Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Calling the shots

An eagle-eyed follower of this blog (thank you Victoria) spotted the following article in the Milngavie and Bearsden Herald. Banks Renewables, who were behind the now withdrawn Knoweside Hill development close to Culzean, have added a whole new twist to the efforts of wind farm developers to establish a convincing level of support for their development proposals - through the use of a telephone poll.

A telephone poll! The mind boggles. Hang on a minute I hear you say, what's wrong with that? Quite a few things actually. I have not seen the questions that were asked, nor have I seen anything relating to how the poll was conducted or the model used to conduct the survey and interpret the results. In fact, all the information I have about the poll is contained in the article I have linked to. However, this lack of survey parameters does not concern me. There are some immediately identifiable issues with such an approach which do not need sight of the details of the survey to be identified.

First of all, there is the issue of information visibility. How can the magnitude of a development sufficiently large enough to accommodate 20 wind turbines be described over the telephone, prior to asking the pertinent survey questions? Environmental Statements usually running into many hundreds of pages accompany most wind farm planning applications, and even after reading all of that material it is not always possible to really get a handle on a specific proposal. As a result, I simply do not believe it is practical to impart the necessary background information, such that the survey respondents will be able to answer the questions in any sort of meaningful way. Oh, and let's not lose sight of the fact that the proposal in question is still in the pre-planning stage - so the appropriate 'briefing' data doesn't in reality even exist.

The other immediately obvious issue surrounds the effective representation of certain portions of the population and more specifically, those who could be affected by the development. For a poll to be of use (in the sense that a meaningful subset of the overall population can be used as a general guide to attitudes of any wider population), a lot of complex background work to identify affected, unaffected and neutral groups needs to be done. For wind farms, opposers could for example generally be identified with the following broad groupings (there would be other groups for those who are neutral, and a third set of groups for those that are in support):

  • Directly impacted neighbours
  • Indirectly impacted neighbours
  • Opposition on principle

Membership of the groups is not exclusive - I think it is fair to say that individuals could belong to either one or two of the opposition groupings (but never three). For a survey to be effective, it has to people who COULD fall into of these three groups and all the possible combinations of pairings as well as people who may have positive and neutral opinions (otherwise, what is the point of the survey?). The issue here is that I believe it is seldom possible to identify people who are likely to fall into the 'directly' and 'indirectly' impacted categories prior to the development. This is because wind farm developers have on a great many occasions in the past, displayed a complete inability to predict with a high degree of certainty who will be exposed to shadower flicker and noise nuisance for example. I'm not saying it can't be done, it just isn't done effectively very often (if at all). As a result, unless this particular development really was a first in terms of its ability to identify of two of the most important groups of people in the opposition camp as survey respondents, the results cannot be relied upon. Of course, if the industry was better at modelling the adverse impacts of wind farms, it may be possible to identify people from these important groups to the extent that the survey data had some value.

If it were possible to accurately identify individuals in these groupings (and pairings), what weightings could realistically be applied to their opinions? Are the people who oppose wind farms through general principle less important than those who are directly affected and if so, by how much and what influences such opinions? How do you quantify the relevance and or importance of national policy on individual lives versus individual opinion and possible personal impact - particularly when the minutia of the proposal are as yet unknown?

In essence then, there are issues with at least information visibility and identification of appropriate groupings of individuals. How can Banks Renewables, whose project hasn't even reached the planning stage seriously expect their telephone survey to be taken with anything but a pinch of salt? Perhaps they don't have to.

Unfortunately, the damage may already be done. By carrying out the survey and releasing the (probably flawed) results, public opinion has already been influenced. People will tend to remember the outcome of the survey and are in all probability unlikely to question the method and rigour behind it. As a result, individuals who are 'on the cusp of objection', or who hold a neutral opinion perhaps based upon lack of information, may well be influenced into accepting the development. This survey to me, is nothing more than a deliberate attempt to dilute the effectiveness of any possible opposition to the project and is perhaps indicative of the levels developers will now go to establish the high ground in terms of public opinion.

