Onshore wind farms have a role to play in funding community projects

December 19th, 2012 by HM Government Department of Energy and Climate Change

An Suidhe Wind Farm in Argyll provides community funds (click image to expand - image courtesy of RWE Innogy GmbH)

Energy Secretary Edward Davey said that UK communities that host onshore wind farms could benefit from reduced electricity bills and investment in local infrastructure.

The comments in September 2012 came alongside the launch of a call for evidence aimed at ensuring that communities secured financial, social and environmental benefit from hosting onshore wind farms.

The community benefits consultation sought new information on:

  • Barriers to community engagement and how to address these
  • How wind farms could deliver wider environmental and social benefits to communities e.g. by providing grants for playgrounds
  • Best practice in local consultation by developers
  • Ways to maximise participation by local businesses in the economic supply chain for wind projects
  • Innovative ways to reward host communities, such as offsetting electricity bills

The UK Government sought the latest information on the cost of onshore wind to confirm whether subsidies from April 2014 have been set at the correct level.

Energy Secretary Edward Davey said “onshore wind has an important role to play in a diverse energy mix that is secure, low carbon and affordable.”

“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,” Edward Davey said.

An Suidhe Wind Farm in Argyll generates revenue for the local community (click image to expand - image courtesy of RWE Innogy GmbH)

An Suidhe Wind Farm in Argyll provides funding for community projects within a 10 kilometre radius of its location.

The fund is expected to provide £28,500 annually (which will rise with inflation) and is administered by the Scottish Community Foundation.

So far eight grants have been awarded including grants for the repair and improvement of a church, museum and village hall.

The fund will have an economic impact through making these facilities more attractive and accessible to tourists.

The fund will also have an impact through grants such as the one to assist the running costs of Cairndow Community Child Care.

This call for evidence looked at ways to reward host communities and ensure that wider investment, employment and social benefits are felt locally.

Energy Minister John Hayes said “both parties in the UK government Coalition are alive to the need for fresh thinking about community engagement on onshore wind.”

“Appropriately sited onshore wind has a role to play, but if we’re to make this work in a way that garners popular support, we’ve got to see a big improvement in how developers engage with local communities, new ways of ensuring a sense of local ownership and more obvious local economic benefits,” he said.

“The UK Government is open-minded about how we go about this, and that’s what the call for evidence was about.”

It was an opportunity for anyone with a view about onshore wind – proponents and opponents alike – to come forward with workable ideas and solutions.

In 2011, the UK’s 3,350 installed onshore wind turbines provided 3% of the UK’s electricity supply. Another 2,282 turbines with an installed capacity of 6 GW were awaiting construction.

 

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