Sunday, 29 January 2012

Dowhill turbine # 2

On January 24 2012, the Local Review Board (LRB) sat in judgement of the appeal lodged in support of the planning application subtmitted for a single 77 metre (262 feet) wind turbine in the area of Dowhill Farm. It decided to overturn South Ayrshire Council planning department's rejection of the original application, essentially deciding that:

"Taking into account the fact that this is a single turbine and following the site visit the LRB concluded that the scale, siting and setting of the turbine meant that the turbine would not have an unacceptable impact on the locality, landscape character, visual amenity, tourism and recreation interests including Turnberry Caravan Park and Turnberry Golf Course, cultural heritage and that the proposal was considered to support rural diversification."

The full ruling can be found here. This is an important decision - and perhaps one that the councillors that made up the LRB may yet come to regret. Girvan Mains Farm have submitted an application for a single 53.88 metre (176 feet) turbine (SAC planning reference 11/01564/APP), which if approved would be sighted very close to the existing Girvan Community Hospital - so there is now the very real possibility that a 'small wind farm' will be built piece by piece extending along the A77. If the Girvan Mains Farm application is approved we will have three turbines of significant size between Girvan Hospital and Dowhill Farm along the A77 complemented by a nice view of Hadyward Hill in the background - and possibly Tralorg Hill as well. I wonder how many more farmers will note the decorative addition to the A77 and jump on the band waggon?

Thursday, 26 January 2012

Kilgallioch wind farm # 4

Scottish Power Renewables have amended their proposal for the Kilagllioch wind farm. I was aware that some changes were 'in the wind' but until today had no detail. In essence, the main changes are:

  • Total number of turbines has been reduced to 99 (down from 132)
  • Two turbines have had their maximum blade tip elevation reduced to 125 meres
  • Total length of proposed access track has reduced from approximately 92 km to approximately 69 km
  • Total number of proposed watercourse crossings has reduced from 68 to 51
  • Land take up (the area occupied by turbine foundations, tracks, control infrastructure etc) has been reduced in area to 68 hectares (168 acres) from 93 (229 acres)
  • Volume of material required for track construction reduced to 750,000m3 from 1,020,000m3
  • Installed capacity reduced to 297 MW

The text of the non-technical summary of this addendum can de download from here, whilst the new layout proposal can be downloaded from here. I tend not to be a great fan of these 'abridged' documents, but in this case the non-technical summary is worth reading since it does explain a lot of the rationale behind the scaling back of the overall proposal.

I will be amending the layout for this proposed development on my map and updating the area statistics over the coming weekend. I will also be publishing links to all the documents that constitute the addendum as soon as is practical.

Whilst it is good to see the scale of this proposal being reduced, it still constitutes a huge piece of wanton vandalism. To get an idea of how the scale of the development has been reduced, have a look at the following picture:

The red lines show the extent of the original boundary, and the black lines the new boundary. The new area of development encompasses a total of 9,404 acres (3,806 ha). As can be seen from the picture above, most of the areas that have been removed from the development proposal are non-forested areas.

Fancy a trip...

to St Andrews?

Cameron Community Council have organised an interesting evening for March 1st 2012, with the aim of casting a critical eye over the wind farm debate. A good line up of speakers is planned, so if you are in the area, why not attend and show your support?

File download issues

As a result of some recent copyright infringement issues, certain file hosting services (for example MegaUpload) have experienced a forced exodus of their law abiding customers. The departing customers have been looking elsewhere for alternative file hosting capability, and selected - you guessed it, the same provider as I use for the files I make available on this blog (FileFactory). This has resulted in a three-fold increase in network traffic for FileFactory. Filefactory are in the process of increasing their available network and storage capacity (including the installation of new cabling, network switches and storage arrays), but the process may take another week or so to complete. In the interim period, file downloads may well be slow or fail completely. I apologise for any inconvenience this may cause - and no, this is not another free service - this one does actually cost!

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Map issues - fixed

Sometime between Monday and Tuesday of this week, the data layers on my wind farm map 'broke', with the result that I was restricted to the number of layers and/or objects I could display. I selected some basic layers whilst the problem was investigated so at least something was visible. The individual layer data files have now been moved to another server, and normal service has now been resumed. I apologise for any inconvenience caused - but this sort of thing does happen from time to time with free services!

Monday, 23 January 2012

Heating up the CO2 and back up debates

In December 2011, The Clingendael International Energy Programme (CIEP) published a paper that looked at the potential for CO2 emissions reduction as a result of using wind power to displace normal electricity generating plant. In essence, this paper concluded that CO2 emissions resulting from wind generated electricity are far less than they could, or should be.

