The Economics of Renewable Energy - Economic Affairs Committee Contents

Memorandum by Peter and Maureen Caswell

  We attach evidence mainly relating to points 2 and 6 (below). Our evidence is concerned with the proliferation of industrial wind turbines due to the Government's ROC policy.

    "2.  What are the barriers to greater deployment of renewable energy? Are there technical limits to the amount of renewable energy that the UK can absorb?"

    "6.  How do the external costs of renewable generation of electricity—such as concerns in many affected rural areas that wind farms and extra pylons spoil areas of natural beauty—compare with those of fossil fuels and nuclear power? How should these be measured and compared? Is the planning system striking the right balance between all the different considerations?"

  We strongly believe that the current imposition (through existing planning guides) of 125m (410ft) high industrial structures into rural areas is flawed. Rural does not mean unpopulated. The reality of today is huge turbines sited with blades within 25m of non-participating neighbours land.

  Those that do not have evangelical blinkers realise installation of huge structures will negatively affect the landscape and "amenity" of local residents. The reality is (for England at least) we have a high density of population compared with EU neighbours.

  With onshore wind, we are using the most invasive and dominating option for what is only a supplementary not a replacement power source. There is little trust in the Governments wind energy policy.

  For now we can only believe that turbines are being used as giant political pawns, soon to be peppering the countryside, making millions for astute investors, whilst local communities are split and their health and homes negatively impacted in exchange.

  1.  At long last we have hope that there will be a reality check on what is going on under the renewable energy banner, how a seemingly noble cause is being hijacked by murky goings on and ordinary people are being sacrificed to "get rich quick" scams. I am of course referring to the attempt to cover as much of the countryside as possible in "wind farms", before people realise how these adversely affect local communities.

  2.  We live in the very tip of rural Leicestershire, the beautiful Vale of Belvoir and are currently under threat of not one but two separate wind farm developments in an area of low wind resource. We asked ourselves why anyone would choose sites surrounded by villages, where the distance across the sites between two of the villages is less than 2 ¼ miles. Well the answer came as no surprise as an advert in a farming magazine explained: "Fancy making millions? Have a Wind Farm!" This goes on to say "most landowners are not aware that they can make further millions out of a wind farm project if they are prepared to deal with the planning application themselves." The first wind farm, although recommended for approval by planning officers was turned down by the planning committee, but is now going to appeal. The second is in scoping.

  3.  The first (10 turbines; each 125m/410ft high) is so close to a newly approved office that it is less than the fall over distance at something less than 63 metres. Advice according to Vestas Wind Systems in their safety regulations for operators and technicians states; "Do not stay within a radius of 400m (1,300 feet) from the turbine unless it is necessary." So why would planning officers consider 63m is safe?! There are bridleways and public rights of way at both sites far closer than the 400m. One footpath would go directly between two turbines only 200m apart. This separation will affect efficiency as well as health and safety.

  4.  The nearest home is less than 700m away from the first development, half the distance recommended by two recent health reports. The second development site has 8 turbines about 750m from our village and two other villages with a combined population of 3,500; again well within the distance documented to cause health problems. The current British regulations fail to recognize these problems, because doing so would mean having to admit they've already been sited too close to homes! The out of date guidelines that are used ETSU-R-97, were drawn up to a large extent by people involved in the wind energy and associated industries. Even so they said at the time it would need updating within a couple of years, ie before the turn of the last century! ETSU-R-97 provides less protection than the standards of the World Health Organisation for community noise. An Ombudsman looking into a noise problem at one dwelling described the current standard as "vague, open to interpretation, immeasurable and thus unenforceable" So hence they are sticking to it as it affords no protection to anyone and thus allows wind development to take place where they know it is highly unsuitable. The "Hayes Mackenzie report 2006" (noise) which the Government uses in planning guidelines is another example of a company with direct interests in the wind industry. We believe they are being employed at one of the sites, therefore we see them as far from impartial.

  5.  We have taken the time to visit two sites, so as not to prejudge the situation. On a very windy day we stopped at a shop where we could hear very eerie noise. The shop owner said it didn't bother him, but we were later to learn that the land was his and he was organising tours. At a different site we noticed a number of homes close to the site were up for sale. At one we asked; what it was like living close to the wind turbines? The initial response was no problem, but when they realised that we were not interested in the property, they said that they would tell me the truth "they loathed them". Two of the household were feeling ill. They had already dropped the house price by 17%. People who had put in an offer withdrew once they found out about the wind farm. They were stuck. They showed us a response from the developer which refused to acknowledge any problem with any issue, no proof of health problems or effects on animals (their dogs behaved differently once the wind farm went up). The drop in the house price was put down to the credit crunch. We were told of a noise issues at two neighbouring properties. We spoke to another couple seriously thinking of moving after their retirement home had now become a nightmare. We then went closer to the site. To be honest we didn't hear more than a slight whoosh, but were astounded to discover that we both started to "feel" strange. As we left, we turned on the car radio, we couldn't believe our ears, it was pulsing in time to the rotation of the blades.