Sunday, 27 November 2011

Vanishing credibility & missed opportunities

There is a full page article in today's Sunday Post highlighted the possible health impacts of sighting wind turbines too close to people's houses. It features quotes from two long suffering neighbours of Hadyard Hill: The Baldwins and the Siddells. The members of these families are both intelligent and reasonable people - unfortunately they have been, and continue to be engaged in a struggle against the might of Scottish and Southern Energy and by association, our incumbent government.

The article contains a series of quotations from Dr Chris Hanning and Dr Sarah Laurie. Dr Laurie is a GP in Australia, and Dr Hanning is a sleep disorder specialist. Dr Laurie has encountered a considerable number of cases of health disorders that in her professional opinion are directly attributable to the sufferer's physical proximity to operating wind turbines. Dr Hanning is a panel member of the Society for Wind Vigilence and has presented a number of papers and given a number of presentations on turbine proximity sleep related issues.

Unfortunately, I cannot link directly to the article. But I don't really need to. Instead, I'll quote the one passage from the article that demonstrates the mentality of what the Siddells and Baldwins have to try and battle against (along with countless other individuals). From a Scottish Government spokeswoman:

'All wind farms in Scotland have to comply with strict guidance on noise. We are aware of no peer-reviewed research showing any impact on health from wind farms and Dr Laurie's examples relate to other countries.

Now, there are some real issues with this. The first is that medical research does not necessarily become invalid because it was carried out in another country - unless there was something very specific in the research that made it unique to the country in which it was carried out (such uniqueness is generally highlighted in the research as a constraint to applicability). Nothing in the research that I have read coming from Australia limits its applicability to just that continent. I am not a doctor or medical researcher, but I can read - and think. At the very least, such research should be accepted as possibly relevant, and its relevance and plausibility then tested in the UK. It is simply not good enough to dismiss research or observations out of hand on the basis that they originated in another country.

The other problem we have with this quote surrounds noise. First, the noise limitations placed upon wind farm operations are almost exclusively designed so as 'no to overburden the development of such facilities' (such phrases or similar litter ETSU-R-97). They are not particularly stringent. Even worse, the techniques for modelling noise emissions during wind turbine operation appear in many cases to be unfit for purpose. The noise standards in effect in Scotland are precisely the same as those in England and if they were so good, why is there a case going through the High Court in London right now (and yes, it's still going on), based upon noise nuisance from a wind farm? If these standards were so effective, why according to the Daily Mail have 1 in 6 wind farms built since 2008 attracted noise complaints? Why do the Siddells (mentioned in the article itself) sometimes experience noise levels approaching 100 decibels? I'm sorry, but the credibility of our current Government is vanishing rapidly. And the renewables industry? Their standard quotes are precisely the same - and their credibility is vanishing just as fast.

Missed opportunities? Well, there have been concerns about wind turbines and their effect on health for a number of years now (at least 8 years that I'm aware of). When our first set of renewable energy targets were announced, there was a real opportunity to establish once and for all whether cause and effect could be linked. It would have been a relatively trivial exercise to implement health monitoring at these early sites -and perhaps set a gold standard for the industry as a whole. Indeed, health monitoring could still be implemented now - if there was a true desire to do so. Instead, I'm afraid the very department that is charged with looking after the health of our nation hides behind the sort of statement I have quoted above - and it is that that very action coupled with the ever growing mountain of (foreign) evidence that makes myself and a great many other people even more suspicious and concerned. Our government's lack of understanding and its unwillingness to accept it could actually be wrong displays a political arrogance of astounding proportions.

My message to that spokeswoman and her department? Have a care - we are actually human beings out here in the sticks you know - and yes, we are also voters.

