See the SMALL TURBINES page for information specific to so-called ‘farm turbines’.
Land agents and the farming press write about the wind boom. Development companies bombard you with letters promising enormous, risk free rewards.
So why have the the vast majority of landowners in areas of search in Northumberland, from the biggest to the smallest, refused repeated offers of large windfall profits from development companies?
Wind developers will tell you that turbines have a very small footprint, do not affect farming operations and no long term effects on the land. 1
This is misleading:
Large industrial turbine foundations are usually 15-20 metres in diameter and a minimum of 5 metres in depth. The foundation is a minimum of 750-1,000 cubic metres or more of concrete and steel reinforcement (see this record of the construction process from Cefn Croes, in Wales).
Foundations and cable trenches are not removed or restored at the end of a turbine’s life, they are merely covered with a layer of topsoil.
A turbine, its foundations, cable trenches and roads capable of taking the huge loads in construction can affect drainage and even groundwater supplies over a surprisingly large area. You are advised to seek expert independent advice from a hydrologist before signing a contract.
Each turbine needs an adjacent area of hard standing for crane operations. This may be partially reinstated but will remain compacted and this will be aggrevated if cranes are used in maintenance operations.
There will normally be a need for the construction of substantial additional farm roads or tracks to construct and access turbines. Some land may also be taken for ‘borrow pits’ (quarries), control building(s) and, possibly, for power lines to connect the site to the grid. Depending on who you believe (and which audience the information is written for!), a turbine array will physically occupy between 1% and 5% of the site area (usually the area of your land): “1-2% of the landowner's total holding is used.” (NPower Renewables, landowner page); “wind turbines and their associated infrastructure typically occupy no more than 5% of a site” (E.ON UK, West Ancroft, Sustainability Statement [planning document], p. 5). As noted above, the effects on your land (e.g. drainage and moisture retention) and farming operations may be more widespread.
“Entering into an agreement to allow a company to build such a large capital intensive scheme on your land, and then to manage it with total professionalism for the next 25 years is an important decision.” (NPower Renewables).
Many small speculative developers in the wind business have no experience or expertise in power engineering or, indeed, in management of large industrial projects. The wind business, like property speculation, needs nothing more than a line of credit and a thick skin. Many of these companies have no income stream, but are riding the wind bubble, kept afloat by the same investment hysteria that was experienced during the dot-com boom. Many of them will go the same way as dot-com companies when the UK follows Denmark , Germany, Spain and other countries in cutting the subsidies which are fuelling the wind rush.
You, however, if you agree to host a turbine array, will be left with the turbines and a legal liability for their safety and effects, whatever happens to the limited liability company that first built or operated them. There are examples in California and Hawaii of hundreds of derelict turbines being abandoned in situ by operators.
1 There is increasing scientific evidence that turbines do have an effect on agricultural land and crops. This is mainly in the mixing of air layers and turbulence downwind of turbines which reduces moisture content and affects air temperatures.
NB You will never read anything like the following in the UK, because landowners here are hog-tied by confidentiality clauses in their legal agreements with developers.
Once you have signed an option agreement you have effectively surrendered control of your land and lost your freedom of expression. You are legally prevented from criticising the wind farm company or its operatives for the duration of the option agreement, or the operating contract.
We know of several landowners who, while enjoying the income, deeply regret getting involved with wind developers because of the effects on the community they live in and the enduring hostility of former friends and neighbours.
Ripley farmer regrets wind turbine leases
The Kincardine News [Ontario, Canada], Thursday 13 November 2008.
Dave Colling regrets having leased some of his farm near Ripley to a wind energy developer.
Colling is part of a group of neighbours who signed a three-year lease in return for a fixed amount of money a year, plus a percentage of the profits once the project is underway.
“If I knew then what I know now, I never would have signed up,” said Colling, whose farm will have wind turbines as part of the second stage of development near Ripley. The first phase of 38 turbines developed by Suncor came online last year.
“We are entering a whole new era of technology and we don’t know any of its effects,” Colling told about 150 people at a meeting on Wednesday in Feversham put on by a group called Preserve Grey Highlands.
Colling, who tests homes and farms for the presence of stray voltage, related his experience testing the some homes in the Ripley near new turbines. He found that the lines carrying electricity from the turbines to the transmission lines were located too close to the lines leading to the homes and created much higher than normal levels of electricity in the homes. This was causing residents to display the symptoms of electrical hypersensitivity - dizziness, ringing in the ears, fatigue, headache, feeling of pins and needles and a burning sensation.
“It was like being in a microwave oven on high frequency,” said Colling, who noted that once Hydro One buried the cables in the ground, the symptoms disappeared.
Colling urged anyone thinking of signing up with a wind development company to find out as much as possible.’
“Educate yourself. Listen to the people you trust,” he said.
(See also: ‘What have I done?’, below).
