Local communities offered more say over wind farms

June 5, 2013 by  
Filed under Green Energy News

The turbine sails of the Scout Moor Wind Farm in the South PenninesOnshore wind farms generate 3% of the UK’s electricity supply

Local communities are to be given more powers to resist 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 could be used to provide money off energy bills, pay for energy efficiencies or fund local initiatives.

The government said the measures would ensure local communities had a greater stake in the planning process.

It said it expected the industry to revise its measures by the end of the year to include an increase in the recommended community benefit package in England.

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 would be up to local communities and developers to decide how this money was spent.

For example, in 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”.

Protection of landscape

The Department for Communities and Local Government will also 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.

In 2011, onshore wind farms generated 3% of the UK’s electricity supply.

BBC deputy political editor James Landale says the coalition government wants to generate more renewable energy, but knows that onshore wind farms are hugely unpopular, so is aiming to shift the balance more in favour of local communities.

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.

But Lib Dem sources emphasised other changes, namely that developers would be told to give local people five times the subsidy they currently get for accepting a wind farm – 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.

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