Rebuttals to wind farm myths

Rebuttals to Wind Farm Myths

 

We are aware that misinformation about the Shepham Wind Farm proposal and wind energy is being spread. We would like to take the opportunity to dispel these myths.

The main myths put forward by Stop Shepham Wind Farm are outlined below, along with our responses. Please note all of our references are from government/credible, well-researched sources.

PLANNING ISSUES

Visual Impact

  • Myth: The wind farm would have a detrimental visual impact on the landscape

There is no question the wind farm would be visible, but being visible is not necessarily the same as being intrusive. Visual impact is subjective: some people find turbines ugly; others find them elegant.

The visual impact needs to be weighed against the benefits of a wind farm, such as clean energy and security of supply.

Not everyone will agree that a supply of renewable energy is more important than the effect on the landscape; however, the effects of climate change on the landscape should also be considered. The Environment Agency website shows that the Pevensey Levels is at significant risk from sea flooding, a risk that can only increase as climate change causes sea levels to increase further.

 

Residential Amenity

  • Myth: The wind farm is too close to residential areas/ignores adopted buffer zones

European regulations regarding turbines and separation distances are a common ‘urban myth’. Different turbines and different site conditions mean that regulatory distances would be inappropriate.

Scotland has guidance suggesting 2km and Wales suggests 500m between a wind turbine and housing. England has no separation distance, although noise limits suggest a minimum separation distance of 350 metres for a typical wind turbine. The government has rejected the idea of a separation distance for England.1 With the Shepham application, there are no properties closer than 500m from any of the turbines

 

Noise

  • Myth: Wind farms cause noise pollution

There are strict guidelines on wind turbines and noise emissions to ensure the protection of residential amenity. The wind farm requires a noise assessment which is validated by the Environmental Health Officer. As far as we understand WDC’s Environmental Health Officer has not objected to the application.

 

Most people who have visited an operational wind farm are surprised to find that the sound of the wind is noisier than the blades

 

Shadow Flicker

  • Myth: Turbines cause (shadow) flicker and can trigger seizures

Shadow flicker is an easily modelled property and can be accounted for during planning and development of a wind farm; UK government planning regulations stipulate that this must be considered.

The predictability and infrequency makes shadow flicker a manageable problem: it can be curtailed by the introduction of various measures, such as programming the turbines to cease operation for the short time during which dwellings are affected.

Due to the size and speed of modern commercial wind turbines, there is no risk of shadow flicker causing photo-epileptic seizures in vulnerable persons.2

 

Health

  • Myth: Wind farms are a hazard to health

A recent study suggests the sickness being attributed to wind turbines is more likely to have been caused by people getting alarmed at the health warnings circulated by anti-wind farm groups.

The study concludes: “Illnesses being blamed on wind farms are more than likely caused by the psychological effect of suggestions that the turbines make people ill, rather than by the turbines themselves.

If wind farms were intrinsically unhealthy or dangerous in some way, we would expect to see complaints applying to all of them, but in fact there is a large number where there have been no complaints at all”.3

Wind turbine syndrome

Claims regarding ‘wind turbine syndrome’ lack any peer-reviewed literature – there is no evidence that such a ‘syndrome’ exists.4

Recent media articles have given coverage to research conducted by American paediatrician Dr. Nina Pierpont. Dr. Pierpont has proposed that a disease, ‘Wind Turbine Syndrome’, can cause a range of effects on the body, such as headaches, tinnitus, sleeplessness and anxiety, amongst others.

Her research has been criticised for its lack of peer review and the subjective nature of the study group used in the research. The NHS website comments on the study5:

This study provides no conclusive evidence that wind turbines have an effect on health or are causing the set of symptoms described here as “wind turbine syndrome”. The study design was weak, the study was small and there was no comparison group. There is also no information on how the group was selected in the first place and some uncertainty as to which countries these people come from.”

Low frequency noise

In 2006, the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) (now BERR) published a study by Hayes McKenzie which investigated claims that infrasound or low frequency noise emitted by wind turbine generators was causing health effects. The report concluded that there is no evidence of health effects arising from infrasound or low frequency noise generated by wind turbines.6

 

Safety

  • Myth: Wind farms are dangerous/ice throw can happen

Overall the wind energy industry has one of the best safety records of any energy industry7. No members of the public have ever been involved in incidents relating to wind turbines.8

Failure and fire are rare. Incidents are often ‘freak’ occurrences, such as the much publicised 2011 wind turbine fire in Ardrossan, Scotland, which experienced hurricane-force winds of up to 165mph.

Ice throw is not an issue. Modern turbines are equipped with vibration detection sensors which will automatically shut-down the turbine if ice formation is detected.

 

Wildlife

  • Myth: Wind farms harm wildlife

As far as we are aware Natural England and the RSPB have not objected to the proposal.

The RSPB makes it clear that available evidence suggests that appropriately positioned wind farms (such as this one) do not pose a significant hazard for birds.9 Collision with cars and windows is more of an issue.

Climate change poses the single greatest long-term threat to birds and other wildlife, and the RSPB recognises the essential role of renewable energy in addressing this problem.10

 

Tourism and Local Businesses

  • Myth: Tourism would be harmed and local businesses would suffer

John Hayes MP (former Minister of State for Energy, Department of Energy and Climate Change) recently stated:

I am aware of concerns about the impact of wind turbines on the tourist industry, but overall there is no definitive evidence to date of actual negative effects on tourism. A recent report for DECC and RenewableUK by BiGGAR Economicsestimated the increase in the turnover of businesses local to onshore wind farm developments.” 11

The wind farm could in fact benefit local businesses. A range of services would be needed during the construction stage, for example: accommodation, catering, construction companies, plant hire etc. We understand GTR is committed to using local companies wherever possible.

