Monday, 31 October 2011

Dowhill turbine # 1

In an interesting twist, a proposed turbine in the area around Dowhill Farm which was originally refused consent back in July 2011 has surfaced once more - in the form of an appeal (South Ayrshire Council planning reference 11/00617/APP). This single turbine is of significant physical size (252 feet or 77m), and is thus afforded the colour of blue on my map. The turbine wasn't plotted on my map before simply because it had been refused so long ago that it was assumed to be a 'dead application'. How wrong can you be? I have now added this turbine to my map. It is essentially opposite FMC, set back from Pond Cottage.

The following documents all relate to this appeal:


The appeal is essentially a closed process and all we can do is sit back and observe the wheels of local government in action. However, the outcome of the appeal will be significant for a couple of reasons, if the original decision is overturned. The first is that other large, individual turbines were proposed along the A77 - and some of these applications may also surface once more, on appeal. Secondly, this I believe is the first time a wind turbine decision by South Ayrshire Council has been challenged. Interesting times indeed.

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Declining approvals

This 'article' from the BBC, which highlights an 'alarming drop' in the number of wind farm application approvals appears to have sparked a small debate as to the cause of the apparent decline in wind farm approvals. Some have noted that the source of the statistics has not been given, or the basis by which the numbers are actually compiled. I think the source of the statistics is quite easy to identify; this link will take you to the Renewables UK State of the Industry Report 2011 (SOI 2011). Unfortunately, SOI 2011 doesn't in itself explain the basis for compiling some of the statistics (ie, what constitutes a planning refusal, etc etc), but the numbers (according to the industry) are all there in black and white.

In a morbid sort of way, SOI 2011 is a fascinating document - packed full of statistics and projections. It does run to about 30 pages but is an easy read should you want the big, UK-wide picture.

Going back to those declining approval statistics, originally there was a disconnect between central and local government. Councils (or local government) were in some cases a little slow to establish policies and frameworks to support the Scottish Government's main objectives, and consequently I suspect some developments received rather more favourable treatment than they would now receive. In the meantime, the Scottish Government was busy moving the goal posts with regard to renewables targets whilst letting market forces decide the nitty gritty of their implementation rather than the councils. Then, the councils started to roll out their policies and frameworks. South Ayrshire Council have had broad areas of search for several years - but no actual applications under their direct jurisdiction to assess. Knoweside Hill and Breaker Hill are the first two to be (initially at least) decided by the Council. These two South Ayrshire applications were quite firmly judged within the context of local planning policies and clearly the national imperative was insignificant in comparison to the local detriment; so the recommendations were for refusal. Dumfries and Galloway have recently gone through a consultation phase with regard to establishing broad areas of search and an interim planning policy for wind farms. Now they have their policy, they are presumably judging applications against it. So, the original disconnect has gone and with it a perhaps the overinflated expectation of approval.

Now however, there is a disconnect between the developers and the councils; the developers continue to act as if relevant policies and frameworks still don't exist. The Councils have set the rules under which they are prepared to assist in achieving the Scottish Government's objectives. However, we continue to see developers starting, or continuing with development proposals that are not in line with published council policy. As a result, it should not really be a surprise to the developers if their applications are refused (or recommended for refusal). The message to me is clear - propose your developments outwith the now established policies and frameworks and your application may well receive a less than friendly appraisal.

Unfortunately, this could turn into a pretty ugly situation. Very few applications lodged with Central Consents are declined and if developers decide that the best way to get their projects built is to 'go large' and head off to Edinburgh for approval, the local representation provided by councils will fall largely on deaf ears and the national imperative will once again hold centre stage. That is something that could prove to be an absolute nightmare, since the Scottish Government will continue to set and change the overall policy, and will also be judge and jury on its' implementation.

