Energiekontor, the Belford Burn wind farm developer are having a PUBLIC EXHIBITON on THURSDAY 9 MAY 5 pm to 8. 30 pm at BELL VIEW.
Bell View is on the south side of West Street , Belford.
We need as many people as possible to come and express their concerns. We have all seen the turbines being erected a few miles south at Middlemoor and Wandylaw. Energiekontor intend to put up similar but slightly shorter ones on the hills a few hundred metres to the west of Belford. As you can see from our artists impressions they will tower over village and blight the landscape.
The exhibition is something they are expected to do and it demonstrates that they are connecting with us natives. The fact that they totally disregard our opinions is a measure of their arrogance. They have also given little warning of it and very short notice. Perhaps this is a measure of the contempt they have for us!
We will conduct an exit poll to show Northumberland County Council what people really think. This helps them decide which way to vote when the planning application goes in which will probably be soon after the exhibition.
At the exhibition it will be your last chance to meet the developers or their stooges and express your opinion. You can quiz them about things such as television reception and broadband reception. The BBC on its website claims 146 houses will be affected, will it be yours?
( www.bbc.co.uk/feedback/ ) you may have to hunt about for it and they won’t tell you if your house is one of the affected ones.
It is most important that people come and be counted. If you can’t come on Thursday the exhibition will still be there but unattended on Friday 10 May 9 am to 4 pm, Monday 13 May 9am to 5pm, Tuesday 14 May 9 am to 5pm.
There has not been much to report about Air Farmers and Middleton Burn wind farm. They might be about to do the same or possibly go straight to planning if so we hope you will be prepared to take up pen and paper and write to the county council to express your opinion. The members of the committee are working hard on your behalf to keep OUR landscape how WE wish it to remain.
EnergieKontors’ application for a 60m met mast was last night denied permission at County Hall, Morpeth.
to Northumberland County Council for the erection of an anemometer mast up to 60m in height for a temporary period of 3 years. View APPLICATION
Air Farmers make much of their proposal to pay £48,000 per year to a so-called ‘community fund’.
This is a very small price for damaging our tourist landscape and blighting heritage assets, businesses and communities surrounding the site.
This sum is the minimum suggested by the wind industry: “The Protocol specifies a £1,000 minimum payment per year per megawatt of installed wind power during the lifetime of the wind farm”.1 It is also is a third less than the industry average in 2006.2
AF propose paying double this rate at Middle Hill, their other scheme in Northumberland. There they are talking of £54,000 per year for 27MW of installed capacity.3
They must think we are a soft touch!
Just over the border we see much higher rates being offered, e.g. at Brunta Hill (11 x 125m turbines), near Lauder, PNE Wind is offering £5,000 per MW of installed capacity, plus an additional £1,000 per MW at year’s 10 and 20 (linked to RPI).4
The landowner, of course, is paid many times what the whole community receives for hosting turbines. In 2006 the industry-recommended rate was £13,500 per 3MW turbine per year.5 The current figure is substantially higher, according to letters we have seen from developers to landowners.
The sum of £48,000 per year appears even less generous when you know that Air Farmers might receive over £5.8 million per year just in subsidies paid by the electricity consumer (calculated using AF’s predicted load factor of 30.2% and £45.85 average auction price for Renewables Obligation Certificates as of 30 September, 2011).
The small benefits accruing from temporary jobs and local spend during the construction phase is likely to be very substantially outweighed by loss of value and investment in tourist businesses and local property.
Contrary to wind industry propaganda, there is plentiful evidence of the damage to property and business values caused by wind farms.
In the Danish homeland of Air Farmer’s MD there is a state-run compensation scheme.6
In Australia and the US growing numbers of properties where people are suffering health effects from turbines are being bought by site operators. Some are just bulldozed. In other cases property records show that companies have taken major losses in re-selling them.
They are usually sold with ‘no-litigation’ and ‘gagging’ clauses, to prevent the buyers seeking compensation for health problems or publicising noise and/or health problems.7
As far back as 2004, an English judge awarded a house buyer damages equalling 20% of the purchase price of a property 500 metres away from a proposed wind farm of seven 40m turbines in the Lake District. Note that those turbines are less than a third the size of the Middleton Burn ones. The vendors had not disclosed that an industrial wind power station was planned nearby.