The paper concludes that this situation has arisen because the non-renewable plant that is displaced by wind power tends to be that which has the highest variable (ie, fluctuating, operating) costs - and this tends not to be coal fired plant which tends to have the highest CO2 emissions - but gas fired plant - which tends to have lower CO2 emissions. Now admittedly, the paper assumes that the driving force behind massive adoption of wind power is CO2 emissions reduction - but that is not the case in Scotland. The main driver here are our policies of 100% of our electricity coming from renewable resources by 2020, although CO2 emissions reduction arguments are often used as a supporting justification for any wind power scheme.

Irrespective of the driver, if what this paper is saying is true - and I'm the first to admit that I do not believe I am qualified to critique its contents or approach, then a lot of people have a lot of explaining to do. The paper can be downloaded here.

However, leaving the CO2 emissions aide, there are some very interesting pieces of information sprinkled throughout this paper that potentially undermine the renewable energy industries attempts to 'debunk' those who oppose wind farms. For example, opponents have long argued that wind power cannot be the cornerstone of a large scale energy policy because of the need for 'back up' capacity if the wind is not available. The renewables industry tends to try and counter this argument by saying that 'all power sources need back up capacity' - which is true - sort of. The back up problem is one of scale. Currently, the National Grid has at its disposal 1,350MW of electricity to cover unexpected, infrequent outages. These are covered by what is called the Infrequent Infeed Loss Limit (which is due to be increased in 2014 to 1,800MW). 1,350MW is still only really about the output of a single, large conventional power station - and that is essentially it. If we loose more than that amount in terms of generational output at an inconvenient moment - the lights will start to go out (as happened in 2008 when Sizewell B and Longannet both went offline within 5 minutes of each other, creating a supply shortfall of 1,510MW). Ouch.

Now according to the CIEP 2010 paper (page 24 refers), we will need to maintain between 70% and 80% of our wind powered output capacity to account for the unavailability of the wind. This presents a couple of problems. The first problem is: how do we calculate 70-80% of output capacity? The output from wind turbines varies with the wind speed, so this 70-80% is not a static figure. Secondly, holding this much capacity in reserve represents a significant increase in generational capacity that has to be installed and maintained - just in case. What will this plant do whilst it is not needed? Stand idle? Additionally, we see some political slight of hand going on here. If we use conventional generational capacity to 'fill in the gaps', how can we say we are generating 100% of our electricity through renewable resources?

Once again, I cannot comment on the validity of the figures presented in this paper, although they stand up to my (unqualified) scrutiny. However, these sorts of issues are demonstrative of the need for a proper systems driven design for our 2020 electricity generation and supply system. We do not currently have this and it is probably now too late to implement such an approach if we really are going to generate 100% of our electricity by 2020. Instead, we have ever moving goal posts driven by political motivations, underpinned by unsustainable subsidies. The minutia of policy implementation is left to commercial organisations to figure out with no attempt at coordination. And by the way, it is not those same commercial organisations that have to match supply and demand - that is the preserve of the National Grid - they're the ones who have to figure out the mess the generators and politicians give them whilst still keeping the lights on.

Sunday, 22 January 2012

Glenchamber wind farm # 3

Below are the links to the Environmental Statement for the Proposed Glenchamber wind farm. At the time of posting, this planning application had been turned down by Dumfries and Galloway Council. However, since nothing has been heard from the developers with regard to their plans for the development, I suspect an appeal is in the air.

As in previous similar posts, the coffee table summary is the Non Technical Summary and the real detail is contained in the remaining files. The individual chapters and appendices are quite small, so I suggest you download those that are appropriate to your interests and then reference the relevant figures from the drop down selector boxes as required.

Volume 1 - Non Technical Summary
Non Technical Summary
Volume 2 - Environmental Statement - Chapters
Contents & Preface
2Planning & Policy Context
3Design Evolution & Alternatives
4Description of Development
5Construction and Decommissioning
6EIA Process
7Landscape & Visual
10Cultural Heritage and Archaeology
11Geology, Hydrology and Hydrogeology
13Electomagnetic Interference, Aviation and Shadow Flicker
14Access Traffic and Transport
15Socio Economics
16Potential Grid Connections
Volume 3 - Technical Appendices - Chapters
2Planning & Policy Context
4Description of Development
6EIA Process
7Landscape & Visual
10Cultural Heritage and Archaeology
11Geology, Hydrology and Hydrogeology
Volume 4 - Landscape & Visual Figures

Finally, if you are receiving this post via email you'll probably find the drop down lists don't work for you. This is as a result of the code used to 'power' them. If you wish to access the documents listed in the drop down lists and are having trouble with them from within your email client, please visit the blog where you shouldn't encounter any such problems. If anyone encounters ANY OTHER problems with the download links, please let me know via the 'Get in Touch' link at the top of the blog.