Straid wind farm # 9

Earlier to day, the 229 foot (70 metre) meteorological mast for the proposed Straid wind farm was approved by South Ayrshire Council's Regulatory Panel. The residents of Lendalfoot will shortly be able to see roughly the hub level of the proposed turbines. To get the full visual height effect, an additional 100 feet (30.5 metres - which represents a little under an extra 50%) will have to be added on to the highest point of the mast. In other words, the mast height is approximately 2/3rds of the height of the proposed turbines. There will only be a single mast located in the area around turbines 4 and 9. This location is set back a fair distance from the western boundary of the proposed development, but I think it will still have considerable value as a height indicator. However, just because you can't see the mast from specific viewing points, you should not assume the turbines will be similarly hidden. Very few places in the immediate area will not have some view of those.

Whilst the mast was approved (as was to be expected), it didn't get an easy ride. A motion to reject the application was tabled and found some support. Not enough for rejection, but some. It is refreshing to see that the proposed development area's inappropriate nature was recognised and the rationale for even erecting a temporary mast questioned.

There probably won't be a lot of news with regard to the proposed Straid wind farm for a while but should anything of significance crop up I will post about it here.

Monday, 24 October 2011

Breaker Hill wind farm # 6

The situation with regard to the Breaker Hill wind farm debacle has now been clarified - at least partially. From what I know, South Ayrshire Council have been trying to bring this application to a conclusion for some while. In respect of this, the developers had been asked to submit some additional information, which up until very recently had not been forthcoming - despite requesting three extensions to the planning consideration period. Since the additional information was originally requested by South Ayrshire Council, they (South Ayrshire Council) appear to have no real option but to accept the finally submitted data with grace, at least from a legal perspective. So, we have a postponement on the decision until at least the end of January 2012.

This postponement has resulted in a disgraceful waste of Council resources and demonstrates an incredible lack of professionalism and sensitivity by Wind Prospect Ltd. At a time when Council budgets and resources are stretched beyond reasonable limits, this company seems quite happy to squander those desperately needed resources whilst they faff around. Just the panel postponement mailing would have cost South Ayrshire Council approaching £300 - and that would have been just the postage. A huge amount of effort has gone into trying to bring this application to a conclusion, and I can only imagine how the staff of South Ayrshire feel about this situation. The residents of Pinmore, Pinwherry, Colmonell and the surrounding areas will also now be subject to a further period of uncertainty, one they have had to endure quite literally for around 8 years. With an already deeply unpopular proposal, Wind Prospect Ltd appear to be digging themselves deeper and deeper into a PR disaster but like so many other developers, they don't really seem to care about the ramifications of their (in)actions and the misery they seem to create with such ease.

Whilst no decision will be made with regard to the application on October 27th, the Regulatory Panel will be updated with regard to the situation. It should also be noted that at this meeting, no opportunity to speak with regard to the application will be afforded those who have made representations. Therefore if you intended to travel to the meeting in an effort to claim your few minutes of 'fame', you will need to postpone your plans until at least January 2012. I will of course post again when a new panel date is set.

Once the new data has been placed in the public domain, I will post again with its contents - perhaps then we will finally be in a position to see what all the procrastination has been about.

Saturday, 22 October 2011

Breaker Hill wind farm # 5

Unfortunately, it appears we will not now get a decision on the proposed Breaker Hill wind farm at next week's South Ayrshire Council regulatory panel meeting. Despite having two years, the developers (Wind Prospects Developments Ltd) have waited until just a few days before the panel was due to make a decision before submitting some late information. This new information now apparently needs to go through a phase of 'public availability' before being considered by the planners - which ultimately means we may well not now see a decision on this proposal in 2011.

There is some concern over the legality of this postponement since it appears this additional information was submitted after the latest time that new information could ordinarily be considered for submission. Further clarification on the legal position will unfortunately have to wait until Monday although the mailing sent out by South Ayrshire Council yesterday clearly states that a decision regarding Breaker Hill will not be made this coming Thursday. I will post again on this topic on Monday once the situation has been clarified, and make the additional information submitted to South Ayrshire Council available as soon as I can.