In his judgement the judge stated that, “The effect is significant and it has a significant effect on the property. It is an incursion into the countryside. It ruins the peace”.8
A rating tribunal in Lincolnshire has reduced council tax on a property in recognition of the fact that it is badly affected by noise from eight 100m turbines that are 930 metres away. The owners have moved out of the property which a local estate agent has stated is “unsaleable”.9
The owners are currently awaiting the result of a High Court Action taken to seek a resolution of the noise problem and an award of damages.
Finally, we would mention a holiday park business near the eight 93m turbines of Knabs Ridge wind farm in North Yorkshire. Despite assurances from the developers, and from the planning inspector at the public inquiry who overturned a local decision to refuse planning permission, this business reports major financial damage that is directly attributable to the operation of the wind farm. The owner of the business states:
“We have lost £91,360.00 in pitch fee income, plus trading, plus caravan sales approx £400,000. For the last two seasons we have not sold a new holiday home since the wind farm has been here!!!!!! We normally sell at least ten. The Inquiry Inspector, in his Report on the Knabs Ridge proposal, assured us all that tourist businesses would be unaffected by the turbines and we are most upset that we have now been left in this position.
“Harrogate Council has received many complaints about the noise of the turbines. A noise monitor was erected in an adjacent field, some way from the caravans, and a report was produced that claimed no problem. More work is being commissioned.
“I understand that in many other European countries large turbines must be sited at least 2 km away from properties. Had this been the case here, our business would not be suffering as it is now.”10
1. RenewableUK (formerly BWEA), ‘A Community Commitment, The Benefits of Onshore Wind’, February 2011. (PDF download).
2. “In consultation with its members, BWEA has assumed that the average, annual community fund payment in 2006 equates to £1,500 per MW installed per year.” BWEA, ‘Powering Ahead’, March, 2006.
3. See Middle Hill Action Group website:
4. Confirmed in minutes of Community Council Liaison Group Meeting, 30 August 2011.
5. “In consultation with its members, BWEA has assumed that average, annual landowner payments in 2006 equate to £4,500 per MW installed per year. “ BWEA, ‘Powering Ahead’, March, 2006.
6. “An erector of a wind turbine has a duty to pay compensation for loss of value of real property following the erection of the wind turbine. The size of the loss of value is determined by an appraisal authority.” ‘Loss of value to real property due the erection of wind turbines’, Danish Energy Agency (in English).
7. See: Wind Farm Realities and ‘Turbines declared a nasty neighbour as secret buyout is revealed’, Sunday Sun (Australia), 1 Jan, 2011.
8. ‘Wind farms ruin peace, says judge’, The Times, 10 January, 2004.
9. See BBC News report: ‘Wind farm blights farmhouse’: the agent’s letter is reproduced on the Windbyte website.
10. Letter. (PDF download).
Air Farmers (AF) held a presentation on the Middleton Burn (MB) Scheme at the Bell View Centre on 29 September, 2011.
This was a PR exercise, designed to try and muster some vestige of support from local people. It failed abysmally – see the exit poll figures!
Most of the information presented was selective, inaccurate or misleading. It was designed to place the best possible gloss on their scheme while ignoring, downplaying or concealing the negative impacts.
AF can get away with this at this stage, because everything is “indicative” (a word which featured strongly in their presentation). Later in the planning process information is presented as part of an Environmental Impact assessment (EIA) which will be examined by planners, consultants and, if the scheme ends up at appeal, by lawyers and a government planning inspector and/or minister.
There were only three people present representing AF. None of them wore ID badges so the affair was chaotic, with visitors wandering round the crowded room trying to find out who could answer their questions.
The man behind the entrance desk remained anonymous and did not tell any of the many people we have talked to who he was. From what was said, we think that he might have something to do with the mysterious moneymen behind AF. We await clarification from AF.
The main director and shareholder, Mr Jens Rasmussen, was there, as was Mr Bob Morgan, a consultant hired to act as project manager for both Middle Hill (Elsdon) and Middleton Burn.