Saturday, 21 January 2012

Wind farm guidance & SPP6

Ordinarily, I wouldn't make a post about a new document links added to the side bar on the right hand side of this blog. However, in these two case I am making an exception. Today, I added a link entitled Ayrshire Joint Structure Plan - Addendum. Essentially, this addendum forms part of the Ayrshire Joint Structure Plan. Specifically this document "The guidance has been prepared to provide developers with greater clarity regarding those areas where the principle of development is likely to be acceptable - and likewise where it is not - and to provide further explanation regarding the criteria against which new development will be assessed".

A second document change relates to SPP6. This has now be replaced with the following document. I have therefore removed SPP6 from the Reference Documents list, and added a new link entitled Scottish Government - Scottish Planning Policy.

Looking for the evidence

Now here's an opportunity. Yesterday, the Scottish Parliament’s Economy, Energy and Tourism Committee inquiry was launched - and there is now a call for evidence to be submitted to the said inquiry.

So, now perhaps is the opportunity to try and get the message across to our government with regard to the painful implementation of their renewable energy policies, and more specifically how we think they aren't or can't work. Papers submitted to this inquiry will need to be coherent, and factual. Sources for all 'facts' should ideally be quoted. I for one and going to have a stab at writing something. The preferred format for submissions is via email to

The remit and terms of reference for this inquiry can be found here. Questions should be directed to Joanna Hardy (Senior Assistant Clerk) on 0131 348 5230. Evidence should be submitted by Wednesday 29th February 2012.

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

What is the point

of Broad Areas of Search?

A few years ago, when I heard that South Ayrhsire Council in common with other local authorities had published Broad Areas of Search for large scale wind farm development, I thought it made sense. After all, we have equivalent areas for other types of development, so why not for wind farms? At the time, I thought that if someone was lucky enough to own a piece of land in such an area, it would immediately have risen in value after the announcement since it was clear that wind farm development was going to increase. Of course, that assumption was based upon the presumption that the broad areas of search would actually be utilised. How wrong can you be? You can probably tell I am not a land speculator - I don't think I would be very good at it.

Looking at my map, 64 out of the 173 wind turbines built or consented are located in broad areas of search. These 64 turbines represent just 37% of the installed and consented machinery. If all the turbines plotted on my map (excluding the green and blue ones) were built, that utilisation would increase in absolute terms to 80 - out of 479. Those 80 turbines would then represent just 17.8% of the installed and consented machinery. Vast swathes of South Ayrshire's Broad Areas of Search would remain empty. So, just why are they there? What is their function?

Paragraph 46 of the Ayrshire Joint Structure Plan has the following to say about the broad areas of search: "To guide wind farm development in a manner that maintains landscape and biodiversity value and safeguards the operational needs of Glasgow and Glasgow Prestwick Airports, two areas of search for large-scale wind farm development have therefore been identified. Outside these two areas wind energy proposals will be judged against the criteria established in Policy ECON 7."

Moving onto ECON 7, paragraph A states: In the Areas of Search proposals for large and small scale wind farm development will be supported subject to specific proposals satisfactorily addressing all other material considerations. It seems then that the broad areas of search have been established to accommodate wind farms. Unfortunately, it seems that this accommodation is not exclusive. Paragraph F of the same policy statement reads: "Proposals affecting Sensitive Landscape Character Areas shall satisfactorily address any impacts on the particular interest that the designation is intended to protect but the designation shall not unreasonably restrict the overall ability of the plan area to contribute to national targets."

