Resource Documents — latest additions
Documents presented here are not the product of nor are they necessarily endorsed by National Wind Watch. These resource documents are provided to assist anyone wishing to research the issue of industrial wind power and the impacts of its development. The information should be evaluated by each reader to come to their own conclusions about the many areas of debate.
Author: Northern Ireland Assembly Committee for the Environment
This report sets out the key conclusions and recommendations of the Committee for the Environment on its inquiry into wind energy, and the evidence considered by the Committee which led to those conclusions.
The terms of reference for the inquiry were:
- To assess the adequacy of PPS18 and related supplementary guidance in regulating proposals for wind turbines on a consistent and strategic basis, with due regard for emerging technologies and independent environmental impact assessment;
- To compare the perceived impact of wind turbine noise and separation distances with other jurisdictions and other forms of renewable energy development; and
- To review the extent of engagement by wind energy providers with local communities and to ascertain how this engagement may best be promoted. …
Key conclusions and recommendations
The Committee came to the following conclusions and recommendations after due consideration of the evidence before it.
The first term of reference relates primarily to the adequacy, or otherwise, of Planning Policy Statement 18 (PPS 18). The current policy is set out in PPS 18, with a slightly different approach proposed in the draft Single Strategic Planning Policy (i) to remove the significant weighting of wider environmental, economic and social benefits considerations, and (ii) to urge a cautious approach to the siting of turbines in Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONBs) or other designated landscapes. …
The Committee found that many submissions to the inquiry focused on perceived inadequacies of current planning procedures. Members expressed concerns that there may not be adequate consideration of the cumulative impact of turbines, but they recognised that balancing individual applications against cumulative effect is a wider issue across planning. The Committee recommends that procedures should be put in place so that a saturation point is clearly defined, rather than being a judgement call of individual planning officials.
The Committee considered the present situation in Northern Ireland where local councils have to devote finite resources to the investigation of noise complaints made against wind turbines. This contrasts with other areas of the UK where the developer is required to undertake investigation of any complaints and to demonstrate compliance with noise limits. The Committee therefore recommends that the standard conditions which were developed by the Institute of Acoustics, and which have been endorsed in Scotland, England and Wales, should be routinely attached to planning consents in Northern Ireland. …
Wind turbine noise and separation distance
The second term of reference of the inquiry focuses on wind turbine noise and separation distances from dwellings. This has been the most emotive aspect of the inquiry as many submissions detail the adverse impact perceived noise from wind turbines is having on the respondents’ day to day lives. From the evidence put before the Committee, it seems apparent that current guidelines in respect of permissible levels of noise are no longer adequate and that the research evidence available has increased significantly since 1997. The Committee therefore recommends that the Department should review the use of the ETSU-97 guidelines on an urgent basis, with a view to adopting more modern and robust guidance for measurement of wind turbine noise, with particular reference to current guidelines from the World Health Organisation.
The Committee was also concerned that there does not appear to be continuous long-term monitoring of noise from wind farms, either by developers or by the relevant public sector organisations. If such information were available it would introduce an objective measure of the noise output of turbines, as opposed to the projected noise impact produced by a desk-top exercise as part of the application process. This would provide both developers and planners with factual evidence and a useful assessment measure for future applications. The Committee recommends that the Department should bear responsibility for ensuring that arrangements be put in place for on-going long-term monitoring of wind turbine noise.
Following on from this, the Committee has heard evidence from local residents who are concerned about potentially harmful low-frequency noise emitting from wind turbines. The Committee is not in a position to determine the scientific basis for such information, but members believe that it warrants further investigation. The Committee therefore recommends that the Department, working with local universities, should commission independent research to measure and determine the impact of low-frequency noise on those residents living in close proximity to individual turbines and wind farms in Northern Ireland.