Unusually, no representatives for the consultants (Pegasus) were present to answer questions on their documents.
The most prominent position in the presentation was given over to two large panels which featured pretty pictures of the many possible uses to which the small annual payments to a community fund might possibly be put.
This fantasy did not extend to explaining that community funds have nothing to do with the planning application. Less scrupulous wind developers, of course, talk of little else when ‘consulting’ with the public!
Nor was it mentioned that AF only propose paying the bare minimum of £1K per MW of installed capacity per annum set by the wind industry trade body, RenewableUK (less than ReUK’s 2006 average of £1.5K).
AF are proposing double this minimum amount at Middle Hill, Elsdon: £54K, which is £2K per MW, p.a. (27MW headline capacity). They seem to think we are a soft touch!
Just over the Border amounts are much higher: e.g. at Brunta Hill, a pre-application scheme near Lauder, PNE Wind is offering £5K per MW of installed capacity, plus an additional £1,000 per MW at years 10 and 20 (linked to RPI).
In Powys, Wales, it is £5K and in the Highlands region of Scotland it is £4-5K. Highland region explicitly states that these sums, even in the more difficult site areas of Highland Scotland, can be easily funded from large, consumer-funded Renewables Obligation production subsidies.
Nor did they mention that landowners would receive many times what the local community might receive in community funds.1
The sum of £48K per year appears even less generous when you know that Air Farmers might receive over £5.8 million per year in subsidies paid by the electricity consumer. (Calculated using AF’s predicted load factor of 30.2% and the £45.85 average auction price for Renewables Obligation Certificates as of 30 September, 2011).
We can report the reaction of at least one visitor, whose tourist business would be badly affected by the scheme: “What upsets me most is that this company thinks we can be fobbed off with a sculpture trail or some other cheap gimmick”.
A scandalously misleading feature of the presentation was the (mis)use of photomontages:
The guidelines recommend a height of image that allows sufficient detail to be seen. The photomontages were too small according to these guidelines and were presented in such a way that they could not be viewed as recommended.
Several people noticed, after much peering through reading glasses, that there were errors in locations and turbine scaling.
Professional photographers who were present say that the images contravened the SNH guidelines by not having the required information on cameras and lenses and how the images had been constructed.
There isn’t space to itemise all the errors, selective ‘facts’ and mis/disinformation that visitors to the AF show reported.
I will highlight one example which illustrates the way AF operate:
One panel prominently featured a graphic from a report by Mott McDonald for DECC, the energy department. It illustrated, according to AF, that the cost of generating onshore wind was comparable to gas-fuelled power stations. 2
This is misleading. The referenced Mott McDonald report sets out to present ‘levelised costings’ and sets out a number of caveats relating to its calculation of wind power costs: it does not include subsidies, which can double the cost of wind-generated power to the consumer, nor does it include backup costs, supply and distrubution costs or the cost of re-engineering the grid to take intermittent wind power generation. Nor do they include the costs of ‘curtailment’ (paying wind power producers not to produce) which is much higher, in relation to capacity and output, than for thermal power stations.
In the recent gales the Norwegian-owned operators of Crystal Rig, in the Lammermuirs, were paid £1.2 million for not producing for 12 hours, a period when their turbines might anyway have automatically shut down due to high wind speeds. This was nearly ten times what they might have expected in normal wholesale price plus consumer-funded subsidy.2
When we pointed out how misleading this graphic and the headline text with it were, Mr Morgan cheerfully responded that some anti-wind protestors misrepresent the facts. He seemed to think that this justified AF, supposedly a responsible development company, behaving in the same way.
Who are Air Farmers?
Something that has been repeatedly raised by visitors to the exhibition is the secretive nature of Air Farmers Ltd.
This private company was only founded in 2008 and has no history in the wind business. It is not recorded as having built a single wind turbine.
It is no longer even, according to Messrs Rasmussen and Morgan, a member RenewableUK, “the trade and professional body for UK wind and marine renewables industries”. RenewableUK might be surprised to hear that Air Farmers resigned from ReUK because, and I quote Mr Morgan: “the trade body haven’t been doing anything for years, and most people in the wind industry do not regard RenewableUK as a force.”