So, on the one hand the Broad Areas of Search are where wind farm development is intended to be 'encouraged', but paragraph f of ECON 7 of the Ayrshire Joint Structure plan ensures there is a convenient get out clause for Sensitive Landscape Character Areas. How can you quantify "unreasonably restrict" for heavens sake? And the situation is far worse for areas that don't have the luxury of a Sensitive Landscape Character Area designation. For these areas, paragraph e of ECON 7 offers the following protection: Outside the Areas of Search: all windfarm proposals will be assessed against the following constraints, any positive or adverse effects on them and how the latter can be overcome or minimised:
  1. Historic environment;
  2. Areas designated for their regional and local
    natural heritage value;
  3. Tourism and recreational interests;
  4. Communities;
  5. Buffer zones;
  6. 6) Aviation and defence interests;
  7. Broadcasting installations.

and that's it. The issue is that the Ayrshire Joint Structure plan provides little enforceable protection against wind farm development for virtually any areas of land at all. So, whilst South Ayrshire's planners may recommend rejection of a particular proposal essentially because it isn't located in a Broad Area of Search, the developers can appeal any subsequent negative ruling by the regulatory panel. And given the policy statements quoted above, it is very easy to see how regulatory panel decisions can be overturned upon conclusion of the appeal process.

Ordinarily, the possible cost of appealing regulatory panel decisions tended to make developers think hard about the ramifications of losing the appeal, after all if they lost they would likely incur all legal costs - from both sides. Such financial risk is difficult to manage and plan for, so some developers give up at this point. However, some don't. The spectre of a large bill for unsuccessfully challenging a planning decision has in the past tended to act as a sort of sanity check. Unfortunately, the Scottish Government doesn't like this. They have recently launched a 'consultation' looking at ways of changing the Scottish legal system. One of the outcomes of this change could be the reduction in liability for such unsuccessful challenges - to just £5,000.

So, the Ayrshire Joint Structure Plan in actual fact ensures Broad Areas of Search are not worth the paper they are printed on - and the legal system may well shortly be changed so that the only reasonable disincentive to challenging an 'inconvenient' planning decision is removed - or at least, very tightly constrained. So again I ask - what is the point of the Broad Areas of Search? To me, they serve little practical value and in reality only provide a false sense security in terms of protection from wind farm development.

Sunday, 15 January 2012

Map Update

Today has been a day of consolidating, adjusting, correcting and updating maps. My map now has all known planned turbines, met' masts etc - and therefore for the first time can really show the possible worst case scenario we may face. And here it is in all its hideous glory:

We should not forget that we don't yet have any significant data on the following potential developments:

  • Sclenteuch
  • Stranoch
  • Hadyard Hill extension
  • Knockon
Just to re-ierate what this could mean, here are the updated, current worst case scenario statistical data for this map (excludes blue and green turbines):

Worst Case Scenario Statistics
Approximate area of land represented by wind farms (where boundaries are known)52,502 acres
Equivalent percentage area of South Ayrshire1 represented as wind farms17.4%
Equivalent percentage area of Glasgow2 represented as wind farms121%
Industrial turbines installed/consented469
Industrial turbines installed/consented capacity1,173.2MW
Industrial turbines installed/consented likely annual output32,715,047MW
Number of 'average' households consented/installed turbines are likely to supply per year4565,635
Industrial turbines installed/consented broad area of search utilisation (absolute)80
Industrial turbines installed/consented broad area of search utilisation (percentage)17.8%
Percentage of Scotland's planned onshore wind farm capacity518.05%
1 - assumes an area of 1,222km2 for South Ayrshire
2 - assumes an area of 175.5km2 for Glasgow
3 - assumes a load factor of 26.04%
4 - assumes a load factor of 26.04% for the quoted installed capacity
and an average annual consumption of 4800kwh per household
5 - assumes an installed onshore wind farm capacity of 6500MW

52,502 acres of development containing 469 turbines. An area that is equivalent to 17.4% of South Ayrshire, and 121% the size of Glasgow. A realistic output that could represent as much as 18.05% of Scotland's 2020 planned onshore wind farm capacity. At its widest point, this map is just 5 linear miles wide and at its tallest, a little under 6 linear miles. Welcome to the new South Carrick - with wind farms butting up against each other and gaps being filled, we really will soon be just one big wind farm. And let's not forget those broad areas of search - still plenty of room for more turbines there.

As far as I am concerned, the SNP have a lot of explaining to do. I think it fair to say that this area's tourist industry really does face ruin - and I for one would like an explanation as to just what our government thinks it's doing. It is ultimately their policies that are driving this, and in many cases their departments that are rubber stamping these developments. This is wanton vandalism and I really do believe that. I really do not understand how anyone in their right mind could ever believe this is a good idea - and I know I'm not alone; which in some respects is a very sad reflection of the disconnect between our elected MSPs and the population they apparently represent. I wonder if these turbines were houses whether they would be built in these locations? Somehow, I think not.

Stranoch wind farm # 1

Well, new year - new wind farm!

