The role of politics plays a large part in the planning and implementation of wind farms across the UK. Earth Staff, as a specialist energy recruitment company for the oil and gas, minerals and wind power markets provide up-to-date information on the latest developments within power industry.
The UK Government’s main focus for the future of fossil fuels is to reduce the dependence on them and find a solution that will meet with the ever increasing demand for power within the UK. This has led to an increased focus on wind farms within the Government agenda and ‘dramatic increases in wind energy developments across the EU’ (Ellis, 2009). This increase in onshore wind turbines has given rise to high levels of resistance, even with the reaffirmed positives that the wind farms deliver.
In accordance with the with Europeans Environmental Agency’s technical report the new ‘climate-energy legislation package’ sets out ‘mandatory national targets’ for member nations to meet with. By 2020, there should be 20% of ‘Community energy’ derived from renewable energy sources such as wind farms. This means that the UK alone requires around 4,000 more wind turbines in place for these targets to be met.
Although these targets have been set by the European Union there is still much negativity towards wind farms, from what is referred to as ‘NIMBYs’, or ‘not in my back yards’. The Government in a bid to counteract this resistance from local communities has put in to place the ‘National Policy Statement for Renewable Energy Infrastructure.’ This states that the Government, when planning wind farm developments, must take in to consideration how suitable areas are as a ‘renewable and low-carbon energy development’ (Department for Communities and Local Government 2012). Consideration must also be given to what impact the wind farms will have on the local communities, wildlife and the visual impact on the landscape.
Many of the places founded to be suitable for wind farm projects within the UK are often places of beauty and as such local communities don’t wish for the wind farms to be built there 1) to prevent the ruining of the landscape and 2) to avoid any financial impact on the value of the house prices within the area. It is believed that many politicians themselves do not want the wind farms ‘in their back yard’, and are therefore having a direct impact on the providing of support for the schemes.
Despite the lack of support from some politicians (105 conservative MP’s wrote to David Cameron to request that a stop was put to the development of the “unsightly and inefficient turbines”) 763 onshore turbines will be erected throughout the British countryside this year. Last year the approval rate for wind farms increased by 50% and this is the first time in five years that support for wind farms was approved by local councils. This may be down to the fact that support for wind energy in general is becoming more popular, that local communities are now being given more of a say in where the wind farms can be developed and are receiving greater rewards for the hosting of the wind farms in their area.
The Government has to work hard to live up to claims that they are “the greenest government ever” by continually raising support for wind farms throughout the UK, to meet with EU directives. Conversation is needed between the Government and the general public to communicate that ‘wind energy is the cheapest form of renewable energy and the site is often carbon neutral within less than a year.’ (McLaughlin, 2013), reaffirming this is the way forward for renewable energy sources and to save the ever depleting fossil fuels.
The report by the European Environment Agency in to Europe’s ‘wind energy potential’ states that the power provided by wind farms within Europe could be ‘three times greater than Europe’s expected electricity demand, rising to a factor of seven by 2030’.
As technology advances the impact caused by the construction of wind farms will become increasingly less detrimental, and the amount of noise pollution will eventually be lowered, however the impact on wildlife is yet unknown. It is becoming widely accepted that wind turbines are required to ensure a sustainable future and that wind turbines will in fact become part of our natural landscape. (McLaughlin, 2013)
The role of politics for the development of wind farms within the UK contributes, at present, to the lack of support for the projects within the Government and is undermining what the European Environmental Agency is trying to achieve as a whole.
For Britain to meet with the directives set out by the European Union by 2020, it is going to require the education of the masses in to the benefits of wind energy and the consequences should we not invest in alternative resources. Better planning and consideration is needed when choosing sites for the onshore farms, and the Government will need to bring all MP’s on board. Electricity companies controlling the wind farms may also be required to offer greater rewards for those communities who agree to have wind turbines constructed in their area.
Author bio: this article is written by Earth Staff, specialist international recruitment for the oil & gas, minerals and wind power markets, providing up-to-date information on the energy industry.
A special mention to Lauryn McLaughlin for her paper on The Role of Politics in Planning Wind Farms, 2013.
Department for Communities and Local Government (2011) Localism Bill. London. HMSO
Department for Communities and Local Government (2012) National Planning Policy Framework. London. HMSO
Ellis, G, Cowell, R, Warren, C, Strachan, P, Szarka, J, Hadwin, R, Miner, P, Wolsink, M, & NadaI, A (2009),'Wind Power: Is There A “Planning Problem”? Expanding Wind Power: A Problem of Planning, or of Perception? The Problems Of Planning. Planning Theory & Practice, 10, 4, pp. 521-547, Academic Search Complete, EBSCOhost, viewed 13 December 2012.
The European Environmental Agency, Europe's onshore and offshore wind energy potential, an assessment of environmental and economic constraints (2009)