The Committee is aware that PPS 18 advises that a separation (or setback) distance of 500m, or 10 times rotor diameter, will generally apply to the siting of wind developments, but there is no indication given in the policy whether this is in relation to noise or to visual amenity. The Committee’s specialist advisor has indicted that, due to local topography, linear distance is less important than the robust actual measurement of noise, but it is obviously very relevant to the aspect of visual amenity. There are no generally agreed separation distances in other jurisdictions and the lack of prescription has given rise to a great deal of criticism from respondents.
The Committee has considered whether the current degree of flexibility should continue to be available to planners in assessing applications, but agreed instead that a minimum setback distance should now be determined by the Department. The Committee recommends that the Department, taking into account constraints on the availability and suitability of land for the generation of wind energy, should specify a minimum separation distance between wind turbines and dwellings. …
The final term of reference for the inquiry relates to the extent of engagement by wind energy providers with local communities and the promotion of such engagement. The Committee found that, although the wind industry is aware of the vital importance of engagement and is moving towards a more robust standardised approach (as exemplified by the recent publication of the NIRIG Community Best Practice Guidance 2014), many residents still feel marginalised in the whole process of siting wind developments near their homes.
The Committee believes that the views of the community must be given consideration by both planners and developers. Community concerns regarding visual amenity, noise and health, and the impact on house prices, are often not given due regard; and community groups trying to investigate or object to applications find the process resource-intensive and not transparent. This should not be seen as a mere box-ticking exercise – the views of residents need to be listened to, considered and, if possible, changes made to take account of these views. It is not just about preparing reports: there is a need to act on the findings.
The Committee believes that there should be timely and early engagement with communities. It recommends that the use of a community engagement toolkit should be made mandatory, as a useful measure of independence, and the list of statutory consultees should be widened to reflect all users of the countryside. …
The possible devaluation of homes, where wind developments have been sited in close proximity to existing dwellings, has been a contentious issue. While the Committee has been presented with emerging and contradictory research evidence on this, it believes that a scattered rural population – both those who have lived in the area for generations and those who have chosen to live in quiet scenic locations – has some cause for grievance. The Committee therefore recommends that the developer gives consideration to providing compensation where there is clear and compelling evidence of a significant drop in house value directly relating to the siting of a wind development. …
Download “Report on the Committee of the Environment’s Inquiry into Wind Energy”:
Volume 1 (2 MB)
Volume 2 (61 MB)
Volume 3 (27 MB)
Volume 4 (79 MB)
Volume 5 (25 MB)
Volume 6 (26 MB)
Volume 7 (100 MB)
Author: Dooley, John
The Danish Energy Agency (www.ens.dk/node/2233/register-wind-turbines) has been legally bound responsible for keeping a register since 1977 to maintain an extensive register of all commissioned and decommissioned Danish wind turbines (WT), with a considerable amount of information about every one of them. The register, known as the “Master data register for wind turbines”, collects all its data on an Excel Spreadsheet that is publicly available via the above link. It is updated monthly and by August 2014 included a total of around 7 900 WT’s, of which over 5 300 were non decommissioned (i.e. grid connected) turbines. Of these, 519 are off shore. There are in all ca. 2 600 decommissioned WT’s in the register, all of them on shore. Of the decommissioned WT’s 23 were ≥ 2 MW, while 925 are commissioned. About 7 000 in all were < 2 MW, of these 4 350 were commissioned and 2 660 decommissioned. In this report you will find figures about the (nominal) capacity growth in Denmark to date and especially data on their operation.
... As can be seen from the trend line graph for the periods in question the average operating life of the WT’s declines overtime in parallel to an increase in WT capacity. There is theoretical benefit in increasing WT [capacity] over time as it should reduce the number of sites required to achieve higher levels of output. The real issue however is whether a WT’s output can be increased without decreasing its operational life. It can be clearly seen from the data that as WT’s increase in capacity their operational lives are significantly reduced.
Author: Cypher, Elsbeth
We are asked to decide in this case whether the town of Falmouth (town) was required to obtain a special permit from the zoning board of appeals of Falmouth (ZBA) for the installation of a wind turbine on town land. We conclude that, under the town’s zoning by-law (by-law), a special permit was required.
