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Community Benefits and Costs of Onshore Wind

Updated: Feb 27, 2019

RenewableUK reacted positively, in a September 20 press release, to the Department of Energy and Climate Change’s call for evidence on onshore wind economic benefits.

The professional and trade organization represents the UK’s wind and marine energy industries and its Deputy Chief Executive Maf Smith said that people across the country were benefiting economically from wind farms.

“We welcome this call from DECC. Thousands of people around the UK are already seeing evidence of the economic benefits wind energy brings – wind farm owners donate at least £1,000 for every megawatt they install, to be spent on community projects – improving sports facilities, village halls and school libraries,” Mr. Smith said.

He noted that last year the onshore wind industry employed about 8,600 engineering and construction workers and that it injected £548m into the UK economy.

Working with local communities

Smith also described the industry’s commitment to consulting with and working closely with local communities to ensure that there is mutual understanding about the benefits of wind farms. Eighteen months ago, work began to improve networking in local areas.

Instead of implementing a one-size-fits-all approach, the industry deals with each community separately in order to find the best solution that meets the specific requirements of that area, according to RenewableUK representatives.

About 66% in UK favour onshore wind generation

“Independent opinion polls show consistently that two-thirds of the British public support wind energy. We’ll be working closely with DECC to ensure that more and more people feel that their local wind farm is very much part of their community – something to be proud of, and something to cherish,” Mr. Smith said.

DECC wants to ensure communities

The specific information requested by the DECC includes:

  • The wider wind farm benefits to the environment and society.

  • Barriers that prevent community engagement and measures that can address this issue

  • Best practices for local community consultation

  • Innovative community reward systems such as electricity bill offsetting

  • Ideas on maximizing local business participation in the supply chain for community wind farms

  • Information on the latest onshore wind costs in order to confirm subsidy levels

“Onshore wind has an important role to play in a diverse energy mix that is secure, low carbon and affordable. We know that two-thirds of people support the growth of onshore wind. But far too often, host communities have seen the wind farms but not the windfall,” Secretary Davey said.

He also noted that the government was aware of the controversy surrounding onshore wind and that it was trying to ensure communities that host these projects. “We must also ensure that our policies are based on the best available evidence, so that consumers are not over-subsidising any one technology,” he said.

Energy Minister John Hayes noted that both Coalition parties were interested in engaging communities on the subject of onshore wind. He said that the technology has a role to play, but that the industry has more work to do in working with local people.

“The Government is open minded about how we go about this, and that’s what this call for evidence is about. It’s an opportunity for anyone with a view about onshore wind – proponents and opponents alike – to come forward with workable ideas and solutions,” he said.

Penny Hill Wind Farm example

An excellent example of a wind farm that benefits the local community is the Penny Hill Wind Farm in South Yorkshire. The site provides £20,000 each year to fund local projects and expects to contribute half a million pounds over the entire 25-year project lifespan.

In the Rotherham area, an additional £50,000 investment is helping to establish a Warm Zone energy efficiency plan to fund cavity wall insulation and loft insulation for local buildings.

Overall, the Penny Hill Wind Farm will employ 30 construction workers and generate enough power for 10,000 homes by its completion date next year. UK company Mabey Bridge, based near Chepstow, will build the six Penny Hill wind turbine towers.

Prime Minister David Cameron lauded the wind farm as an example of a renewable energy project that will help meet future demands “in a way that protects our planet for our children and grandchildren.”

An Suidhe Wind Farm

The DECC cited the An Suidhe Wind Farm in Argyll as another example of a project benefitting the local community.

The wind farm will provide £28,500 annually for local projects within a 10km radius of the site. The Scottish Community Foundation will administer the fund, which will rise in amount to keep pace with inflation. Currently, the fund has provided eight grants including funds for the improvement and repair of a village hall, church and museum.

The development brought about by the grants is helping to make the area a better magnet for tourists.

The Burnfoot Hill wind farm in Glendevon is another example provided by the DECC of a project helping the local community. Revenue from the wind farm helps fund the Ochils Landscape Partnership (OLP), which currently handles 22 small projects worth £2.26 million. OLP aims to help conserve the area’s natural, social and built heritage with participation from locals.

The Burnfoot Hill Wind Farm currently provides 50 per cent of OLP’s funding and there are plans to participate in the first annual Ochils Festival with presentations aimed at educating the public on climate change and renewable energy.

Industry eager to cooperate

The prompt reaction by RenewableUK indicates the industry wants to deal quickly with any controversies surrounding onshore wind projects. Local communities want more say on how benefits are used and consumers want to know that they are not over subsidising the technology.

The wind industry and the government are responding by providing examples of current projects like the Penny Hill and An Suidhe wind farms that provide benefits by working together with local communities.

The call for evidence will look for even more ways to improve cooperation so that communities can realize optimal rewards for hosting onshore wind farms.


Community Energy Scotland

Community Energy Scotland is Scotland's only national charity dedicated to supporting communities to develop renewable energy projects,

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