  6.  So far we know there have been issues at:

Deeping St NicholasLincolnshire
BradworthyNorth Devon
Bears DownCornwall
Blaen BowiWales
ElmiraPrince Edward Island Canada
PubnicoNova ScotiaCanada
MeyersdalePensylvania USA
Mackinaw CityMichigan USA
FennerNew YorkUSA
Mars HillMaineUSA
Atherton TablelandsQueensland Australia
Te ApitiNorth Island New Zealand

  7.  This is just the tip of the iceberg. The problem appears to be a combination of noise which is audible and noise which is low frequency or infrasound. Lower frequencies are felt rather than heard. Through the research that we have carried out, we've learnt that this type of noise has been used as a weapon of war where people exhibited similar symptoms to those being reported by people living close to wind turbines. We got in touch with Nina Pierpont, an American doctor who has researched the health implications of wind turbines for over 3.5 years. She recommends that a buffer zone of 1.5 miles between homes and turbines and uses the term "Wind Turbine Syndrome" to describe the symptoms she found.

  8.  This is a similar distance to the UK based "Health & Human Rights Report"(2007) which recommends 2km and The French Academy of Medicine which recommends 1.5km. Research in Portugal indicated that long term exposure could lead to VAD or vibroacoustic disease. World Health Guildelines for community noise 1999; "evidence on low frequency noise is sufficiently strong to warrant immediate concern".

  9.  So when an advert claiming "wind turbines are not a danger to health" despite these reports being freely available, we asked the ASA to take a look. Surprisingly they didn't find in our favour, despite the inclusion of the letter from Nina Pierpont. Considering what information is available this is an impossible statement to make. We feel the ASA decision is dubious to say the least. Just consider, a new drug with this many reported side effects would not be allowed onto the market. There has been no health research.

  10.  The whole process to implement renewables regardless of the local cost is a complete shambles. Health is not considered a planning issue, nor is whether it is likely to produce significant electricity. Grid connection is a separate planning issue, as is the erection of an anemometer mast.

  11.  Denmark is considering compensation for those people who have had wind turbines imposed on them and we should do the same. People who suffer are trapped, being unable to sell their homes for anywhere near market value. The real cost is the gradual destruction of rural communities, "robbing the poor and giving to the rich". Local people have their amenity, quality of life and possibly their health taken away from them. In our location 7,500 people will be directly affected, although there are knock on effects spreading out from the area.

  12.  In response to the first application over a 1,000 individual objection letters were sent to the council. As much credence was given to the mass produced tick sheets put forward by the developer. I asked a planning officer why the concerns of local people weren't taken into account? He looked directly at me, smiled and said "we don't have to!" The latest government planning "guidelines" encourages this biased attitude which leads to an abuse of basic human rights, as peoples homes are reduced in amenity and value. This amounts to double standards, we condemn other countries for doing similar. The end result is to turn people who were in favour of doing something to help the environment against the idea because of the way it is cynically misused by big businesses to line their own pockets. Are targets really more important than the lives of UK citizens?

  13.  The existing UK law offers no protection whatsoever to residents. I beg of you to change the law to establish a 2km buffer zone between any industrial sized wind turbine and any home, so there is at least some protection for communities as is recommended in Scottish planning guidelines. All around the country citizens are being sentenced 25 to life, just for choosing to live in a rural area. They have lost everything and gained nothing, whilst developers profit and landowners can afford to move on.

  14.  Please please please for the sake of all communities throughout the country, look at what is really going on and not the hype.


  1.  Wind turbines don't work in a power cut—so will not save us from having to find alternatives.

  2.  The levels of electricity they actually produce are far lower than the levels they proudly claim in their brochures

  3.  On stormy days they are shut down to prevent spinning out of control. Reconnecting to the grid with high winds can cause black outs as shown in Europe

  4.  There are no Government sponsored studies to look into what is actually going on in areas already changed by wind farms Unfunded reports indicate increased levels of depression, heart attacks etc in areas where wind farms have gone ahead.

  5.  The effects on local wildlife. We have heard that bats and birds end up being killed in quite large numbers at some locations.

  6.  The biggest myth is the environmental banner the developers hide under. The company which is appealing in our area is made up of Dutch group fined for cartel activities, a property company (once respected) which has a conflict of interests by contributing to devaluing local properties and a chief executive who imports digital goods from China (low carbon footprint??). He sees himself as an effective money maker. This shows the real reason to be money not environmental.

  7.  Ecosystems change once turbines are up and running (Everything from worms and insects to larger animals). It is well known that creatures pick up vibrations and low frequency noise long before humans do, yet there are no studies on what is happening around wind farms currently in operation.

  8.  Larger mammals apparently change their behaviour around wind farms. There are no studies to see what implications this has for livestock or crop pollination on neighbouring farms. In Germany micro climate changes with localised drought effect have been reported. There is no research on what effects will be if we lose local eco balances up & down the country.

  9.  Just because nobody has bothered to look into effects doesn't mean they don't exist. There are enough people right around the globe giving warnings to make you realise that there are problems and serious problems at that.

  10.  Once some wind turbines get planning permission—others follow as the area is already blighted, there is nothing to save. More than one site is facing a doubling of the original numbers of turbines.

  11.  Justification appears to be that if any light industry exists or a row of pylons is present, the land is deemed ugly by developers. Using this logic there is very little in the UK left to save, which is obviously not the case.

  12.  The developers do not help local people. They hide behind poor legislation and ineffective guidelines. They create problems, move to another area and do the same again, sometimes using a new name.

  13.  There is obviously no UK law to protect local people. The European human rights act should protect us, but no-one has tested it yet. It is probably only a matter of time.

  14.  Much of Europe already has years of experience with wind energy. It is apparent it is not a magic solution. Why are we not learning from mistakes already made elsewhere? Surely common sense should prevail over artificial targets.

22 May 2008

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