Background. The plaintiffs are Falmouth residents who live between 1,300 and 3,200 feet from a wind turbine known as “Wind 1,” installed in 2009 on town land at its wastewater treatment facility (WWTF). Alleging significant distress from sound pressures and noise from the operation of Wind 1, Neil Andersen and Elizabeth Andersen (collectively, the Andersen plaintiffs), on August 25, 2010, sought an enforcement action by the town’s building commissioner asserting that the town was in violation of the by-law by operating Wind 1 without a special permit. The building commissioner denied their request in a letter dated September 24, 2010, and the Andersen plaintiffs appealed to the ZBA, which affirmed the building commissioner in a decision dated March 3, 2011. Separate actions for relief under G. L. c. 40A, § 17, were filed in the Superior Court by the Andersen plaintiffs and by the remaining plaintiffs. After consolidation of the cases below, and a bench trial, a judge on June 18, 2013, ordered that judgments enter affirming the decision of the ZBA.
Discussion. At trial, the plaintiffs argued that the building commissioner and the ZBA incorrectly interpreted the by-law to allow the issuance of a building permit for Wind 1 without a special permit, citing § 240-166 of the by-law which provides that a petitioner may apply for a special permit to allow construction of a windmill. The judge, however, deferred to the opinion of the building commissioner, affirmed by the ZBA, that the by-law “does not apply in the limited circumstance where the Town itself desires to construct and operate a windmill for municipal purposes in a district where all such purposes are permitted as of right.”
Interpretation of the town’s by-law raises a question of law. Goldlust v. Board of Appeals of N. Andover, 27 Mass. App. Ct. 1183, 1184 (1989). We “review the judge’s determinations of law, including interpretations of zoning bylaws, de novo.” Shirley Wayside Ltd. Partnership v. Board of Appeals of Shirley, 461 Mass. 469, 475 (2012). The judge and the ZBA affirmed the building commissioner’s decision without modification; therefore we examine that decision to determine whether the building commissioner’s interpretation of the by-law was correct.
In reaching his decision that a special permit was not required, the building commissioner determined that Wind 1 is a “municipal purpose” that falls within the enumerated community service uses permitted as of right in § 240-30B of the by-law, which includes: “All municipal purposes, including the administration of government, parks, playgrounds, recreation buildings, Town forests, watershed, water towers and reservoirs, beaches, fire and police stations and armories.” We think that this interpretation of the by-law to include Wind 1 as a permitted community service use was error.
As in other districts of the by-law, windmills are specifically designated in the public use district as an accessory use by special permit. Therefore it logically follows that windmills could not have been intended to fall within the more general municipal purpose as of right within § 240-30B of the by-law. See Miles-Matthias v. Zoning Bd. of Appeals of Seekonk, 84 Mass. App. Ct. 778, 789 (2014) (canon of construction “inclusio unius est exclusio alterius” provides that “statutory expression of one thing is an implied exclusion of other things omitted from the statute”), quoting from Harborview Residents’ Comm., Inc. v. Quincy Hous. Authy., 368 Mass. 425, 432 (1975). Furthermore, § 240-18 of the by-law states that where an activity might be classified under more than one of the within uses, “the more specific classification shall govern; if equally specific, the more restrictive shall govern. Uses not classifiable under any category listed for the applicable district are prohibited, except that a use listed nowhere in Articles V through XIII may be allowed on special permit if the Board of Appeals determines that it closely resembles in its neighborhood impacts a use allowed or allowed on special permit in that district.” Furthermore, § 240-17 of the by-law states: “No building or structure shall be erected, altered or extended and no premises shall be used, except as provided in Articles V through XIII, [the] district use regulations.”
