Anti-windfarm protesters have called for a complete halt on developments across Scotland until a new study into the impact of turbines is complete.
The Scottish Government has launched a multi-site investigation to be carried out by environment body ClimateXchange, based at Edinburgh University.
The study will examine 10 of the most controversial green energy projects in the country, and how they have affected the lives of residents living close to the windfarms.
The new research, the results of which are due later next year, has sparked a mixed response from campaigners.
Stuart Young, chairman of Caithness Wind Farm Information Forum, has called for a moratorium to be put in place on windfarm developments until the results are published.
He said: “This is too little, too late. How many more turbines will blot the landscape before we get to know the findings.
“This exercise was first mooted some time ago when the Scottish Government was first forming its planning policy.
“Why can’t this be done quicker? This means more windfarms will be built in the meantime. It is a just ploy to put a decision off for another day so more developments can go ahead. The Government has an agenda to meet green energy targets.
“How many more turbines can areas like Caithness take? A much shorter study should have been carried out sooner.”
Independent windfarm campaigner Lyndsey Ward, however, welcomed the study, saying: “The Government is beginning to listen.
“We hope this research will be open and transparent, which seems likely given representation on the panel includes Scotland Against Spin.
“It is undeniable that people are suffering from the terrible effects of living next to industrial windfarms.
“The sub-station at Beauly, which has increased in size to cope with the huge number of developments, is also causing a disturbance which can only get worse as more turbines appear across Scotland.”
The investigation will focus on 10 sites throughout Scotland, including the huge developments at Achany and Baillie in the Highlands and the much smaller West Knock Farm project, on the edge of Stuartfield, in Aberdeenshire.
The findings, due to be published in autumn next year, will be used to inform the Scottish Government and local authorities about future planning applications in an effort to minimise any negative effects on residents
A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “Current planning and consents processes are rigorous and ensure appropriate siting of wind farms.
“The Scottish Government has listened and is responding to concerns raised by Scotland Against Spin by funding an innovative multi-site study of the match between the impact of a wind farm as stated in the Environmental Assessment given during the planning process and the actual impact once the wind farm is operational.
“The project will inform the Scottish Government on the need for guidance to developers of wind farms on how they should measure the potential impacts of their wind farms, and how they should communicate this to planning authorities and those likely to be affected.
“The sites have been selected to give a range of wind farms sizes, locations, landscape type and proximity to population.”
Matt Ogsten, project manager at Climate-Xchange, stressed that everyone living near the selected windfarms would be given their chance to take part, not just objectors.
He said: “We will be speaking to individuals and households and asking them how they feel the turbines have affected their area.”
The wide-ranging study will focus on visual impact, noise and shadow flicker issues.
It will be led by a steering group that will include representatives of people living near windfarms, as well as turbine developers and operators.
ClimateXchange has been briefed to research “how the predicted impact at the planning stage matches the impacts when the windfarm is operating”.
The company’s website states: “The Scottish Government has asked ClimateXChange to manage a research project looking at whether the impacts predicted by developers in documentation submitted with their planning applications are consistent with the impacts experienced once the wind farm is operating.
“The study will examine ten onshore wind farm developments across Scotland, measuring their operational impacts through a combination of field assessments and local resident surveys.
“The project will inform the Scottish Government on the need for guidance to developers of wind farms on how they should measure the potential impacts of their wind farms, and how they should communicate this to planning authorities and those likely to be affected.”
ClimateXchange describes itself as “Scotland’s centre of expertise on climate change” and provides advice and analysis to government policymakers and associated agencies.
In April, the group published its findings on the health impacts of turbines, looking at everything from sleep disturbance to motion sickness-like symptoms. It concluded that there was evidence of “annoyance” caused by turbines, but found that not everyone agreed this was a health issue.
Last year, ClimateXchange looked at the impact of turbines on tourism in Scotland and concluded that there was no new evidence to suggest that windfarms were having a “discernible negative economic impact”.
The ten sites which are o be part of the new study are: Dalswinton, Dumfries and Galloway; Neilston, East Renfrewshire; FMC Technologies, Dunfermline; Little Raith Farm, Fife; Achany, Highland; Baillie, Highland; Griffin, Perth and Kinross; Drone Hill, Scottish Borders; Hadyard Hill, South Ayrshire; and, West Knock Farm, Aberdeenshire.
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