Wind Turbines: How far to go for your neighbour?

The House of Lords is considering the Wind Turbines (Minimum Distances from Residential Premises) Bill for England & Wales, which proposes to increase the
distance required between residential areas and the site of a wind turbine.

At present, in England, there is no set legal distance but planning policy noise limits suggest a separation of around 350 metres with the potential for a quieter wind farm to be allowed closer to residences under the current rules.

In Scotland and Wales, the guidelines encourage greater separation distances with Scotland providing for a 2km separation due to the visual effect of the turbines, and 500 m in Wales.

The current Bill recommends following the Scottish example in both England and Wales, and implementing a requirement for a larger gap (1000 – 3000 m dependant on the wind turbine size) between residential accommodation and turbines.

Separation distances are controversial with arguments for close proximity to allow for a small-scale array or single turbine to serve a house or community remote from a national grid connection and counter-arguments that there is a detrimental effect on both house values and health.

This Bill and the issues it raises can only become more important with committment in Scotland for to source 100% of its energy from green energy sources by 2020 & plans in England to construct one of the first gigawatt wind turbines.

This is an example of seeking a sustainable balance between economic, social and environmental factors that will need a full debate both, in Parliament and in society, & could have wider implications on the use of renewables as part of the UK’s energy security.

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