Wind-farm decisions to be handed to local councils

June 7, 2013 by  
Filed under Green Energy News

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Under the new guidance, developers would have to increase compensation to residents for giving their consent to a project from £1,000 per megawatt of installed power to £5,000.

A community agreeing to a medium-sized 20MW wind farm that might involve around 10 turbines would receive a package of benefits worth £100,000 a year or, up to £400 cut from the utility bill of each household. The funding will only apply to those projects where construction has not started yet.

“The Prime Minister feels that it is very important that local voters are taken into account when it comes to wind farms and that is why new legislation will be brought forward, so that if people don’t want wind farms in their local areas they will be able to stop them,” said a source close to the Downing Street.

If introduced, the changes might complicate further development of the onshore wind sector, as many communities may not be persuaded by the financial incentives. The renewables industry has also raised concerns that the much higher rate of payments would make some developments uneconomic and prevent them from going ahead.

“Developing wind farms requires significant amounts of investment to be made upfront,” said Maria McCaffery, chief executive of RenewableUK. “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, so they will not go ahead and that is very disappointing.”

However, Liberal Democrat Energy Secretary Ed Davey insisted that the UK government remained committed to “appropriately sited onshore wind” as part of a diverse, low-carbon and secure energy mix.

“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,” Mr Davey said.

In 2011, onshore wind provided 3 per cent of the UK’s electricity supplies, generating enough power to satisfy the needs of 2.5 million homes. Currently, more than 4,000 turbines are in operation across the country; with further almost 6,000 currently being planned, constructed or awaiting construction. The industry attracted £1.6bn in private investment in 2011/12 and supported some 1,800 jobs.

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