Stepping up a gear

On Thursday December 1st 2011 at 5PM, the following motion will be debated by MSPs at Holyrood:

Community Benefit and the Cumulative Impact of Windfarm Developments in Communities (Lothian):
That the Parliament notes the contribution that renewable energy plays and will play in providing for Scotland and the UK’s energy needs; recognises that the Scottish Government’s route map for renewable energy sets a target of 100% of electricity demand equivalent from renewables by 2020; notes concerns about the ability of communities, such as Harburn in West Lothian and other communities across the southern border of West Lothian, to resist overconcentration and raise the issue of cumulative development in specific locations; expresses concern at the lack of genuine community and cooperative ownership and the increasing role of multinationals and venture capital firms in securing the profits from onshore wind projects, and would welcome a wider community benefit and lower cumulative impact  of windfarm developments in communities.

The motion has been tabled by Neil Findlay, and has support from the following MSPs: Graeme Pearson, Anne McTaggart, John Park, Claudia Beamish, Jackie Baillie, Hugh Henry, Elaine Murray, Kezia Dugdale, Margo MacDonald, Mary Scanlon

This to my knowledge is the first time that anything surrounding wind farms has been openly debated within the chambers of Holyrood. Communities Against Turbines Scotland (CATS) are encouraging as many people as possible to attend, both in the public gallery and before and after the debate outside the parliament building. Tickets for the public gallery can be rquested from this web page. Just be sure to select the 4PM-6PM time slot. If you experience difficulty getting tickets, you may like to approach your MSP to see if he or she can secure some for you.

If you cannot attend the debate, it is hoped that a live video stream via Parliament TV will be available from here, or that a recording of the event will be available here.

Just what twists and turns will occur during the debate is anybody's guess, but in many ways this debate probably marks the start of a more open discussion about the issues faced with regard to the proliferation of wind turbines. Whilst visitors in the public gallery have to sit still and keep quiet (!), I imagine that whatever is said by participants on either side will be quite enlightening.

Saturday, 26 November 2011

Maclachrieston Farm turbine # 1

In 2010, a single wind turbine was approved for erection at Maclachrieston Farm (it's the blue, individual turbine in the centre of the map below):





I don't normally comment on small turbines but then again, this is not a small turbine. Weighing in at 177 feet (54 metres), it definitely fits into the industrial category. Its original consent was, in my opinion inappropriate given the turbine's size and prominent sighting. At the time the original consent was issued, a noise limitation was imposed on the turbine's operation. Seems reasonable. The relevant part of the condition stated; '...and no more than 35dB(A) at wind speeds of up to 10m/s and at 10m height at Asselholm Cottage and the nearest noise-sensitive properties in the village Pinmore......'.

In a supporting document that forms part of the latest planning application referring to this turbine, the applicant suggests that their original acoustic report stated: ...the findings of the noise assessment, which determines the Maclachrieston Farm Single Wind Turbine to be in accordance with ETSU-R-97, based on limits of the higher of 35dB(A) or 5dB above background noise at Asselholm Cottage and the nearest noise sensitive properties in the village if Pinmore.

In actual fact, the original report suggested that a background noise survey was in the opinion of the consultants, not required (page 4, para' 6 refers). Additionally, it stated: 'We consider the simplified noise criterion of 35 dB, LA90, 10min at wind speeds of up to 10ms-1 would be an appropriate and achievable noise limit to apply through conditions for properties in Pinmore.' (page 4, para' 4 refers).

The current planning application (reference 11/01464/FUR) seeks to change this noise limitation condition to the following: '...and no more than the higher of 35dB(A) or 5dB above background noise at wind speeds of up to 10m/s and at 10m height at Asselholm Cottage and the nearest noise-sensitive properties in the village Pinmore......'

So what is going on? I am not an acoustics expert, but I can read English. South Ayrshire Council in my very humble opinion, gave the applicant precisely what was recommended in the original acoustic report. And now, the applicant seeks to change that and reduce the protection offered to those un-connected individuals in the immediate vicinity of the turbine. Why? I cannot answer that question, but this will be an interesting application to watch.

