Green energy trade body RenewableUK has announced the details of the industry’s Protocol on payments from wind farms to community benefit funds. This specifies a £1,000 minimum payment per year per megawatt of installed wind power during the lifetime of the wind farm.
The decision on how the funds will be allocated will rest with the community living in the vicinity of the wind farm. There are already a number of community benefit funds set up around wind farms in the UK.
This initiative has the backing of the Government. It has confirmed that, as an added incentive, the local council will keep business rates paid by the wind farm operator, in addition to the community living near the wind farm receiving community benefit funding.
The announcement about the Protocol came after Energy Minister Charles Hendry said that the outcome of the administration’s current review of the support mechanism for green energy would encourage onshore wind developers to pick the windiest locations and avoid unsuitable sites.
His comments came at the end of a three-hour Parliamentary debate about onshore wind farms during which MPs complained that local objections to schemes were overturned on appeal, too many turbines were being consented and sites were often inappropriate. They also voiced concerns about noise, visual intrusion and dead birds and bats.
Some MPs suggested that those individual constituencies should only consent enough renewable capacity to meet local needs for power, a stance which Hendry rejected.
“That would conflict with the principle that these facilities should be put in the areas that are most appropriate,” he said. Hendry also blew cold on the idea that there should be specific distances between turbines and homes.
He stressed that the Government was reforming the planning system to give local communities greater power and to ensure that developers worked with communities so more schemes “can go through with planning consent being given locally rather than having to go to appeal”.
He said guidance on how noise was monitored was being reviewed as well as how turbine flicker was assessed.
The debate was secured by Andrea Leadsom, the Conservative MP for South Northamptonshire.
17 February 2011