We have been having a look at the recent Onshore Consultation report produced by IronsideFarrar on behalf of Fife Council, titled ‘Strategic Cumulative Impact Assessment for Wind Energy. The document is focused on examining the landscape capacity and cumulative impacts of onshore wind turbine development in the Fife area.
Near the beginning of the document there is the following disclaimer;
It is emphasised that this is a strategic level study providing a context for consideration of capacity for, and the cumulative effects of, existing and potential future wind turbine developments. No site specific conclusions should be drawn from it in relation to currently proposed or potential future wind turbines and windfarms.
All wind energy proposals should be considered on their own unique locational and design characteristics as well as their strategic context. All proposals should be subject to consideration of landscape, visual and cumulative impact assessment including (if required) a full environmental assessment.
Firstly, the report sets out the different landscape types which are;
- Landscape with no Wind Turbines
- Landscape with Occasional Wind Turbines
- Landscape with Wind Turbines
- Wind Turbine Landscape
Lochgelly and surrounding areas are currently considered to be a ‘Landscape with Wind Turbines’ which has the two following definitions;
The landscape type identified for the local area, south of the town, is ‘Lowland Loch Basin’ which has identified that the Landscape Character Sensitivity is medium, Visual Sensitivity is medium/high, Landscape Sensitivity is medium/high, and Landscape Value is medium/high.
The report also identifies the local area as having the Landscape Capacity to support medium sized turbines between 25m-50m in groupings of 1-3 with a separation distance of 3-5km between each development. There is no Landscape Capacity for large to very large turbines (50m+) and it is recommended that further development should be limited to well-separated medium size turbines.
However, further on into the document another picture emerges for onshore wind farm development in the Central Fife area, including Lochgelly, with the report identifying the Central Fife area as being capable of supporting Very Large turbines (100m+) with a landscape capacity of medium to high.
With several large wind farms currently pending, under construction and in operation in the Central Fife area, it looks likely that Central Fife is being earmarked to carry the burden of industrial wind farms to protect other areas of Fife.
Fife Council, Wind Farms and Consultation Concerns
What is of great concern with the consultation, is that it appears to be serving a dual purpose. Prior to Alex Rowley becoming the leader of the administration, election promises were made to seek a moratorium and conduct a consultation into wind farms in Fife.
A moratorium was sought and rejected by the Scottish Government, and now we have the consultation, yet the consultation is only focusing on which areas are suitable for wind farm developments, and not a consultation on the issues some residents are facing when living next to industrial power plants.
The consultation is made even more worrying and appearing to serve a dual purpose after it was highlighted in various press articles that Fife Council wish to use public tax payers money to build 15 wind farms across Fife, the locations and size of developments have still to be disclosed.
However, this should not be a surprise as prior to the election, Alex Rowley had stated;
I am also highlighting the levels of profits involved and believe this is the main reason for so many applications coming forward. Because of the massive subsidies that tax payers are paying into the hand of the profiteers we are seeing this kind of behaviour. I want communities to know the levels of profits being taken from these industrial turbines and I am exploring how we can develop community energy companies that can, where a development is permitted, ensure more of the massive profits go back to the local communities.
With the proposal of 15 wind farms by the administration of Fife Council, a statement was made by deputy leader of the administration Councillor David Ross;
If the council goes ahead with these turbines in appropriate locations they will bring income to the council which will protect services for everyone in Fife and we are looking to ensure the specific communities affected will benefit.
So rather than developers profiteering from subsidies paid through our energy bills and pushing low income residents into fuel poverty, Fife Council have opted to profiteer from subsidies and push low income residents into fuel poverty on the basis that it is protecting local services.
Yet, protecting local services with wind farms appear to be unlikely, as Fife Council is currently £712 million in debt (as of 1st December 2012), and the proposed wind farms are only expected to generate £20 million over a decade. Therefore, continued cuts of local services look set to continue in the near future.
On top of that, Fife Council will be using public money to create and process their own planning applications, as well as construct the developments, and maintain the sites and turbines.
Wind Farm locations and Deprivation
What is interesting to note, that it has long been noted that large industrial wind turbine developments usually take place in poorer communities, and one of the anecdotal reasons given for this, is that poorer communities have less time and resources to fight inappropriate sites, as residents are too busy trying to survive and make ends meet on a daily basis.
With the recent wind consultation and report produced by IronsideFarrar, a map has been produced of all the current developments in the Fife area.
Central Fife is currently hosting all the Very Large turbines of 100m+ in size. If we compare the map to the Index of Multiple Deprivation which was recently published by the Scottish Government, all the very large wind turbines that are currently operating and have been consented are located next to communities that are in the top 20% areas of multiple deprivation.
Key: RED: Between 5%-10% of Multiple Deprivation, YELLOW: Up to 20% of Multiple Deprivation
This may be entirely coincidental, but currently Central Fife is home to all the large turbines and is currently carrying the burden of the Wind Energy mandate.