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Bigger wind farm buffer zones ‘needed to protect some homes’

Tougher noise guidelines to protect people living near wind farms have been recommended by a group of AMs.

The assembly’s petitions committee said wind farm buffer zones should be amended to ensure turbines are placed further from homes to protect people from noise in some circumstances.

The committee also said faulty turbines should be switched off at night.

A Welsh government spokesperson said: “We have received the report and will respond directly to the committee”.

The inquiry was launched after hearing from people who said they were suffering because of the noise created by turbines near their homes.

A petition, which had more than 1,000 signatures, called for greater control of noise from wind turbines.

People in Gwyddgrug, Carmarthenshire, which is near two wind farms, had complained that the noise disturbed their sleep and disrupted their everyday lives.

Welsh government planning guidance says 500 metres should separate homes from wind turbines.

But the committee said that should be a minimum distance and in some circumstances – depending on the topography and ambient noise levels – the buffer zone should increase to 1,500 metres.

Although the landscape can shield people from sound, the report says one respondent living within 1km of a wind farm said the sound echoed off a nearby mountain into the valley where they lived.

In a report, the committee says faulty turbines should be switched off at night if they start making more noise.

AMs were told by energy companies that stopping turbines overnight would mean they lose half their generating capacity.

For small projects, the night was the most profitable time to generate electricity and switching off turbines could make them financially unviable, the committee heard.

The committee says it recognises the importance of green energy sources, but it should not be done at the expense of people’s health and wellbeing.

‘Persistent whine’

Its chairman William Powell, a Liberal Democrat Mid and West Wales AM, said there was an “overwhelming number of responses” from people affected by wind turbines.

Some were worried that their homes would be devalued and others could not sleep because of a “persistent whine”, he said.

“We were told that some people can no longer enjoy simple pleasures such as sitting in their garden in the sun,” he added.

Industry group RenewableUK said its members took the noise from wind farms very seriously.

Llywelyn Rhys, deputy director of RenewableUK Cymru, said: “Industry guidance currently exists that recommends a 500 metres distance from turbines to properties.

“Developers and planning authorities are aware of this guidance and it is always considered during the planning process, which would include meaningful consultation with the people living close to the proposed wind farm.”

RenewableUK Cymru would recommended faulty turbines are switched off for maintenance, he added.