Opinions divided on impact of wind farms

More than 40% of people rank personal, physical and mental health as the main reason for their opposition to wind farms, although a similar percentage of people believe Ireland does not have enough wind power developments.

A new study has also found if the ‘setback’ area surrounding wind turbines was extended from the current 500m minimum to 1,000m — and still less than a proposal for it to be set at 1,500m — it would satisfy the concerns of many people living in an area of a proposed development.

The report said: ‘An economic analysis of community preferences for wind farm development in Ireland’, was written by Noreen Brennan of NUI Galway for a PhD in Economics.

It shows that of those questioned 41.2% said personal, physical and mental health issues were their main concern regarding wind farm development.

Just over 12.5% of those questioned cited a decline in quality of life and wellbeing as their main concern regarding wind farms, while 20.4% said they were most concerned about a decline in property value as a result of a wind development.

In fourth place was concerns about the surrounding environment, cited as the primary issue regarding wind farms by almost 16.8% of those questioned.

Noreen Brennan said she had selected 200 people from the west and south of the country for the study.

A small proportion of those surveyed said they lived less than 1,500m from a wind farm, 37% saw turbines daily, whereas 9% of those surveyed moved into their home after a wind farm was built in their area.

Of those surveyed, 37% believed there are not enough wind farms in Ireland, 4% had put in an objection to a local authority regarding a wind farm, and 64% said they would forgo an increase in compensation for all information regarding a wind farm.

Ms Brennan said this reflected the fact that many people still feel they do not have sufficient information about wind turbines, their possible impact, and regarding a proposal involving location, height, and so on.

“The key point is information is the most important thing to people,” she said.

One current proposal is that the setback area — the length between a turbine and the nearest house — should be 10 times the height of the turbine. Ms Brennan said that the rising height of some turbines meant this would likely make a development less viable.

Another proposal is for staggered payments to those living near turbines, with those living closest receiving the highest payments, which then decrease the further away someone is living from the turbine.

Using modelling and survey attitudes Ms Brennan said a minimum setback of 1,000m would seem to satisfy many people and would require the payment of less compensation per year under the staggered payments proposal.

Ms Brennan said there was “an absence of non-biased, scientific information” and that there was a case to be made for a temporary community representative to liase with companies.

“It is clear that developers are not interacting with communities in an effective manner,” the report said.

“The results from the research in this thesis emphasise the dismissive nature of many wind farm developers when it comes to externalities.”


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