We were in attendance at a RenewableUK seminar on wind farm planning and policy held at the Glasgow Science Centre, which included a site visit to Whitelee wind farm, which is owned by Scottish Power, which, in turn, is owned by Spanish company Iberdrola.
Whitelee is the biggest onshore wind farm in Europe compromising of 240 turbines, with more pending planning approval. The majority of the turbines are at a height of 110 metres, with later extensions, increasing the height of the turbines to 130 metres. Next to Whitelee were several other wind farms from single turbine developments, to large turbine developments, including Blacklaw which compromises another 42 turbines.
Interspersed amongst the various developments is several communities lost amidst a forest of large overbearing turbines. For as far as the eye could see, turbines, some static, some spinning wildly, which the developers would like you to believe are ‘graceful’ and ‘angelic’, which in reality, regardless of personal aesthetics, do little to reduce human impacts on the environment, and do little to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels in our electricity supply.
To illustrate how ineffective wind energy is for supplying us electricity, as this article is being written (11:35pm, 3rd September), with over 9Gw of installed wind generating capacity in the UK, wind is currently producing 0.66Gw, to meet a national demand of 29.73Gw. The rest of the demand is being met by Coal (14.51Gw), Nuclear (8.27Gw), CCGT (4.42GW), Hydro (0.09Gw), Biomass (0.04Gw), French ICT (1.48Gw), and Dutch ICT (0.25Gw).
You can view real-time statistics of power generation by type at: http://www.gridwatch.templar.co.uk/
Listening to the delegates at the seminar and reading between the lines, landscape, local amenity, residential amenity, properties, all the negative impacts, appear to be of little concern to the developers, all areas are fair game.
In Scotland, there is many areas that face saturation from wind turbine developments, and once an area is saturated the developer moves onto the next. Already this is an issue facing the local and wider areas of Fife, with 105 applications already consented within a 50km radius of Little Raith, and more being submitted on a regular basis.
One of the concerns that the developers raised, was that the new national policy framework is recommending a setback of 2.5km, whereas previously a setback of only 2km was recommended. The developers feel this will leave no place in Scotland available for development, which is ironic since they frequently ignore the 2km setback guidance, as it is only a guideline, so why would they suddenly choose to honour the 2.5km setback?
Needless to say, the proponents of wind turbines, stated on several occasions at the seminar, that they would like to have no separation distances imposed on them.
When the delegation was taken on the site visit to Whitelee, the sight was a shock, especially considering that at one time, the site hosted a large forest and deep peat bogs. The noise was even more shocking.
We did some basic noise tests from a base of the turbine at Whitelee where the predominant noise is being produced by the turbine blades, and previous tests at Little Raith where the predominant noise is emitting from the base of the turbine (switchgear system), the noise comparisons are;
Average: 87.9 dB
Minimum: 74.1 dB
Maximum: 107.3 dB
Average: 98.2 dB
Minimum: 95.8 dB
Maximum: 100.4 dB
To put these figures into perspective;
- 60 dB – Normal conversation
- 70 dB – Annoying
- 80 dB – Possible Hearing Damage
- 90 dB – Hearing Damage (8hrs)
- 100 dB – Serious Hearing Damage (8hrs)
- 110 dB – Serious Hearing Damage (1hrs)
- 120 dB – Human pain threshold
Whitelee – Images
Below is the images captured from one small area of Whitelee, due to time constraints, we did not get the opportunity to capture Whitelee in it’s vast entirety.
Saturation of Fife & Scotland
The images above only provide a small sample of the saturation of turbines impacting the residents, lost amidst Whitelee and the many other constructed wind farm developments, yet highlights the scenario being played across communities in Scotland, including Fife.
Below is a snapshot of wind farm developments throughout Scotland currently approved, consented but not constructed, and pending in the application system.
This trend is set to continue until the subsidies, which are added onto household and businesses energy bills, are stopped. Until then, the lucrative subsidies, which are pushing the poorest households into fuel poverty, will continue to drive ever more wind farm developments, closer to peoples homes, in unsuitable areas, whilst completely saturating local landscapes.