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
    +5

    Comment number 240.

    The number of people is the problem here and we are still debating on how to not deal with it head on. great strategy. give locals a say? if you give anyone a say, they'd want better cars, nice environment and they won't care where anything comes from. responsible people, the lot of them.

  • Comment number 239.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 238.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 237.

    165.paulthebadger- @144
    How do you ruin Skegness not with wind farms. I've been to Skegness!
    Millions of people enjoy visiting Skegness every year for a dayout,weekend or their annual holiday. Might not be your cup of tea. The Decision makers of where to put them wouldnt see the beauty of skeg as they'll be able to afford to holiday in Dubai or the like.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 236.

    Nothing wrong with wind turbines, there certainly should no be bribes to locals, what a terrible idea, anyone would think it was rampant through the planning system!
    Builders trying on building on a field up the road as the greedy sisters who own it want the millions from planning change of use.

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 235.

    We need a grown-up conversation about energy. The most optimistic estimates of wind power capacity put it at 10% of our energy needs. That raises the obvious question of where the other 90% is to come from. Germany hastily pulled the plug on nuclear, but wind power hasn't filled the gap, coal burning has. I'm puzzled as how this is "greener".

  • rate this
    +17

    Comment number 234.

    Will Alex Salmond follow suit and at long , long last consult the very people most affected? Or will he continue to live in the central belt while dictating to the Highlands and the Borders, where many livelihoods depend on the scenery and the tourists?

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 233.

    We have enough energy problems without having to power these fans all over the country.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 232.

    We have an abundance of nuclear already... SUNSHINE!
    We only have to grab it with some solarpanels.

    Note: This comment wis written on a solar-powered laptop.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 231.

    Blocking wind farms to 'protect' the environment seems really shortsighted to me.

  • rate this
    -11

    Comment number 230.

    @164 where am i

    Wind farms are an eyesore. They are also unreliable and expensive. They are also dangerous, not in a rare cataclysmic Chernobyl sort of way, more of a regular, several deaths a year because of the sheer number of turbines sort of way.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 229.

    This could end up being a disaster for the planet.

    The fact is we need more renewable energy like wind turbines to combat global warming

    This measure will give more power to the tory toffs in the countryside who will use this to prevent wind turbine being built, simply because they do not like the look of them.

  • rate this
    -2

    Comment number 228.

    I thought the climate change scare was over after the Met Office said there would be no significant warming until 2027?

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 227.

    The great thing about wind farms is that they're our current easiest, quickest and economical option for increasing renewable energy. Turbines are cheap enough to be bought by community-based cooperatives (then they get 100% of the profits!); they provide distributed power (i.e. energy security) and several factors more cost effective than solar.

    And they're beautiful if you have eyes to see it.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 226.

    So, for clean windfarms locals get extra money.

    For dirty coal powerstations locals just get poisoned & a shorter lifespan.

    Maybe they should also put extra payments onto coal powerstations for locals, make it cost more so that there is greater incentive to make energy production cleaner.

    Thing is, these subsidies will be paid by ALL elec consumers & taxpayers

  • Comment number 225.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 224.

    Those living in cities might not begrudge paying rich landowners for all these wind farms, but they'd soon complain if their broadband, TV or life support machine relied on intermittent wind energy, or could be turned off by a smart meter.

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 223.

    Socialist Scotland gives billions in subsidies TO VASTLY WEALTHY LANDOWNERS to build massive turbine POWER STATIONS across great swathes of our beautiful countryside.

    Most of our tax subsidies money is going overseas to Denmark Korea Spain and china. So much for Scottish jobs. For every green job gained THREE ARE LOST

    ONE NUCLEAR STATION GENERATES MORE THAN THREE THOUSAND TURBINES and is tiny

  • rate this
    +6

    Comment number 222.

    A lot could be achieved by reducing our energy 'needs'. Many people and companies waste energy through sheer stupidity. We also have horribly poor building insulation standards.

    The BBC all too often acts as a mouthpiece for the building industry without questioning its record of poor performance, and corruption.

    But reducing energy consumption per head and reducing the head count would help.

  • rate this
    -2

    Comment number 221.

    Onshore wind is the cheapest renewable (including nuclear) by far so we are all winners from more onshore wind.

    There are 5 x 2.5MW turbines planned near our house. I was initially agnostic until I did the maths on the anti pamphlets (they were blatant lies). Some of the antis are rather unpleasant threatening locals in favour and ripping down every poster.

    True colours...

 

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