People that live in areas where wind farms are being proposed frequently express concerns about how they will be affected. A wide range of studies have been undertaken to examine these concerns and are available on government and industry association websites.
The development of wind farms in the UK is now well established and the technologies have progressed significantly over the course of the past two decades. Some frequently asked questions are as follows:
How strong does the wind have to blow?
Wind turbines start operating at wind speeds of 4 to 5 metres per second (around 10 miles an hour) and reach maximum power output at around 15 metres/second (around 33 miles per hour). In gale force winds (25 metres/second, 50+ miles/hour) wind turbines shut down to reduce unnecessary wear and tear.
Do the turbines affect birds, wildlife or other animals?
The greatest impact to wildlife is climate change, and wind energy is an important contribution to combatting it. On a local level, we consult with organisations such as Natural England, Scottish Natural Heritage, RSPB and other environmental groups to ensure that wind farms have the least possible impact on wildlife.
In depth studies are undertaken as part of the environmental impact assessment process to ensure that the ornithological interests of a proposed wind farm location are well understood. If there are ornithological sensitivities, this may lead to changes to a wind farm’s design and if significant populations of endangered species are present and vulnerable it may lead to the development not being taken forwards to a planning application at all. Equally, it may not impact upon the wind farm design if there is not a significant ornithological interest at the proposed location of the wind farm. The impacts upon birds posed by wind farms are well understood and this allows a robust assessment to be undertaken to feed into the decision making process.
Wind farms are popular with farmers because their land can continue to be used for growing crops or grazing livestock, promoting agricultural diversification and providing an additional income. Sheep, cows and horses are not disturbed by wind turbines. The first wind farm built in the UK is located at Delabole. This farm also houses a stud farm and a riding school.
How do they sound?
Like any large moving structures, wind turbines emit some noise as a result of their operation. Minimising this has been the subject of much research, with mechanical noise from the gearbox all but eliminated, and improved blade design significantly reducing the sound of the blades rotating. A modern wind turbine is therefore a very quiet machine. In addition, detailed noise assessments ensure that turbines are sited in such a way as to avoid significant impacts on nearby homes. Noise limits are, rightly, extremely stringent, and conditions are rigorously enforced. These limits are generally set at a maximum of just five decibels above the prevailing background noise.
As part of the development process, we often arrange visits to wind farms for people in the local community to experience being in close proximity. Please contact us if this is of interest.
For further information on wind energy and facts about the topics above, please visit RenewableUK.