Wind turbines' landscape and financial impact in the UK

Wind turbines beside a motorway in North West France (image courtesy P-Y Bégin)

Big landowners have the easiest job getting planning permission for wind turbines, because the only people who live within sight are likely to be their tenants. Wind farm subsidies were about £1bn in 2012, though the rate of subsidy was cut by 10% this year. I drove past an ugly wind farm in Scotland this year, with 22 turbines dominating the landscape. The visual impact was grim, so I began to wonder about their financial impact. With the advantage of generous subsidies, Merryn Somerset Webb calculates that each turbine will yield the owner a profit of £200,000/year for 20 years. This amounts to £4m over the period, or £88m for the group of turbines. This lets the ‘generous’ company which developed the scheme give £1m to the local community over the 20 year period. A landowner who allows a turbine on his land can expect a rent of £1m over the period (£50,000/year). So why not follow the French example and locate the turbines on land beside motorways? This would keep the two sorts of ugliness together and remind motorists that they should be using electricity to power their vehicles. The airflow from vehicles might even be used, with special turbines, to generate electricity when there is no wind. Noise barriers could designed to deflect air currents to roadside turbines.
At present, visitors to the UK probably conclude that UK policy is to splat wind turbines anywhere in the landscape, providing only that no wealthy people, except landowners, live near them.

2 thoughts on “Wind turbines' landscape and financial impact in the UK

  1. Marian Boswall

    Have calculations proven the turbines’ benefit in terms of cost and CO2 created in the build vs energy created in use? I thought that that was still a moot point and worth improving before they are rolled out over private or public land.

    1. Tom Turner Post author

      In 2005 the Sustainable Development Commission concluded that wind turbines take 8-10 months to generate the energy used in their manufacture and installation. See p 18
      I suspect that most people who research and write about wind power are biased, one way or the other. There are reasons to be sceptical about it.


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