Whilst trawling through Dumfries and Galloway's planning database, I cam across an approved planning application for 2 80 metre met' masts that I hadn't encountered before. Sometimes, planning applications do seem to vanish and then re-appear in these systems and I suspect this is what happened here. Anyway, the two met masts are some distance apart, and are sighted between the Kilgallioch and Glenapp & Loch Ree proposals, and just south of Arecleoch:

View South Carrick Wind Farms in a larger map

The met' masts are the white flages in the middle of the map. The distance between the masts indicates a sizeable potential development with an approximate hub height of 262 feet (80 metres). No further information beyond this is available, except that the proposal is another Wind Prospect Ltd development. The Dumfries and Galloway planning application references for these applications are 11/P/1/0362 and 11/P/1/0363.

Friday, 13 January 2012

Tralorg Hill wind farm # 4

PNE Wind Ltd have now submitted their planning application for the proposed Tralorg Hill wind farm. The planning application reference for this proposed wind farm is 11/01569/APPM. If you can't remember where this 8 turbine proposal sits in our landscape, consult the map below:

View South Carrick Wind Farms in a larger map

Its the blue area in the centre of the map - zooming out one level will help you get orientated. A direct link to the planning application is here. As usual, I will be publishing links to the Environmental Statement as soon as I can. This submission was not unexpected, but grim news none the less I'm afraid.

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Looking for something to do?

I know people's lives are busy - there never seems to be enough time to do what has to be done. Unfortunately, I am now going to add to the burdens on your time!

Earlier this year, I was forwarded a copy of this document authored by Barbara J Frey and Peter J Hadden. Now, this document is no slim volume - it runs into 170 pages, but does present in a very readable style an evidence summary of some of the adverse health effects of wind turbines along with an entirely readable discussion and critique of the guiding principles, policies and frameworks that have ensured we end up with the current mess of ineffective guidelines with regard to wind turbine sighting.

If you are unconvinced that there are health issues that need to be addressed NOW, then read this document - all of it. If you are already convinced that something is amiss, but are not quite sure what - read this document - all of it. Finally, I would urge anyone reading this post to forward a copy of this document to their elective representatives (be they MSPs, MPS, Councillors or whatever) and the appropriate Health Secretary and ask them to comment on its contents.

I for one am sick and tired of hearing the same old strap line being trotted out with regard to various turbine related issues, you know, the one that begins "there is no peer reviewed evidence that......". This paper is not peer reviewed - but that should not be an issue, since this paper is a gathering of information and simple, logical coherent thought. And to those who think that unless something is peer reviewed its not even worth looking at, perhaps you would like to find out a little more about the potential flaws in the process by reading this. Hiding behind this strap line should not be a reason for abandoning common sense.

Here then, is a very large trough - and if we can drag our elected representatives (kicking and screaming if necessary) to it, we really must ensure they drink - very deeply of its contents.

Airies Farm wind farm # 1

This quick post serves as an introduction to a proposed wind farm just over the border in Dumfries and Galloway, located at Airies farm. A planning application for the met' mast associated with this proposal has been with Dumfries and Galloway for some time, but has only recently been approved. The location for this proposal can be determined by looking at the map below - you may need to zoom out a little to get a feel for where it is. Airies farm wind farm is the area right in the centre of the map below:

View South Carrick Wind Farms in a larger map

The Airies farm proposal buts up against Kilgallioch to the north west, and is immediately adjacent to Artfield Fell (to the west). The development to the south west of Airies farm is Glenchamber (which is still on my maps until we hear from the developers about its fate). In its early stages, this proposal is for up to 20 turbines with 425 ft (126.5 m) blade tip elevation, with a maximum installed capacity of 46MW. The area covered by the development boundary is 1,173 acres (475 ha). The only Dumfries and Galloway planning references currently associated with this proposal are: 11/P/1/0370 (for the met' mast) and 11/E/1/0127 for the scoping opinion for. Unfortunately, I cannot provide direct links for these applications since the Dumfries and Galloway e-planning system hasn't been set up in such a way that allows this. The developers for this proposal are a company called 2020 Renewables. The operator for this development (should it be built) is Airies Windfarm Ltd, a wholly owned subsiduary of Vision Renewables - which is a part for 2020 Renewables.

At the time of posting, I haven't included these new statistics or the development area and turbines in my main map; this will done during the normal weekly update at the weekend.

Two documents of note for this potential development are the proposed layout and the scoping response. So, potentially some more follies to people to gaze upon as they wonder the Southern Upland Way.