However, in spite this lack of experience, AF is proposing two very large applications in Northumberland, at the same time.
The more you look, the more mystifying this company appears in comparison with ‘normal’ wind development comnpanies. It operates from an office accommodation address in London; its website is nothing but a greenwashed mission statement – no information on the company, its directors, their history or even the company’s projects. It does not even directly employ its only visible employee, project manager Mr Bob Morgan, he has his own consultancy business.
We are down-to-earth people in Northumberland, if some company pitches up proposing a massive scheme which will change our landscape for generations and disrupt our lives and businesses, then we want to know who we are dealing with.
I, and many others, quizzed Jens Rasmussen, the company’s Danish major shareholder and director in an attempt to find out.
He refused to tell me, or anybody else that I have talked to, anything about the investors who are behind the company. They are very probably persons of the highest possible probity, but, for all that we discovered from Herr Rasmussen, they could just as well be Russian mafia or Colombian drug barons.
1 The 2006 minimum was set out in BWEA, ‘Onshore Wind: Powering Ahead’, March 2006. p.23 (see http://www.bwea.com/media/news/060327.html).
The sum has since risen considerably, if the letters we have seen to farmers from speculative developers are to be believed.
2 Mott McDonald for DECC, ‘UK Electricity Generation Costs Update’, June 2010. (PDF download).
EXIT POLL RESULT
An exit poll of visitors to Air Farmers’ presentation at the Bell View Centre on Thursday, 29 September, showed that 93.6% were against the proposal.
The figures were:
Visitors were asked a simple, unslanted question on whether they were for or against the proposal.
Ballot papers have their authors’ contact details and are available for inspection by the planning authority.
This contrasts with the heavily slanted and leading questionnaire used by Air Farmers. Typical of the way their questions were posed was: “9) Wind Resource; regarding the use of this free, available and non-polluting energy source …”.
Wind Turbines in North Northumberland – THE FACTS
SUMMARY OF THE SITUATION
On a National level, the pressure to build wind farms throughout the UK, stems from the Government’s desire to reduce the amount of fossil fuel consumed in power stations in order to meet EU targets. The UK government has set higher than EU required targets under the Climate Change Act, passed in 2008.
To encourage power companies and individuals to invest in wind energy (and other forms of renewable energy) the Government introduced, in 2002, an indirect subsidy scheme called ‘the Renewables Obligation’.
The Renewables Obligation rewards those who generate electricity from “renewable” sources with tradable Renewables Obligation Certificates (ROCs) which enable them to earn approximately twice as much as conventional generators. Electricity suppliers are forced to buy ROC’s from renewable generators, in increasing amounts each year, to avoid being fined by Ofgem. ALL electricity consumers pay the cost of this subsidy scheme, which is set to remain in place until 2037.
Investors quickly saw that in financial terms, investment in wind farms (as opposed to other forms of renewable electricity generation) offered extraordinarily attractive rates of return under the Renewables Obligation.
The fact that the electricity they produce is relatively small, intermittent and unpredictable, and requires back up from conventional sources as well as significant investment in transmission infrastructure, matters little to the owner or operator of the wind farm. The level of profit achievable is still very significant, even in areas with relatively low wind speeds.
Thus, despite the fact that wind farms do not provide the best means of reducing fossil fuel consumption or CO2 emissions, the wind energy industry successfully lobbied or “hoodwinked” Government (and the general public) into believing that wind turbines.
(a) perform very much better than they actually do,
(b) are urgently needed to “combat climate change”, and even
(c) provide us with “a sustainable form of clean energy”
The result is a still widely held misbelief that “we must have wind farms, however much we may dislike them, because they must be beneficial”.
The pros and cons of wind energy are frequently compared to the pros and cons of nuclear energy, as if the two technologies are substitutable alternatives to each other. This could not be a more misleading line of discussion. Nuclear power provides constant “base load” electricity in significant quantities and at low cost. Wind power provides a very small, uncontrollably variable contribution to our electricity needs, at a considerably inflated cost. The usefulness of the electricity generated is highly questionable. There are of course decommissioning issues with nuclear power.
