Anti-wind farm campaigners say a report claiming shadow flicker from turbines poses no significant risk to health has failed to allay their fears.
However, the company behind plans for the four wind turbines at Rushy Mead, near Arborfield, says measures can be put in place to prevent shadow flicker – the term given to shadows caused by the turbines when the sun is behind them – causing problems for residents.
The report, which was commissioned by the Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC), notes European guidelines state assessment for the impact from turbines should take place 10 rotor diameters from the proposed turbine.
The diameter for the proposed turbines at Rushy Mead is 100 metres, which according to the 10-rotor rule means thorough assessment should take place within 1km of the site to investigate the potential impacts to homes.
Jan Heard, member of local campaign group Householders Against Rushy Mead (HARM), says her home is around 600 metres from the wind farm site and fears shadow flicker will ruin her quality of life.
She said: “Members of HARM have been concerned for sometime about the shadow flicker issues, despite being accused by a few of ‘trumped up objections’.
“This report by the DECC confirms our fears, that Rushy Mead, at less than 500 metres from homes, is too close.”
The report found there is no significant risk to health from shadow flicker and there have not been extensive issues with shadow flicker in the UK.
However, studies cited in the report noted over long term, shadow flicker can cause a significant nuisance.
In its conclusion the report states the 10 rotor diameter rule is deemed “an appropriate assessment area”.
Tony Duffin, from Partnerships for Renewables, which is working with The University of Reading on the plans, said the project team had assessed the area 1km away from Rushy Mead.
He said: “The recently published DECC report confirms that the methodology we used to assess potential shadow flicker for the Rushy Mead development is appropriate and in line with existing planning policy guidance. It also concludes that the mitigation measures which have been employed on operational wind farms, such as turbine shut-down strategies, have proved very successful, to the extent that shadow flicker cannot be considered to be a major issue in the UK.
“The ‘10 rotor diameter’ distance between houses and turbines, referred to in the report, does not mean that turbines should be located at least this distance away from housing, it simply means that a shadow flicker assessment should ideally be carried out to assess any effects on houses within this area.
“While the conclusions in the report are positive we recognise the importance of ensuring that any future development is designed to reflect the site-specific environment surrounding it. We also recognise the importance of putting the appropriate measures in place to ensure that shadow flicker does not become a cause for concern. This is why we carried out a thorough shadow flicker assessment at Rushy Mead and why we will welcome an appropriate shadow flicker planning condition being put in place by the council. Planning conditions and mitigation measures have been shown to work effectively and we expect the measures at Rushy Mead to include shut down strategies, as is industry best practice.
“We recognise that the shadow flicker has been raised as a concern by a number of local residents and we have included a link from our website to the recent DECC report to help people access the information within it for themselves.”
Mrs Heard said: “According to the details in the application – our particular property is likely to be affected by shadow flicker for at least 86 days of the year, similar figures for a number of other residents, and one for over 100 days of the year, making it around a third of the year!
“This is unacceptable, and the suggestion that this is an issue which can be covered with ‘conditions’ is both dangerous and laughable at the same time.”
Other anti-wind farm campaigners around the country have claimed shadow flicker has caused headaches and stress-related problems.
Charles Hendry, minister of state for energy and climate change, said: “It is vital that we use the most up-to-date, robust and accurate scientific evidence when looking at the impact of wind farms on communities.
“This study will be helpful to communities, developers and planners as they assess proposals for onshore wind projects.”
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