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 440.

    I'm in Thailand at present, here they have solar energy in abundance but don't have an integrated grid system so can't make use of solar or wind to power Air Conditioners, a great waste of fuel, coal and oil, they do burn for power with it's attendant CO2 and soot. In UK we are lucky to have a modern grid to utilize all types of energy converters be thankful of that I say.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 439.

    'Wind turbines generate most of their power at night....' - Oh really, not just when it's windy then?

    And as for pumped hydro storage - we do have some, but it's required to cope with sudden spikes in demand. It can't make up the shortfall from a wind-dependent generation system if there's several hours, or days with little or no wind.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 438.

    I once got a an electoral campaign leaflet through my door which said "XXX fully supports renewable energy...and has successfully opposed the such-and-such wind farm". It's either one or the other, pick your side. Shocking...and people actually voted for this guy?

  • rate this
    +7

    Comment number 437.

    I'm sick of the NIMBY attitude. What makes you so precious that your view mustn't be altered?

    The majority of people see roads, offices, factories, pylons etc from our windows, yet tolerate them because they're necessary for society and we have nowhere else to go.

    Suck it up and accept that your power needs require this infrastructure. If you'd prefer the sight of factories, i'll gladly swap!

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 436.

    @424.pandatank
    "Deuterium is manufactured from Hydrogen, it's not naturally occurring."
    It is not manufactured, it is naturally occurring. There are zillions of tonnes of the stuff.

    @423.Peter_Sym
    This was my objection in my first post - the plant matter on the edge of that reservoir goes through cycles of growth and anaerobic decay releasing tonnes of methane (far worse than CO2).

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 435.

    @428. xzy123
    Solarf pannels are about to become alot cheaper by the use of 3D printers.

    http://www.theage.com.au/technology/sci-tech/aussie-scientists-print-flexible-solar-panels-20130516-2joaj.html

  • rate this
    -4

    Comment number 434.

    @Bumble

    "a massive amount of nimbyism. Personally like the look of wind farms"


    When the lights go out then we all be NIMBY's and our idiotic indulgence of these expensive eyesores generating little to no power will come to a sudden end.

    If like the look of steel grey structures like wind farms, pylons, substations, etc congesting our Green & Pleasant land then I suggest you get some taste!

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 433.

    @419 China in particular have the cash in the treasury to build whatever cutting edge clean technology is available. Their coal fired power stations are simple and polluting. Only a few are starting to install carbon capture. Does that mean we should ditch our CO2 targets? No. But quite simply China are not taking it seriously enough. In other words not enough money or control can be made by them

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 432.

    Re: #418 from me. Or try this: A 2MW Turbine powers 1000 houses, operates for 25 years and can be built in 6 months. I can't possibly require the energy of 50,000 houses over a 6 month period to build it!

  • rate this
    -5

    Comment number 431.

    Not sure why the UK government is going this alone, whereas every other country is basically ignoring the targets - so the overall effect of the UK going down the Wind Farm route will be a) Zero effect on the global climate b) Hugely expensive subsidies to the companies and to the public, paid for by the consumer (= all of us) and c) Power outages without a backup generating method.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 430.

    Lived for 12 years in Germany, nobody seemed to have a problem with wind farms there? They are NOT the answer in total, obviously, but can be a useful addition to energy supplies.

    The only real problem, apart from the NIMBY crowd, are the actual IMBY crowd where rotating blades cause mind blowing shadow effects on their residences. With careful placement W farms will be here to stay I'm afraid.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 429.

    424. pandatank
    Deuterium is manufactured from Hydrogen, it's not naturally occurring.
    --
    Of course its naturally occurring. Water is 1 Oxygen & 2 hydrogen atoms. 1 in 1000 Hydrogen atoms in seawater are Deuterium (H2) rather than (H1) Thats a PHENOMENAL amount naturally occurring and surrounding the UK. The Germans were purifying 'Heavy Water' in Norway during WW2 (see movie Heroes of Telemark)

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 428.

    417/411, AJDF i agree with you, the average life of a solar panel is less than the time taken to recoup your money. Also as my neighbour recently discovered, they are not hailstone proof. Have of his were wrecked beyond repair. He has also discovered on selling his house that the agreement on the feed in tariff is non transferable, so the new owners have refused to pay a premium.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 427.

    #420 You have a point, but a limited one; the jobs may go abroad because this so-called 'greenest ever government' will not commit to green energy. A possible major wind turbine manufacturing development on Humberside is in jeopardy because of this head in sand attitude. Germany has invested heavily in solar cell production/development; again the penny hasn't dropped here. Yet more jobs lost.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 426.

    @The_Snial

    "Inonsense that Wind Turbines require more energy to build than they generate"

    Forgot to mention maintenance & operational costs (especially when they get older):

    http://www.windmeasurementinternational.com/wind-turbines/om-turbines.php

    "A 2MW Turbine powers 1000 houses"

    Absolutely tiny - won't power heavy industry which is necessary for us to earn a living & produce. Nuclear will

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 425.

    Well this is going to launch a massive amount of nimbyism. Personally like the look of wind farms although we should be looking at other forms of renewable carbon free energy. There is alot of intresting work with bacteria making biofuels going on.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 424.

    @399 - AJDF - there's enough pseudo science in that comment to almost convince Jo Public. Fusion is a long, long way off. And fission requires Uranium or Plutinium. Deuterium is manufactured from Hydrogen, it's not naturally occurring. Tides are formed by the gravitational pull of the moon on the oceans, unless the moon disappears or all the water freezes, how will it become tidally locked?

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 423.

    415. pandatank
    It's not generation that's the problem, it's storage to meet demand.
    --
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pumped-storage_hydroelectricity
    Pumped storage hydro. Use surplus power at night to pump water to height. Release when you need peak hydro power. There's 2 in Scotland already.

    #417. They should last 10-20 years but remember its 5 years bill up front at 2010 prices, not 2015...

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 422.

    We have been fed this climate change nonsense (remember it use to be global warming) for too long. The EU and our government have siezed on it as an excuse to tax us even more. CO2 is a naturally occurring trace gas not a pollutant. Wind turbines are a disgraceful waste of taxpayers money and financialy unsustainable. Nuclear makes sense - ask the French.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 421.

    76. littlechunks: "The planet does not need saving,it is quite capable of looking after itself. We,however, are not! The 'Elephant in the room' is overpopulation,7 billion and counting,resource for half that, for reasonable quality of life. We know what has to be done?"

    Okay, we start sterilizing with you! Happy now?

 

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