Land of sweeping horizons becomes a hostage to turbines

By Patrick Sawer
Copyright Sunday Telegraph 4th Nov 2012

IT is a landscape of open vistas stretching for miles beneath leaden skies, its fields and wetlands dotted with isolated villages.
But a swathe of Lincolnshire’s countryside is under threat from dozens of massive wind turbines set to be erected across the county, campaigners claim.
Applications to build another 112 turbines are in the pipeline, on top of the 84 already built and 41 more which have been given planning permission.
In the district of East Lindsey alone there are already 41 turbines in operation, with another 50 at the planning stage – including one application to erect eight turbines, each one 377ft high and taller than St Paul’s Cathedral.
The Newton Marsh wind farm would be built by the energy company ASC Renewables within only one and a half miles of the village of Tetney.
Melvin Grosvenor, of the Marsh Wind Farm Action Group, said: “We are facing an invasion of turbines which will industrialise the rural landscape of Lincolnshire. The impact on a flat county such as ours will be particularly dramatic as these monstrous structures are visible for miles, in some cases up to 30 miles away.
“We have become hostage to planning inspectors and ridiculously flawed government policies which are promoting flawed technology.”
Campaigners fear that last week’s promise by John Hayes, the Conservative energy minister, of a moratorium on future wind farm applications comes too late to prevent the ravaging of Lincolnshire’s landscape. Almost 4,000 turbines are scheduled to be built across Britain over the next few years, to add to the 3,800 already in operation. Mr Hayes said that only a minority of these were likely to be given the go-ahead.
Campaigners point out that although around half of applications for new wind farms are refused by local councils, energy companies often win on appeal to the planning inspectorate.
Industry figures published last week show approvals for onshore wind farms have risen to record levels, despite opposition from critics who claim they are inefficient and blight some of the nation’s best-loved views.
Renewable UK found that the overall capacity approved at the planning stage increased by nearly 50 per cent, with 110 schemes agreed, providing up to 1.7 gigawatts of new capacity. In comparison, 1.1GW of capacity was approved in 2010/11.
Hundreds of residents gathered at Tetney village hall last Saturday to voice their opposition to the proposed Newton Marsh wind farm.
Sir Peter Tapsell, father of the House of Commons and MP for Louth and Horncastle, told the meeting: “I am absolutely against it on every possible ground. They ruin our breathtakingly beautiful countryside. The people who are for these wind farms call themselves environmentalists, but nothing damages our environment more than a line of these ghastly turbines.”
Brian Lovesay, 75, a retired farmer who lives close to the Newton Marsh wind farm site, said: “The turbines will be clearly visible for miles around here, and what’s more you’ll be able to hear them humming at night. They are an eyesore. I’ve travelled around the country quite a lot and they have become a plague, spreading everywhere.”
Objections have also been raised by Bourne Leisure, the owner of nearby Thorpe caravan holiday park, which claims that the turbines will cost the local economy thousands in lost tourism because holiday makers will be put off by the sight of the giant turbines, less than 1,000 yards from its facilities.
The turbines are to be built next to two 344ft high turbines which have already been approved and are due to be erected within weeks on land owned by Anglian Water.
There are also plans for three 370ft high turbines to be sighted a few miles away, along the Louth Canal, in North Thoresby, with seven others in the immediate area in the advanced stages of planning.
ASC Renewables claimed the Newton Marsh wind farm, and others like it throughout the county, would have “no significant impact” on the surrounding area.
Mike Denny, the firm’s operations director, said: “We have carefully considered the location of the wind farm by placing it next to an existing scheme. We have done two years’ worth of ecological and environmental studies and through that we have established there will be no significant effects other than some visual impact.”
ASC said the noise generated by its turbines would be “significantly below” the maximum set by national planning guidelines of five decibels above the prevailing background level, or 35-40 decibels in particularly quiet areas, and that the wind farm would generate £6 million to £8 million for the local economy. It said the proposed wind farm would generate enough electricity to power up to 11,770 homes.
“Onshore wind farms are not the entire answer but fossil fuels are not infinite and we have to move away and evolve from that,” said Mr Denny, adding that the firm would pay about £50,000 a year towards local community projects if the project was approved.
Wind farms are heavily subsidised by the Government to encourage the switch to renewable energy production as a way of fighting climate change.
The cost is added to household electricity bills, and although the subsidy is to be cut by 10 per cent from next year, it will still mean £38 of the average household bill will go towards renewables in 2013/14, rising to £53 in 2016/17.
Several large landowners in Lincolnshire, as well as other counties, have benefited from renting their land to wind farm companies, including the father of David Cameron’s wife Samantha. Sir Reginald Sheffield earns an estimated £350,000 a year from the eight turbines sited on his 3,000-acre Normanby Hall estate, near Scunthorpe.