The judge noted in upholding the building commissioner that the list of municipal purposes in § 240-30B of the by-law was illustrative and not limiting. While that is an accurate characterization of the list, it does not adequately consider the weight that must be given a specific by-law provision that has been drafted to take into account the public welfare. The classification of windmills as a permitted municipal purpose fails to consider § 240-33G(5), which is part of a comprehensive scheme to include wind turbines in the by-law and control their placement and impact in the town. We are not to look at provisions of a by-law in isolation; we must read them contextually. Livoli v. Zoning Bd. of Appeals of Southborough, 42 Mass. App. Ct. 921, 922 (1997). Windmills were added as art. XXXIV of the by-law by an amendment authorized by a vote of the town meeting on September 10, 1981. The public use district, identified as art. VII, was amended to include windmills as a special permit use in § 240-33G(5) of the by-law, and the ZBA is the permit-granting authority.
Because the by-law does not contain any exemption for the town from its provisions, contrast Sinn v. Selectmen of Acton, 357 Mass 606, 608 (1970), it is apparent that the decisions of the ZBA and the Superior Court judge, which relied on an incorrect interpretations of the by-law, are not entitled to deference. See Mauri v. Zoning Bd. of Appeals of Newton, 83 Mass. App. Ct. 336, 342 (2013), and cases cited. And we conclude that those decisions are based on “a legally untenable ground, [are] unreasonable, . . . [and are] arbitrary.” MacGibbon v. Board of Appeals of Duxbury, 356 Mass. 635, 639 (1970).
The plaintiffs also assert that the town failed to obey the use permit requirements in § 240-166D of the by-law. The requirements of § 240-166D […] pertain to considerations of potential impacts on neighbors as well as safety in the operation of windmills, and it appears that many of the requirements are specific to wind turbines and are not found in local or Massachusetts building codes. The building commissioner testified that he issued a conventional use and occupancy permit and did not assert that such a permit indicated compliance with the requirements of § 240-166D. Compliance with those requirements must be made in the course of an application for a special permit.
Conclusion. For the reasons given, we vacate the June 18, 2013, judgments of the Superior Court. The matter is remanded to the Superior Court, where new judgments shall enter consistent with this opinion.
Author: Shepherd, Daniel
I have been invited by Glenmark Community Against Wind Turbines, Inc to provide an evaluation of the impact of turbine noise on health and well-being. …
Relatively, wind turbines are a new source of community noise, and as such their effects on public health are only beginning to emerge in the literature. The recognition of a new disease, disorder, or threat to health usually follows a set pathway. First, doctors and practitioners attempt to fit symptoms into pre-defined diagnostic categories or to classify the complaints as psychosomatic. Second, as evidence accumulates, case studies begin to appear in the literature, and exploratory research is undertaken to obtain better descriptions of the symptoms/complaints. Third, intensive research is undertaken examining the distribution and prevalence of those reporting symptoms, the factors correlating with the distribution and prevalence of those symptoms, and ultimately to cause-and-effect explanations of why those reporting symptoms may be doing so.
In my reading of the literature the health effects of wind turbines are only beginning to be elucidated, and [are] caught somewhere between the first and second stages described above (Paragraph 1.8). The important point to note is that case studies (e.g., Harry, 2007; Pierpont, 2009) and correlational studies (e.g., Pedersen et al., 2007; van den berg, 2008; Shepherd et al., 2011) have already emerged in relation to the health effects of wind turbine noise, and so the possibility of detrimental health effects due to wind turbine noise must be taken with utmost seriousness.
Noise is a recognised environmental pollutant that degrades sleep, quality of life and general function (WHO, 1999, 2009; 2011). On the basis of data currently available in peer-reviewed scientific publications, it can only be concluded that industrial-scale wind energy generation, involving the saturation of an optimum number of wind turbines in a fixed area, is not without health impact for those residing in its proximity. Based on my experience of wind turbine noise, and my reading of the data available in the scientific literature, I recommend that all turbines displaced at least two kilometres (or more) from any dwelling be consented. …
30 April 2012