HC 517 The Economics of Wind Power

Memorandum submitted by Wyck Gerson Lohman (WIND 30)

During the – so far three and a half – years during which my wife and I were forced, much against our wishes, to fight a wholly inappropriate wind farm proposal planned right in front of our bedroom window, we have gathered so much information that we could fill at least seventy pages and attach well over 200 relevant documents relating to the questions posed for consultation by the committee. But since the committee invites only short submissions of evidence with a limit of two A4 sides I shall just respond to the questions raised about back-up capacity, what methods could be used to make onshore wind farms more acceptable and what can be learned from other countries. I should very much welcome the chance to give further evidence in person.

As part of any wind farm application a developer will issue a statement proclaiming that the proposed turbines will generate the equivalent to the annual average electricity needs of an x number of homes. According to our wind farm developer the proposed 147.2 MW wind farm (64 –2.3MW turbines) will generate the annual average electricity needs of about 65,000 homes. I will not for a moment dispute these figures.

However, this does not mean in any way that a 147.2 MW wind farm will actually supply 65,000 homes, nor that the equivalent amount of fossil fuel is saved needed to supply 65,000 homes, nor that an equivalent amount of CO2 emission is cut if the project goes ahead. The plain truth is that this is simply not the case. Wind farms need constant back-up, up to 80%, experts say, is a realistic figure. Just so as to be totally realistic, let us put the figure at 70%. This means that if this particular proposal is given the go ahead the fossil fuel savings and reduction in CO2 emissions will be to the equivalent of supplying no more than 19,500 homes. I have successfully challenged two energy multinationals through the Advertising Standard Agency for making false claims regarding assumed carbon savings from wind turbines.

Converting coal powered stations to CCGT while developing renewable alternatives which could deliver real base-load power, such as Biomass, Tidal, Enhanced Geothermal and Ocean Current would effect far greater carbon savings and would, in all probability, be more cost effective in the long run too.

I want to stress that my wife and I have always been very reluctant about nuclear- and wholly supportive of renewable energy. So we particularly dread the fact that, for short term financial gain, the preference for a renewable source which will never deliver base-load power is making an at least partial switch to nuclear power, in order to meet the needs of future generations, inevitable, as is now conceded even by the Liberal Democrats including previous opponents of nuclear power such as Chris Huhne and the Rt. Hon. Edward Davey.

On the issue of ‘what methods could be used to make onshore wind more acceptable to communities that host them?’:

The very first thing that springs to mind is to stop ignoring the plight of innocent victims of close proximity to turbines. The Wind Industry, with the full backing of the Department of Energy and Climate Change, seems oblivious to the fact that they put such residents in a position where they have only two choices: to accept that their life will be wrecked and possibly wrecked for good if a project in close proximity of their home gets the go-ahead, or to go all out to try and fight it. By ignoring the plight of such people and suggesting to those who suffer turbine noise and sleep deprivation that what they are experiencing is a figment of their imagination and telling those who have tried and failed to sell their properties due to close proximity to (proposed) turbines that there is no proof that close proximity affects house prices the Industry has managed to put itself firmly on the way to killing off their own industry.

In February of 2010, a few months before the General Election, the DECC put out a consultation document to enable interested parties to have their say regarding the then draft National Policy Statement for Energy Infrastructure.

In my response document I proposed for the first time my reasonable and straightforward solution to the problem of possible property blight from close proximity to (giant) turbines. I believe that my proposition was utterly fair to wind farm developers and residents alike: ‘obliging developers to buy the properties of any residents wishing to move away from a proposed development within two kilometres from their homes at a price somewhat above market value to compensate for loss of income, cost and inconvenience of moving, would offer the industry the one and only way to prove, once and for all, that their claim of house prices not suffering in close proximity to turbines is correct. However: should it turn out that such properties are not sold on quite as easily as the Industry makes out, it would be entirely fair for the Industry to bear the cost and not the innocent victim of such a development.’

I have put this proposal to the DECC a number of times. The last time in an email which included well over 40 testimonies from residents suffering serious noise- and flicker problems, from residents who had lost the value of their homes and from Estate Agents stating they could not take on certain properties as they were considered unsaleable due to close proximity to turbines. Please find the DECC's answer as copied straight from their response: ' We have yet to see any compelling evidence that the proximity of wind turbines adversely affects house prices '

I am aware it is against the protocol to accuse a government official or department of telling lies. But a lie is simply a lie and I know for a fact that the DECC have received many more testimonies from residents in similar situations from all over the UK.

I maintain that my proposal is utterly reasonable and if DECC and Industry are really telling the truth there would be no reason whatsoever not to implement it: it would not cost the industry a penny as they could simply sell the properties on. And since the Industry asserts that those living in close proximity to turbines are the greatest supporters of wind energy, they should even be able to make a handsome profit!

So what lessons can be learned from other countries?

In Denmark loss of property value due to the erection of wind turbines is recognised and properly addressed, see:

http://www.ens.dk/en-us/supply/renewable-energy/windpower/onshore-wind-power/loss-of-value-to-real-property/sider/forside.aspx , which reads:

An erector of a wind turbine has a duty to pay compensation for loss of value of real property following the erection of the wind turbine. The size of the loss of value is determined by an appraisal authority.

If a property loses more than 1 per cent in value due to the erection of new wind turbines, the owner is ensured full compensation for his loss. The owner of the property must notify his claim for compensation for loss of value to Energinet.dk. As owner of the property you can choose to enter into a voluntary agreement for compensation for the loss of value with the erector of the wind turbine, or you can ask an impartial appraisal authority to make a specific appraisal of the property and determine the scope of your loss.

The claim from the owner of a property affected must be notified before the wind turbine has been erected. The erector of the wind turbine is therefore obligated to visualise the project and prepare other material as well as provide information to the citizens affected at a public meeting no later than four weeks before the municipal planning process ends. Any claims raised at a later stage will only be assessed as an exception to the rule.

Energinet.dk, which is responsible for operating the electricity grid in Denmark, is managing the scheme.

So how is it that the same Vesta turbines which cause property devaluation in Denmark do not affect the value of properties in the UK? It is high time for the DECC and the Industry to get real.

June 2012

Prepared 10th July 2012