ONSHORE WIND BACK ON THE AGENDA?
Aside from COVID 19, climate change is a top priority in Government and in the hearts and souls of many of us. Undoubtedly, we all need to start reducing our emissions to preserve the planet for future generations.
Love it or hate it, Government has immediately started to relook at onshore wind as a climate change mitigation measure. It was recently announced that the subsidies ban on onshore windfarms within England is to be lifted. Arguably, energy produced from windfarms is currently the most economical renewable energy in the UK. The lifting of the ban brings new opportunities for landowners to realise an attractive, commercial proposition but also play their part in the reduction of carbon and the impact of climate change.
Strict planning regulations remain in place, including the requirement for an Ecological Impact Assessment to establish the suitability of a site and identify the detrimental effects to biodiversity, development might cause. In keeping with the Government’s 25 Year Plan for the Environment released in 2018 and subsequently in this year’s Environment Bill, developments must not negatively impact on the biodiversity of a site. The main ecological issues surrounding wind farms and single turbine developments within the UK usually include migrating wildfowl, breeding birds, raptors and in some cases, bat movement and foraging. Often onshore wind farms are proposed on some of our more remote moorland and upland sites and the current focus on protection of deep peat and blanket bog will add further challenges in the planning process.
Understanding the capacity of a site and its influence on the wider landscape context is also a key consideration. Landscape and visual impact assessments are an integral part of the design and planning process. These assessments are required to demonstrate a clear understanding of a site’s constraints. In addition, detailed mapping identifying zones of theoretical visibility and capturing views through complex 3D modelling processes will support a robust understanding of potential impacts.
Once the level of impacts are identified, an iterative design process can bring in a series of mitigation measures (these might include positional changes, changes to the overall size, colour and shape of the turbines through more effective wind farm design along with consideration of mitigation planting), all of which may help to reduce landscape and visual impacts.
Rural Solutions is well placed to assess the ecological impacts and advise on appropriate actions to mitigate and possibly enhance a sites environmental contribution.
Working with our experienced and specialist landscape and planning team gives clients an early understanding of feasibility, evaluation of risk and the best possible chance of achieving a consent. Key to all of it is the ‘whole team’ approach and the project being managed under one roof. One of the most notable projects worked on, being the Lancaster University wind turbine, which has been successfully operating now for many years and contributes significantly to the campus energy demands.
The new subsidies package is due to be in place in 2021. We would advise, that now is the time to start considering sites and assessing their viability.
For further information, please feel free to contact us, and we shall provide you with the best quality information so you can make an informed decision.