This is an immensely frustrating move by Wind Prospect, and one which shows the general lack of sensitivity often displayed by wind farm developers after all, this potential development has only been floating around in one form or other for what, 7 or 8 years now?

Thursday, 20 October 2011

The end of shadow flicker?

Probably not!. Vestas, the wind turbine manufacturer have been trialling a system that assesses the likelihood of shadow flicker occurring. If certain parameters are met (and thus, the likelihood of shadow flicker is considered high), the turbine is put into idle mode. Some more details on this system can be found here and here.

Sounds good? I thought so at first - but now, I'm not so sure. The first point to note is that shadow flicker can be completely eliminated if sensible turbine setback distances are adopted; such an approach would completely negate the need for such a system in the first place. However, neighbours of wind farms are often ignored when it comes to turbine sighting. Adopting an apparently sensible approach such as this would require a fundamental paradigm shift from wind farm developers and I see no sight of that on the horizon.

Now, looking at the first article referenced above, I see two problems with this system. First of all, shadow flicker does not only occur around dawn and sunset. In northern latitudes, the sun stays very low in the sky during winter and sometimes almost appears to track horizontally during its transit. However, this system apparently relies upon light sensors placed on the east and west facing sides of the turbine, completely ignoring the bit of sky in the middle. Let's not forget that the position of apparent sunrise and sunset is dependant on the latitude and elevation of the observer and the time of year. It can vary considerably. I hope those sensors have a wide field of view (both vertically and horizontally).

The second major issue I see is that shadow flicker is an observed phenomena; that is, it is an observer that experiences it not the turbine itself. Instead of a system bolted to the turbine, why are sensors not placed at properties potentially susceptible to this phenomena? The sensors could be linked to a control box containing the necessary software to detect the shadow and strobing effect, which in turn is linked to a 'phone line. If a shadow effect is detected, an appropriate signal could be sent down the line to the control centre. Such an approach would not rely upon the positioning and cleanliness of the sensors on the turbines or the quality and sophistication of the modelling software; it would actually detect when the problem was occurring allowing the necessary corrective steps to be taken. Too simple I suppose.

Unfortunately, if the Vestas system works as described I think it could actually make the situation far worse. Currently a lot of developers rely far too heavily on the 10 rotor diameter rule of thumb to 'eliminate' shadow flicker at the design stage. I can foresee situations where developers could use this system as a green light to site turbines even closer to residential properties than before, using the excuse that shadow flicker can be 'eliminated' by this system. As a result, I am deeply suspicious of this - to me, it looks like they are coming at the problem from quite literally the wrong angle in terms of solving it and I actually see this as a mechanism to sell a few more turbines.

Finally it is worth noting that by developing this system the manufacturers are essentially saying that wind farm developers are indeed placing turbines too close to residential properties.

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Hill of Ochiltree wind farm # 3

Below are thumbnail links to all of the photomontages and wireframe diagrams for the proposed Hill of Ochiltree wind farm. Please let this page finish loading before clicking stuff! I have split the images into views of the proposed Ochiltree wind farm, and cumulative views.

Each of the non-wireframe images is approximately 3.5MB in size and the wireframe images are about 200k - so, overall I think these images are a lot more accessible.

To view the photomontages, first select a viewpoint in the selector box titled 'Select a viewpoint'. A series of thumbnail images will then appear for the selected viewpoint. Simply single left click on the required thumbnail until a grey rotating ball appears on the screen (which indicates the file is downloading) and let the image finish loading. You may need to single left click three times the first time you try to view an image on each page visit - thereafter one click should be sufficient to initiate the viewer.

Then if you want to zoom in, move the mouse over the image and click the X icon in the top left of the image. To zoom in further (or zoom out), use the scroll wheel on your mouse. Whilst you have the image zoomed in, you can pick it up with the left mouse button and move it around. When you have finished viewing, click the X in the top left hand corner once more, and then the x in the top right hand corner.