Wind Farm Noise does damage

Wind farm noise does harm sleep and health, say scientists
Wind farm noise causes “clear and significant” damage to people’s sleep and mental health, according to the first full peer-reviewed scientific study of the problem.

Research has proved there windfarms can have a direct impact on sleep and mental health (GETTY)

By Andrew Gilligan Daily Telegraph
Saturday 3rd November 2012

American and British researchers compared two groups of residents in the US state of Maine. One group lived within a mile of a wind farm and the second group did not.
Both sets of people were demographically and socially similar, but the researchers found major differences in the quality of sleep the two groups enjoyed.
The findings provide the clearest evidence yet to support long-standing complaints from people living near turbines that the sound from their rotating blades disrupts sleep patterns and causes stress-related conditions.
The study will be used by critics of wind power to argue against new turbines being built near homes and for existing ones to be switched off or have their speed reduced, when strong winds cause their noise to increase.
The researchers used two standard scientific scales, the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index, which measures the quality of night-time sleep, and the Epworth Sleepiness Scale, which measures how sleepy people feel when they are awake.
“Participants living near industrial wind turbines had worse sleep, as evidenced by significantly greater mean PSQI and ESS scores,” the researchers, Michael Nissenbaum, Jeffery Aramini and Chris Hanning, found.
“There were clear and significant dose-response relationships, with the effect diminishing with increasing log-distance from turbines.”
The researchers also tracked respondents’ “mental component scores” and found a “significant” link – probably caused by poor-quality sleep – between wind turbines and poorer mental health.
More than a quarter of participants in the group living near the turbines said they had been medically diagnosed with depression or anxiety since the wind farm started. None of the participants in the group further away reported such problems.
Each person was also asked if they had been prescribed sleeping pills. More than a quarter of those living near the wind farm said they had. Less than a tenth of those living further away had been prescribed sleeping pills.
According to the researchers, the study, in the journal Noise and Health, is the first to show clear relationships between wind farms and “important clinical indicators of health, including sleep quality, daytime sleepiness and mental health”.
Unlike some common forms of sleep-disturbing noise, such as roads, wind turbine noise varies dramatically, depending on the wind direction and speed. Unlike other forms of variable noise, however, such as railways and aircraft, it can continue for very long
periods at a time. The nature of the noise — a rhythmic beating or swooshing of the blades — is also disturbing. UK planning guidance allows a night-time noise level from wind farms of 42 decibels – equivalent to the hum made by a fridge.
This means that turbines cannot be built less than 380-550 yards from human habitation, with the exact distance depending on the terrain and the size of the turbines.
However, as local concern about wind farm noise grows, many councils are now drawing up far wider cordons. Wiltshire, for instance, has recently voted to adopt minimum distances of between 0.6 to 1.8 miles, depending on the size of the turbines.
Dr Lee Moroney, director of planning at the Renewable Energy Foundation, said: “The UK noise limits were drawn up 16 years ago, when wind turbines were less than half the current size. Worse still, the guidelines permit turbines to be built so close to houses that wind turbine noise will not infrequently be clearly audible indoors at night time, so sleep impacts and associated health effects are almost inevitable.
“This situation is obviously unacceptable and creating a lot of angry neighbours, but the industry and government response is slow and very reluctant. Ministers need to light a fire under their civil servants.”
The research will add to the growing pressure on the wind farm industry, which was attacked last week by the junior energy minister, John Hayes, for the way in which turbines have been “peppered around the country without due regard for the interests of the local community or their wishes”. Saying “enough is enough”, Mr Hayes appeared to support a moratorium on new developments beyond those already in the pipeline.
He was slapped down by his Lib Dem boss, Ed Davey, the Energy Secretary, but is unlikely to have made his remarks without some kind of nod from the top of Government. George Osborne, the Chancellor, is known to be increasingly sceptical about the effectiveness of wind power, which is heavily subsidised but delivers relatively little reduction in carbon dioxide.
Wind farms generate about a quarter of their theoretical capacity because the wind does not always blow at the required speeds. Earlier this year, more than 100 Tory MPs urged David Cameron to block the further expansion of wind power.
Whatever the Government decides, however, may not matter.
The Sunday Telegraph has learnt that the EU will shortly begin work on a new directive which may impose a binding target for further renewable energy, mostly wind, on the UK. There is already a target, which is also Government policy, that 20 per cent of energy should come from renewables by 2020.
But Brussels is considering imposing an even higher mandatory target to be met over the following decade, according to Gunther Oettinger, the EU energy commissioner. “I want an interesting discussion on binding targets for renewables by 2030,” he said earlier this year.
Two weeks ago, a senior member of his staff, Jasmin Battista, said that Mr Oettinger was “open to” forced targets, though no decision had been made.
The European Parliament has voted for mandatory increases in renewables by 2030 and Mr Davey has also said he favours them. The issue will be considered at a European Council of Ministers meeting next month.
Politics
© Copyright of Telegraph Media Group Limited 2012