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Straid wind farm # 11

Just in time for Thursday's public exhibition by ecotricity, there is now a new tourist feature in Lendalfoot - Straid Farm wind farm met' mast. Unfortunately, most exhibition visitors will not be able to see the mast, since the exhibition doesn't start until 4PM - by which time it will be pretty dark. Below is a map showing the position of the mast in relation to the proposed turbine positions:




The blue lines on the map are some of the best places to view the mast and get a feel for the scale of the proposed turbines. The mast is visible from many more locations - I have simply marked some of the positions that provide easy access. It is also worth remembering that this is a single, pencil thin mast - the turbine towers would be considerably fatter, more prominent and a lot more numerous.

To truly understand the scale of the proposed turbines, a further 30 metres (or 98 feet) have to be added on to the top of the mast to get to the maximum blade tip elevation (that's an extra 30%). So, essentially, the mast represents 70% of the height of the proposed turbines. A second way of looking at the mast is to consider that it represents the rotor diameter (that's the arc described by the blades whilst in motion) since they are both 70 metres, and mentally 'mount' the centre of the existing mast on top of another mast which is just 6 metres shorter. Pretty big then.

If you drive along the section of road leading past Cundry Mains (the bit furthest inland on the map) and look across to the mast, you really do get an idea of just how dominant these structures would be in relation to the valley, whilst looking north from The Garth will give you an idea of how out of place they will be when set against the hills. I will take some pictures of the mast from various locations on the next good day that I'm in the area, and mark on them a line of comparison for the turbine elevations. In the meantime, if you think this development is a good idea, how about taking a look at the mast from some of the suggested locations - and perhaps reconsider your opinion, remember, these things will be in Lendalfoot for at least 25-30 years.

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Breaker Hill wind farm # 8

We finally have sight of the additional data supplied by Wind Prospect Ltd with regard to the Breaker Hill wind farm planning application. Below are a series of links to the additional files:


Most of the files are pretty small, with the exception of the Wetland Hydroecology Investigation, the Landscape & Visual Assessment Figures and Appendices 1-3 of Appendix 3-1 (!) which each weigh in at around 10MB.

You may comment on this additional data (probably best to do this via the South Ayrshire Council website, via this link) - but, ONLY the additional data. If your comment strays beyond the boundary of the contents of these files, you will compromise your right to speak at the Regulatory Panel - when that finally comes around. So, be careful what you say should you feel the need to make comment on this additional material.

Monday, 21 November 2011

Minuntion Farm turbine # 1

The planning application for a 200 foot (69.7 metre) solo turbine, located close to Minuntion Farm has been received by South Ayrshire Council and is currently showing in the planning system as 'Pending consideration'. The planning reference is 11/01238/APP. A direct link to the planning application is here.

Included in the application are three photomontages. However, the turbine is only visible in one. A map showing the viewpoint locations and turbine location is here. I have also updated my map with a blue icon at the appropriate location.

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Kilgallioch wind farm # 3

Below are thumbnail links to all of the photomontages and wireframe diagrams for the proposed Kilgallioch wind farm. Please let this page finish loading before clicking stuff! The images with a 360° panoramic view are large - in the order of 8MB.

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 7.38
Viewpoint 1 - Craig Airie Fell
Nearest turbine = 425 metres
Field of view = 360°
map link

Existing view

Cumultive view - wireframe

Predicted view - photomontage

Predicted view - wireframe

Figure 7.39
Viewpoint 2 - SUW, Knockniehourie
Nearest turbine = 566 metres
Field of view = 360°
map link

Existing view

Cumultive view - wireframe

View centered on 000°
Field of view = 144°

Predicted view - photomontage

Predicted view - wireframe

Figure 7.40
Viewpoint 3 - Craigbirnoch Fell
Field of view = 144°
Nearest turbine = 2,033 metres
map link

Existing view

Cumultive view - wireframe

Predicted view - photomontage

Predicted view - wireframe

Field of view = 216°

Cimulative view - wireframe

Figure 7.41
Viewpoint 4 - Stranraer - Girvan Rail Line
Field of view = 144°
Nearest turbine = 2,224 metres
map link

