A planning condition imposed on a windfarm company which would have ensured turbines did not increase concentrations of emissions from a nearby chemical plant was dropped on appeal, The Courier can reveal.
Fife’s first commercial windfarm is being constructed by Kennedy Renewables at Little Raith, next to Fife Ethylene Plant.
The company bought the site from West Coast Energy, which successfully appealed Fife Council’s condition that 2010 Air Quality Objectives for benzene are consistently achieved at monitoring sites in Cowdenbeath and Lochgelly.
Anti-turbines campaigner James Glen, who lives in Lochgelly, said: “This condition which was put in place by Sepa and Fife Council to protect the local communities from an increase of benzene was removed by the developers, through appeal, and now Kennedy Renewables only has to monitor the benzene levels.
“If the developers do not believe their turbines will create an increase in benzene in the local area, why spend additional money and time to remove this condition? What protection is there for the local communities if benzene is increased in the local area?”
An academic study published in March has stoked fears that windfarms could increase concentrations of pollutants in neighbouring communities.
The research by Glasgow University, Interaction of an Eulerian Flue Gas Plume with Wind Turbines, uses complex equations to assess whether turbine rotor blades disperse pollutants from industrial plants.
It states: “The results presented in this paper show that environmental protection agencies are justified in their concerns regarding the placement of wind turbines near to industrial plants.”
The Courier sent the report to Kennedy Renewables CEO Stephen Klein, who said: “Our planning approval from Fife Council includes a condition to monitor the air quality in communities close to our site both before construction began, and once the windfarm has been commissioned.
“We have worked with the council to carry this out and will continue to work with them in the coming year to fulfil the requirements of the planning condition.
“Once this is completed the results will be reported and any impact reviewed with the council.”
Mr Glen was not satisfied with the response, saying: “The developer has failed to satisfactorily address the issue on how they will mitigate any increase from benzene and the potential serious health risks, with the only protection the local communities had from being slowly poisoned, effectively removed.”
Susan Crosthwaite, who runs Communities Against Turbines Scotland, believes construction at Little Raith should be stopped, pending an investigation.
She said: “Lochgelly and Cowdenbeath residents have been made the unwitting guinea pigs so that we can see what happens when turbines disperse carcinogenic gas plumes.
“Construction of Little Raith windfarm should be halted immediately, until independent experts can properly evaluate the health risks posed by the interaction of turbines and gas plumes at Mossmorran.”
A second renewable energy firm recently secured permission to build two 100-metre turbines near the chemical plant.
Airvolution Energy has since submitted a second application to increase the height of the turbines to 125 metres.
The Courier also sent the Glasgow University study to managing director Richard Mardon.
He said: “As part of the planning process, our application will be scrutinised by many statutory bodies to assess whether it is acceptable to them.
“Experts at the Scottish Environment Protection Agency will be consulted by Fife Council and asked for their opinion on air quality and other impacts, and their assessment will be publicly available before the council make a decision.”
Mr Glen added: “We should not be gambling with the health of communities. Little Raith windfarm needs to be halted until an independent scientific study is conducted to better understand the potential negative impacts, and the local authority should not be approving any more windfarms around the Mossmorran plant.”