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
    -2

    Comment number 360.

    @338
    Then you will no doubt know that Beta particles have different energies, according to their origin. Most have high energies and will cause lots of damage in organic matter.
    You of all people should know better than to underestimate the destructive effects of the radiation in the evacuationzone surrounding Fukushima.
    Cesium halflife is 30 years, so it's a total loss for the people now living.

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 359.

    Solar is surely a better long term solution than wind, but the EU have suddenly decided to plonk a whole load of subsidies on those being imported cheaply from China, whereas all the big wind firms are EU-based and are clearly benefitting from a very slanted playing field!

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 358.

    @Martin

    "Wind farms are an answer but not the complete solution"

    That's the oft-repeated mantra but the problem is that it's simply not true - wind farms aren't even an answer. They're a wasteful, useless, extremely expensive eyesores that generate tiny amounts of power intermittently, kills wildlife and wreck the environment onshore and off-shore.

    Don't waste a single penny building any more.

  • rate this
    -2

    Comment number 357.

    @353 ha ha you think we can power the UK with Solar power.. Ha Like we get enough sun for that.. Dream on!!

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 356.

    The HVDC Cross-Channel link operates between continental European and British electricity grids. The current 2000 MW link is bi-directional and France and Britain can import/export depending upon individual needs. Over 90% of the energy transfers have been made from France to UK, supplying the equivalent of 3 million English homes.

    We rely on (French) nuclear power anyway.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 355.

    Whether people want them or not, my own personal opinion is that they are graceful structures which have a strange kind of hypnotic compulsion.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 354.

    "They spoil our beautiful, natural countryside!"

    Would that be the one we molded over several thousand years to rolling green, patchwork fields? Or the one that no longer exists of 90% forestation? A question which renders most NIMBY arguments moot...

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 353.

    Not before time!
    Any negatives that this comment brings will,I imagine,be written by people who honestly think that these eyesore/inefficient monstrosities are
    the way forward.
    I honestly think that the only viable power source is solar--when the sun runs out,we won't be here anyway,so why not spend money on this form
    of energy source now?
    Any comments?

  • rate this
    +10

    Comment number 352.

    Wind farms are an answer but not the complete msolution- what happens when there is no wind?? More needs to be done to research more reliable tidal and geothermal. But I would never grumble at having a wind farm outside my door as like 99.99% of the population I use electricty from the national grid.

  • rate this
    +6

    Comment number 351.

    I'd rather have a nuclear power station next door to me (I live in Stockport, so nothing much to make a mess of there) than plastering turbines over attractive parts of the countryside. The bits we haven't yet made such a mess of are about the only thing left in the UK worth having yet some folks seem depressingly keen to ruin even that - and not even for something that works well.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 350.

    @337.Ben Essada
    If you checked my post at #327 you will see that I rectified my comment that blades couldn't travel a few hundred meters having found an example.

    However, a few hundred meters is not "miles" and some damage to a building, as in the example you gave is not "demolish".

    Exaggerating weakens your point by making it false, otherwise you would have had a legitimate safety concern.

  • rate this
    +9

    Comment number 349.

    @purp

    "or a scary nuclear power station nearby"

    Unless you live in France.

    I agree that there is a lot of ill-informed hysteria and mindless panic with Nuclear but the fact that France has been generating 90% of its electricity with its Nuclear power stations for decades exposes this willful misformation for what it really is.

    The French won't disfigure their landscape with useless wind farms.

  • rate this
    +8

    Comment number 348.

    Sustainability requires the harnessing of energy that provides a limitless source.

    Nuclear, coal, gas and oil are all finite resources. Wind, solar and hydro are where we should be focussing our attention.

    Is the future energy crisis something that we have a social & moral obligation to rectify or just wash our hands of it and let future generations deal with the fall out of our ignorance?

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 347.

    God help us they will all be built as near to citys as possible now, old adage not in my back yard comes to mind.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 346.

    This government puts the environment last at every turn. First, development must take priority over environmental and local concerns with the no-planning required extensions, a pre-election promise that a new runway at Heathrow won't happen has been abandoned, and now local objection will override CO2 targets. Let's hope we get rid of this lot at the next election.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 345.

    333.
    You are being a NIMBY.

    Lets hope the future generations like sitting in the dark at night.

    Nuclear cost soo much and takes so long, we can put up thousands of turbines and take them down if the tech improves to make the redundant.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2009/may/10/windpower-energy

    Another example of what can be done read an weep skeptics.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 344.

    "Oh, yes, we want mobile phones and broadband, but we don't want a radio mast or a big green box in the village."

    Power cuts are distinct possibility in the next few years, I suppose all the "country folk" have wood burners.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 343.

    It's a disgrace when central government politicians override local communities and even local councils to allow these developments to go ahead.

    This legislation should be UK wide.

  • rate this
    -2

    Comment number 342.

    They can't be made financially sustainable without subsidy in the form of ROCs (look them up!), they produce electricty for only 35% of the time, they need back up of conventional power stations when they're not producing, and at night their power duplicates cheap and clean nuclear. Build them only when they're economic - and match our CO2 reduction efforts with the ROW, why do we have to lead?

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 341.

    If we can build nuclear reactors inside submarines that are at the bottom of the ocean for months on end, you'd have though we could build power stations that operate safely.

    ' Can't build one because no foreign firm wants the business . .'

    Sounds like garbage to me. More like won't build one because oil and gas are too lucrative.

    There will be nuclear reactors, question is when ?

 

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