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
    0

    Comment number 600.

    599 rrrobs - I find it sickening the way hysterically anti-nuclear types seem to be willing for a terrorist attack on one, just so they can jump up and down and shout "I told you so".

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 599.

    Loosing forever the thousands of square kilometres of fertile, inhabitable land by exploding nuclear reactors may be an even more pressing problem than the displacement, the illness, the birth defects..
    Since Fukushima we all know that without sufficient cooling, the core explodes in less than 9 hours! Not much time to come up with a back-up plan.
    Interesting info also for terror groups.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 598.

    We have two options.

    1. Start to make a serious effort to switch to 100% renewables as quickly as we possibly can, at a reasonably high initial cost, which will quickly decrease.

    2. Keep going with fossil fuels, keep the costs steadily rising until they are worse than renewables today, followed by no energy at all and/or the apocalypse.

    Don't know about anyone else, but I prefer no1 personally.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 597.

    Prescott is now bumping his gums on this, decrying so-called Nimby attitudes, asserting that country folk want them built in towns. Like much of the gobbleygook that has been the hallmark of this political opportunist, rural dwellers don't, even though cities are the greatest users of electricity. The fact is, the energy policy is pants because turbines don't deliver and depend on levies.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 596.

    It is incongruous that the same government which is introducing a law to make it easier to object to wind farms is also introducing laws making it harder to object to nuclear power stations or oil shale drilling.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 595.

    591.Harry Grout
    Given the magnitude of the Fukoshima disaster the consequences were and are predicted be minimal.
    The Germans are driven by a Green agenda which is blind to long term benefits of sustainable nuclear power - in a UK regime and environment nuclear is the safest energy source we have (see the Office for Nuclear Regulation report post Fukoshima).

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 594.

    591.
    To be fair, we aren't likely to be hit by by a massive earthquake that devastates the entire country any time soon. Also, for all the damage done, no one actually died specifically as a result of the Fukushima disaster.

    Whereas coal-fired stations have killed many people, coal mining itself is one of the most dangerous jobs and power station fumes have caused asthma and cancer in millions.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 593.

    @587. thetree
    >>Try living next to a wind turbine in the country (proper country, not just a country town). I can assure you that it is not as easy to "suck it up" as people are saying.

    I do, and it is. What's the problem?

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 592.

    I live in Cumbria and our landscape is being obliterated by these ghastly wind turbines. Most of them are stationary at times producing no power. If they are so good why not build them in Hyde Park and Downing St.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 591.

    For all the pro-nuclear amongst the posters - ask yourselves this - what do the people of Fukoshima think about nuclear fission plants and are the Germans so wrong in their policies?

    Cheap energy is a thing of the past.

    Nuclear fission is a stop-gap - we have to embrace all renewable alternatives as soon as practically possible - irrespective of cost as in 50 years it'll be too late.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 590.

    @ 584. Lord Horror
    >>covering every last square inch of the UK with useless Wind Farms will somehow fill Britain's energy gap.

    People need to understand fossil fuels are an incredibly dense energy source;(see FREE book mentioned earlier) The "unplug mobile charger" advice is a good example. In 24 hours you save the same amount of energy as you need to run your car for ONE second.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 589.

    The only real way is nuclear, wind is a supplementary provider of energy as proven in the return of investment. Money is the driving force behind turbines not the green issue. A few individuals are making millions off the back of this technology by misleading the general public on the true benefits which are poor value for money over the longer term. There will always be sad nimbies whatever.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 588.

    585.virtualpenguin
    This is just more proof that Cameron lied when he promised the greenest Govt ever.
    Govt needs to focus on the National Interest, and that means massive investment in every type of non-fossil fuel generation technology,
    ***
    But it doesn't work... I wish it did.
    Making power generation super expensive, ineffective & intermintant is in the national Interest... how ?

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 587.

    Try living next to a wind turbine in the country (proper country, not just a country town). I can assure you that it is not as easy to "suck it up" as people are saying.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 586.

    What happens when the gas/oil/coal runs out - how long will that be? Anyone know?

    By then we'll all have solar panels on our roofs and a turbine in our garden - just to boil the kettle for a cuppa!

    Question - would you rather have a windmill or a Sellafield next door/next field/next county?

    30 years ago we had 27 pits in Notts. How many now? One.
    Electrical rationing's next.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 585.

    This is just more proof that Cameron lied when he promised the greenest Government ever.
    Government needs to focus on the National Interest, and that means massive investment in every type of non-fossil fuel generation technology, and slamming the tax back onto fuel.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 584.

    @Alan T

    "reality is, long-term it's tidal or nuclear power"

    You try explaining that to the loud-mouthed Luddites on here who are so deep in bone-headed denial about the short-comings of their idiot ideology that they will deliberately lie about how covering every last square inch of the UK with useless Wind Farms will somehow fill Britain's energy gap.

    We all know it won't but try telling them.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 583.

    @crickedneck
    >>"if we want the lights to stay on we need to embrace the new technology"

    You should really read the FREE downloadable book "Sustainable Energy without the Hot Air" to get a grasp of the phenomenal amounts of energy we need to maintain our current lifestyles - and how far short any currently available sustainable sources fall of providing that amount of power. The gap is HUGE.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 582.

    If turbines were a real 'working' alternative to generating power, they wouldn't require 20% on our energy bills of continious subsidies to wealthy land owners. Same with solar panels. Why should I pay 3 x going rate for elec. to my neighbour to produce power.
    We require power for the grid 24/7 not when the wind blows less than 50mph
    They are subsidy farms sold on the now debunked C02 hypothisis

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 581.

    @devonsongbird

    "NIMBYs have won here"

    Good for us NIMBYs if it stops from you from industrialising every last square inch of our little island with ultra-expensive eyesores that are utterly useless because they generate tiny amounts of power intermittently.

    It is our backyards that you're trying to ruin so call us all the names under the sun, as if we care, but we will fight you at every step.

 

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