Wind turbine flicker is a problem

Even the Daily Telegraph finds it difficult to resist the occasional Sun newspaper type pun when the opportunity presents itself.  In this case, ‘Flicker of hope for the wind turbine victims’ might seem slightly flippant given the impact on peoples’ lives this issue has.

However, not wishing to be churlish about this rare attempt at humour, I hope what they’ve reported is accurate and can be used as a guide for those of us wrestling with the issue of wind turbine development.

The Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC), commissioned a report that has come back with recommendation regarding the flicker caused by the rotation of turbine blades when the sun is low in the sky, especially in the winter months, which is often a time of the strongest winds.

Of course a report is one thing, the government updating their guidance is another thing altogether and we can all think of at least one or two government commissioned reports that were the subject of great fanfares of publicity, but then disappeared without trace.

The report recommends that wind turbines should not be located closer than 10 times the diameter of the turbine rotor disc, to a dwelling or office building.  Unfortunately, they also suggest a tolerance level where turbines can be put closer, with a distance of 500 meters as long, as long as the flicker doesn’t last for more than 30 minutes a day!  I suppose that makes some sense, given that the sun (or rather the Earth) is constantly moving, the flicker should at least move away from those being ‘flickered’ after a short period of time.  However, 30 minutes could feel a lot longer if you aren’t actually able to leave the room affected, as might happen in a workplace.

Here in the very flat lands of the Lincolnshire Fens, people are also concerned about the visual impact and unfortunately this recommendation won’t really help us with that issue.  Unlike many other parts of the country, turbines are visible over much greater distances and even when you do the numbers on turbine with a diameter of 80 meters (800 meters clearance) a turbine of that size will still be very visible to the local community.  In the case of the Fens, I also wonder if 10 times the diameter is actually enough.

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