National Grid tells us that even if ALL the proposed wind capacity was built we would need 30.5GW of new nuclear power stations and a huge new build of gas-fired power stations – 17.7GW in the next six years to be followed by another 18.6GW. See their ‘Seven Year Statements‘ for more information.
In addition to The Renewables Obligation, another more recent subsidy system has been introduced to encourage investment in smaller scale renewable installations. This includes wind turbine installations of up to 5MW. Some smaller wind turbines with less visual impact are being built under the Feed-in Tariff, but turbines as big as 120m, almost the same size as at Middleton Burn can qualify (e.g. 2 x 120m 2.5MW turbines are being proposed at Viewlaw, near Longhorsley). The cumulative effect of many smaller turbines passed under less restrictive planning regulations can be as bad as more controversial wind turbine proposals for large turbines.
So far in North Northumberland three large schemes have received planning permission: Middlemoor (16 xs 125m), Wandylaw (10 x 125m) and Barmoor (6 x 110.5m), none have yet been built. Middlemoor, as a ‘Section 36′ application (over 50MW capacity) was approved by a government minister after a public inquiry; the two other schemes were refused by the Local council, but were eventually granted planning permission following an appeal and Public Inquiry.
Government policy with regard to renewable energy and wind farms will eventually change, once politicians realise how they have been “taken in” by those in the wind industry. When that occurs, hopefully, Northumbrians will be PROUD that Northumberland has not been unnecessarily covered in wind farms, as has already happened in some less fortunate areas of the UK.
The following points are worth noting:
1. The “benefits” of a wind farm are:
(a) a trickle of intermittent and unpredictable electricity;
(b) a claimed reduction in CO2 emissions (related to the amount of electricity generated in a year) these calculations are now being challenged as the reality of adding wind generated electricity to a grid is becoming clearer;
(c) a substantial financial reward (paid for by ALL electricity consumers) to the turbine owner.
2. In virtually every case, applicants have sought to exaggerate the output of the wind turbines, while downplaying their adverse impacts, particularly the size of the turbines and the resulting visual effects.
3.The “harm” or adverse impacts caused by a wind farm are:
(a) Impact on the appearance and character of the local landscape. In the case of continued proliferation (as can be witnessed in certain parts of the Lammermuirs) the landscape soon becomes defined as a “wind farm landscape”.
(b) Impact on people living and working nearby, and on those visiting the area. A wind farm, or even a single wind turbine can cause a significant reduction in the residential amenity enjoyed by those living nearby, and can downgrade the value of property for that very reason. (Please note that reduction in property value IS NOT a valid reason for objection under the Planning process, although it is a material issue in its own right for householders.)
(c) Impact from noise. This specifically applies only to those people living close to the wind farm. Developers must assess the noise impact on nearby properties when making a planning application. They frequently try to downplay or misrepresent the noise impact. (The procedure for assessment of noise impact from wind farms is extremely technical and complex, and anyone likely to be affected by it is well advised to seek professional advice.)
(d) Impacts on other interests, including: archaeology, sites of Cultural Heritage, wildlife, local businesses (including tourism businesses), aeronautical interests (including radar), telecommunications and TV reception, and others.
(e) Simply gaining a planning consent for a particular proposal gives the developer the opportunity of selling that Consent on to another firm for many millions of pounds.
A note on Tourism
The threatened effect of wind turbines on Tourism in rural Northumberland and the Borders must be taken seriously. Tourism operators (B&B operators, self catering holiday cottage owners etc) largely depend upon the unspoilt landscape as a major feature of the area to promote to their customers and other visitors. Such people rely on landowners not to spoil the appearance of the landscape with inappropriate development. Wind turbines can significantly affect the appearance of views and landscapes. The arrival of wind turbines in an area soon affects people’s confidence about whether to invest in a holiday cottage, bed and breakfast or other visitor facility.
The granting of planning permission for one turbine in a particular area or landscape, frequently opens the gate for a series of “me too” applications from other landowners. Planners, having already granted one permission, then find it extremely hard to turn down subsequent applications.