Existing view

Cumultive view - wireframe

Predicted view - photomontage

Field of view = 216°

Predicted view - wireframe

Figure 7.42
Viewpoint 5 - A714 Killantringan
Field of view = 144°
Nearest turbine = 4,533 metres
map link

Existing view

Cumultive view - wireframe

Field of view = 72°

Predicted view - photomontage

Predicted view - wireframe

Figure 7.43
Viewpoint 6 - Mains of Larg
Field of view = 144°
Nearest turbine = 5,837 metres
map link

Existing view

Cumultive view - wireframe

Field of view = 72°

Predicted view - photomontage

Predicted view - wireframe

Figure 7.44
Viewpoint 7 - B7027 Loch Maberry
Field of view = 144°
Nearest turbine = 2,688 metres
map link

Existing view

Cumultive view - wireframe

Predicted view - photomontage

Predicted view - wireframe

Figure 7.45
Viewpoint 8 - SUW, Glenvernoch Fell
Field of view = 72°
Nearest turbine = 6,351 metres
map link

Existing view

Cumultive view - wireframe

Predicted view - photomontage

Predicted view - wireframe

Field of view = 216°

Cumulative view - wireframe

Figure 7.46
Viewpoint 9 - Bennylow (Culvennan Fell)
Field of view = 72°
Nearest turbine = 8,330 metres
map link

Existing view

Cumultive view - wireframe

Figure 7.47
Viewpoint 10 - Braid Fell
Field of view = 144°
Nearest turbine = 7,794 metres
map link

Existing view

Cumultive view - wireframe

Figure 7.48
Viewpoint 11 - Beneraird
Field of view = 144°
Nearest turbine = 7,715 metres
map link

Existing view

Cumultive view - wireframe

Field of view = 216°

Cumulative view - wireframe

Figure 7.49
Viewpoint 12 - SUW, Glenwhan Moor
Field of view = 72°
Nearest turbine = 9,434 metres
map link

Existing view

Cumultive view - wireframe

Field of view = 144°

Cumulative view - wireframe

Figure 7.50
Viewpoint 13 - A75 Dergoals
Field of view = 72°
Nearest turbine = 10,138 metres
map link

Existing view

Cumultive view - wireframe

Figure 7.51
Viewpoint 14 - Knockdolian
Field of view = 72°
Nearest turbine = 13,184 metres
map link

Existing view

Cumultive view - wireframe

Field of view = 144°

Cumulative view - wireframe

Figure 7.52
Viewpoint 15 - A714 Laigh Letterpin
Field of view = 72°
Nearest turbine = 15,281 metres
map link

Existing view

Cumultive view - wireframe

Field of view = 216°

Cumulative view - wireframe

Figure 7.53
Viewpoint 16 - Mochrum Loch RSA
Field of view = 72°
Nearest turbine = 16,160 metres
map link

Existing view

Cumultive view - wireframe

Figure 7.54
Viewpoint 17 - Auchensoul Hill
Field of view = 288°
Nearest turbine = 17,520 metres
map link

Existing view

Cumultive view - wireframe

Figure 7.55
Viewpoint 18 - SUW, Knockquhassen
Field of view = 72°
Nearest turbine = 19,555 metres
map link

Existing view

Cumultive view - wireframe

Field of view = 144°

Cumulative view - wireframe

Figure 7.56
Viewpoint 19 - Merrick
Field of view = 360°
Nearest turbine = 19,748 metres
map link

Existing view

Cumultive view - wireframe

Figure 7.57
Viewpoint 20 - Chirmorrie
Field of view = 144°
Nearest turbine = 1,062 metres
map link

Existing view

Cumultive view - wireframe

Predicted view - photomontage

Predicted view - wireframe

Field of view = 216°

Cumulative view - wireframe

Figure 7.58
Viewpoint 21 - Myroch Point
Field of view = 72°
Nearest turbine = 28,181 metres
map link

Existing view

Cumultive view - wireframe

Figure 7.59
Viewpoint 22 – A75 Point Nets
Field of view = 72°
Nearest turbine = 25,409 metres
map link

Existing view

Cumultive view - wireframe