Communities must benefit from wind farms says UK's Energy Secretary

Onshore wind farms need to "provide benefits to the communities that host them", such as reduced electricity bills and investment in local infrastructure...

Energy Secretary Ed Davey's comments were made alongside the launch of a Government consultation investigating barriers to further community engagement with wind energy - and how these could be addressed, particularly ways in which wind farms could deliver important environmental and social benefits to local communities. Such benefits could include improving access for local businesses to the economic supply chain serving wind projects, as well as offsetting electricity bills.

“Onshore wind has an important role to play in a diverse energy mix that is secure, low carbon and affordable” Davey said. “We know that two-thirds of people support the growth of onshore wind. But far too often, host communities have seen the wind farms but not the windfall. We are sensitive to the controversy around onshore wind and we want to ensure that people benefit from having wind farms sited near to them.”

And Davey also promised that the new consultation would look at ways to reward host communities and ensure that investment, employment and social benefits are felt locally.

Wind in England and Scotland - factfile

According to Government figures, in 2011, onshore wind provided 3% of the UK's electricity supply and there are currently around 5GW of onshore wind (3,350 turbines) installed in the UK.

Around 6GW of onshore wind projects are awaiting construction (2,682 turbines), with around a further 7GW in the planning system (3,063 turbines). Many of these are in planning are in Scotland.

Not all of these projects will be built – in England around half of all onshore wind projects do not receive planning approval. But to meet the trajectory set out in the UK's Renewable Energy Roadmap, around 13GW of onshore wind needs to be installed by 2020.

Currently, the wind industry pays a minimum of £1,000/MW to communities, but in reality many provide larger benefits packages.

The UK's Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) released its latest public attitude survey last week. The survey found that perceptions of a range of renewable energy sources were mostly positive. On-shore wind had good support (66%) but had the highest level of opposition, though this was still only 12% opposing, with 4% strongly opposing.

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Policy, investment and markets  •  Wind power