with wind turbines and improve the appearance.

  • rate this
    +31

    Comment number 164.

    Wind farms are an eyesore, nuclear is dangerous, solar is to unreliable, Tidal is too expensive, coal/gas are too drity. Assuming we dont all want to live in the stone age whilst we starve to death we have to pick some of the above and to be honest, the "its hiddeous" argument is the by far the worst reason for not building something out of that lot.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 163.

    Wind farms don't bother me to be honest after all they wont be there for ever once the penny drops that they are inefficient and can only run with state subsidies then the rush for them will be over, you can tell how useless they truly are, cast your mind back a few years & numpties like dear old Dave & other green luddites had them on their roofs now u don't c any, it says it all.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 162.

    "Big Society" again huh? Convenient... give locals the power to say no, so the Government doesn't have to.

    @152: Research what actually caused Chernobyl, then say it couldn't happen if our style of *containment* had been used. Fukushima proves that western designs are NOT safe. Look up BWR design.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 161.

    I have lived within 2Km of a windfarm and wouldn't mind doing so again. I like their elegance and motion in what is already an artificial agricultural British landscape. I think people would be more accepting of wind turbines if there was fair compensation for those who's property value is adversely affected and would be included in the cost / benefit analysis before a proposal is put forward.

 

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