If you want to simply download the image file, just double click on the appropriate thumbnail.





Figure 7.7b & 7.7c
Viewpoint 1 - Merrick Hill summit
nearest turbine = 14,139 metres
pdf file (16.64MB)
Existing view
Predicted view - photomontage
Predicted view - wireframe
Figure 7.8b & 7.8c
Viewpoint 2 - Bruce's Stone
nearest turbine = 9,902 metres
pdf file (16.64MB)
Existing view
Predicted view - photomontage
Predicted view - wireframe
Figure 7.9b & 7.9c
Viewpoint 3 - A714 South (by telecomms mast)

nearest turbine = 3,398 metres
pdf file (17.30MB)
Existing view
Predicted view - photomontage
Predicted view - wireframe
Figure 7.10b & 7.10c
Viewpoint 4 - Bridge over River Cree at Bught Hill
nearest turbine = 2,403 metres
pdf file (17.30MB)
Existing view
Predicted view - photomontage
Predicted view - wireframe
Figure 7.11b & 7.11c
Viewpoint 5 - Southern Upland Way (Glenruther)
nearest turbine = 921 metres
pdf file (17.44MB)
Existing view
Predicted view - photomontage
Predicted view - wireframe
Figure 7.12b & 7.12c
Viewpoint 6 - Southern Upland Way (Derry)
nearest turbine = 6,306 metres
pdf file (17.44MB)
Existing view
Predicted view - photomontage
Predicted view - wireframe
Figure 7.13b & 7.13c
Viewpoint 7 - Road at Drumlanford House
nearest turbine = 3,933 metres
pdf file (19.13MB)
Existing view
Predicted view - photomontage
Predicted view - wireframe
Figure 7.14b & 7.14c
Viewpoint 8 - Barhill Station
nearest turbine = 1,167 metres
pdf file (19.13MB)
Existing view
Predicted view - photomontage
Predicted view - wireframe
Figure 7.15b & 7.15c
Viewpoint 9 - B735 Kircowan
nearest turbine = 13,118 metres
pdf file (19.90MB)
Existing view
Predicted view - photomontage
Predicted view - wireframe
Figure 7.16b & 7.16c
Viewpoint 10 - Newton Stewart, Blair Monument
nearest turbine = 11,640 metres
pdf file (19.90MB)
Existing view
Predicted view - photomontage
Predicted view - wireframe
Figure 7.17b & 7.17c
Viewpoint 11 - Wigtown Martyr's Monument
nearest turbine = 21,463 metres
pdf file (20.51MB)
Existing view
Predicted view - photomontage
Predicted view - wireframe
Figure 7.18b & 7.18c
Viewpoint 12 - Cairnsmore of Fleet summit
nearest turbine = 18,552 metres
pdf file (20.51MB)
Existing view
Predicted view - photomontage
Predicted view - wireframe

Figure 7.27b, c, d, e, f & g
Viewpoint 1 - Merrick Hill summit (cumulative)
pdf file (25.74MB)
Existing view (216 ° centrered)
Predicted view (216 ° centrered) - photomontage
Predicted view (216 ° centrered) - wireframe
Existing view (330 ° centrered)
Predicted view (330 ° centrered) - photomontage
Predicted view (330 ° centrered) - wireframe
Existing view (095 ° centrered)
Predicted view (095 ° centrered) - photomontage
Predicted view (095 ° centrered) - wireframe
Figure 7.28b & 7.28c
Viewpoint 2 - Bruce's Stone (cumulative)
pdf file (25.74MB)
Existing view (238 ° centrered)
Predicted view (238 ° centrered) - photomontage
Predicted view (238 ° centrered) - wireframe
Figure 7.29b & 7.29c
Viewpoint 8 - Barhill Station (cumulative)
pdf file (21.52MB)
Existing view (238 ° centrered)
Predicted view (238 ° centrered) - photomontage
Predicted view (238 ° centrered) - wireframe