 

Community Benefit

  • Myth: They are only offering a few pounds to local causes

If the wind farm receives Local Authority planning consent, it is understood GTR will set up a Community Benefit Fund of around £300,000 to invest in local community projects over the lifetime of the wind farm, with local people able to decide on the spend.

Examples of projects supported through similar funds elsewhere include village halls, sports facilities, and local energy efficiency initiatives.

 

NON PLANNING ISSUES

The Stop Shepham Wind Farm action group also bring up other/industry-related issues, which are not relevant to this individual planning application. However, we would still like to address these myths:

Views

  • Myth: Views will be ruined

In planning law there are no rights to views. We accept that some people’s view will change, but the impact on the few should be weighed against the greater good in terms of clean energy generation.

Property Prices

  • Myth: Property prices will be blighted

It is entirely understandable that some homeowners in the vicinity of a planned wind farm will feel concerned that the value of their property might be affected by the presence of a wind farm, although the government has said it’s yet to see any compelling evidence that this is indeed the case.12

Research in the UK and abroad shows that there is no devaluation in property prices nearby once a wind farm is operating. These fears are driven largely by the “anticipation stigma” found to exist during the planning and construction of wind farms, often bearing little relation to the actual community opinion or local property markets.13

Evidence also suggests that those living nearest to wind farms are their strongest advocates (Public Attitudes to Wind farms: Survey of Local Residents in Scotland, Scottish Executive Social Research – MORI, 2003).14

 

Efficiency

  • Myth: Wind farms are inefficient

A modern wind turbine produces electricity 80-85% of the time.15

A turbine generates different outputs dependent upon wind speeds. Over the course of the year, it will generate around 27%16 of the theoretical maximum output. This is known as its load (or capacity) factor. Conventional UK power stations have load factors of between 50-55%17 – this doesn’t mean they only work for about half the year.

Wind power is turned to energy very efficiently: there is no fuel cost, no fuel transportation cost, no waste products (heat) and there are no carbon emissions.

Developers often quote capacity factors as they are an indication of the economic efficiency of a particular site for a particular turbine. However, for third parties it is more important to look at the actual amount of electricity produced. This site could produce 19,700 MWh of electricity per year. This is enough clean electricity to power over 4,000 homes.

In 2011, onshore wind generated enough power for 2.4 million UK homes.18

 

Subsides and Costs

  • Myth: Energy companies receive large subsidies and put up the cost of our electricity bills

All energy comes at a cost to the consumer and the challenge is to bring those costs down as swiftly as possible as we decarbonise our electricity supply.

The government does subsidise wind farms. At the moment generating electricity from renewable technologies is more costly than generating it from fossil fuels. If we are to meet our target of producing 15% of our energy from renewables by 2020 then appropriate support must be provided now to these technologies to ensure that they become viable and cost effective in the longer term.19

Recent energy bill increases have been driven by rising wholesale energy costs, mainly the price of imported natural gas, which makes up around half of household energy bills.20

In 2011, onshore wind cost just £6 per household electricity bill in terms of subsidies. 21

 

1http://www.parliament.uk/briefing-papers/sn05221.pdf

 

2http://www.cse.org.uk/downloads/file/common_concerns_about_wind_power.pdf (section 10)

 

3www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2013/mar/15/windfarm-sickness-spread-word-australia (15 Mar 2013)

 

4http://www.cse.org.uk/downloads/file/common_concerns_about_wind_power.pdf (section 12)

 

5 http://www.nhs.uk/news/2009/08August/Pages/Arewindfarmsahealthrisk.aspx

 

6 http://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/+/http://www.berr.gov.uk/files/file35592.pdf

 

7http://www.cse.org.uk/downloads/file/common_concerns_about_wind_power.pdf

 

8http://www.communities.gov.uk/documents/planningandbuilding/pdf/147447.pdf (p171)

 

9www.foe.co.uk/resource/briefings/wind_myths.pdf (p8)

 

10http://www.rspb.org.uk/ourwork/policy/windfarms/

 

11http://www.theyworkforyou.com/wrans/?id=2013-03-18a.146461.h&s=wind+farm#g146461.r0 (18 Mar 13)

 

12 http://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/48356/5197-onshore-wind-faqs.pdf

 

13http://www.cse.org.uk/downloads/file/common_concerns_about_wind_power.pdf (section 8)

 

14 http://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/+/http:/www.berr.gov.uk/energy/sources/renewables/explained/wind/myths/page16060.html

 

15http://www.cse.org.uk/downloads/file/common_concerns_about_wind_power.pdf (section 3)

 

16http://www.cse.org.uk/downloads/file/common_concerns_about_wind_power.pdf (section 3)

 

17http://www.cse.org.uk/downloads/file/common_concerns_about_wind_power.pdf (section 3)

 

18www.gov.uk/onshore-wind-part-of-the-uks-energy-mix (Onshore Wind: part of the UK’s energy mix. Published 22 Jan 2013 by DECC)

 

19 http://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/48356/5197-onshore-wind-faqs.pdf

 

20 http://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/48356/5197-onshore-wind-faqs.pdf

 

21www.gov.uk/onshore-wind-part-of-the-uks-energy-mix (Onshore Wind: part of the UK’s energy mix. Published 22 Jan 2013 by DECC)

 

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