You may be thinking only of your land and your business interests. But you should be aware that impacts of 350-500 foot high turbines go way beyond your boundaries and are likely to have substantial adverse effects on local residents and their property. This will also apply to tourist businesses, including other landowners’ diversification enterprises.
In north Northumberland, there is firm evidence of the damaging effects that the ‘Moorsyde’ proposal had in blighting investment in tourist enterprises. This cost the area well over £1 million in direct tourist investment and resulted in a financial crisis for people who had sunk their savings into properties that they intended to develop for tourist enterprises.
The planning blight of the ‘Moorsyde’ proposal lasted for nearly 6 years and is ongoing with E.ON’s neighbouring West Ancroft scheme.
Whatever the industry might claim from its very partial and selective tourism studies, be aware that North Northumberland’s USP has always been its quiet, unspoilt nature. This is epitomised by the ‘Secret Kingdom’ campaign which is still recognised as a key identifier for the area.
Mr Dakin, 46, said agreeing to the turbines would be “selling the soul” of the farm.
He said: “We don’t blame those people who have gone for the wind farms - we were sorely tempted ourselves. But it is an issue of how it effects the wider community and the whole landscape. It is the effect that the turbines would have on people living here that concerns us.”
“The visual effect would be to spoil what is a special and splendid piece of land.”
Among the reasons for them rejecting the offers were the presence of two ancient sites - the Duddo Five Stones and the Duddo Tower - on their land.
They say the turbines would have a detrimental effect on the tourism attracted by these monuments.
Mrs Dakin, 45, said: “The financial incentives are clearly way out of proportion with any other use of the land.
“But we feel that we are so privileged to have custody of such special things. For us it was a fairly easy decision not to get involved.
“Almost everybody is against the turbines - people just can’t believe that they are going to do it.”
(See full story in the Journal, 8 May 2007. The Dakins were the main story on BBC Look North and were also featured in the Telegraph and Express on 9 May).
Do you care about neighbours who will end up living close to turbines?
Property close to a projected turbine array will:
Be blighted for the period of scoping, planning and construction. This may be several years, during which people cannot sell their property without taking a large (usually 20-25%) cut in its value.
Be blighted for years when the scheme is operating.
Properties experiencing noise problems may be rendered unsaleable and therefore worthless. People in this position at present have no legal recourse.
How would you react if your house and/or business suffered a 20-25% loss in value or was made unsaleable due to a neighbour's actions?
Jane and Julian Davis (see below) who have suffered noise nuisance from a turbine array that has forced them to move into rented accommodation took the developers, landowners and operators to the High Court in 2010 in an effort to have the turbines switched off at night or even taken down altogether.
The legal case was paid for by NFU Mutual, their insurers, and is thought to be the first private nuisance case brought against a wind power station.
A settlement was reached before the court heard the technical evidence from the Davis family’s expert witnesses. Confidentiality clauses mean that the Davises are unable to report the terms of the settlement.
Many other people with similar problems have been waiting on the result of this case before taking legal action to resolve their problems.
-------------------------(See The Telegraph, 16 September 2009).
A farmer has pulled out of plans to site wind turbines on his land as he does not want to profit at his neighbours’ expense.
Steve Ellsmoor was approached by energy firm Nuon Renewables about allowing part of a wind farm on the Staffordshire-Shropshire border to be built on his land.
The 49-year-old, who lives at Dorrington Hall Farm, said he initially considered the proposal, but later pulled out when he began to have doubts about the project.
His comments come ahead of a meeting this week to consider the first part of the plan.
He said: “I showed interest as I didn’t know what was involved. Then people started to worry about property prices and I decided it wasn’t for me."
“I don’t want to make money out of someone else losing money on their property. I have still got to live here.” He said he also had concerns about how Nuon Renewables was going about the scheme.
He said he had been told by a Scottish wind farm developer who visited the site that it was best practice to make sure the turbines were at least 1,000 metres away from any houses.
Nuon Renewables wants to erect nine wind turbines on land near Knighton and Bearstone and if the plan goes ahead some will be closer than 1,000 metres.
Mr Ellsmoor said: “If you measure 1km from where the turbines will be, there are many houses in that circumference.” And he said his own farm would be just 800 metres from the turbines. He said: “I think it’s a scandal that these wind farms can come in so close to people’s houses.
“We could have problems with noise, which could make our property unsaleable.
“I had a valuation done on the farm and if this proposal goes ahead, our property could be worth 15 to 20 per cent less than it is now.
“If you equate that to all the properties in the area there will be millions of pounds knocked off property prices. I am very disturbed about the whole thing.”
He said the landowners who had decided to allow the turbines on their land were under a lot of pressure from villagers who were worried about the scheme.
Mr Ellsmoor said: “They have been offered a lot of money if it goes ahead, and I’m not sure it will.
“At first I thought if it was going to go ahead I might as well look at having them.
“But I wouldn’t like to think anyone else was losing money because of my actions.”
Mr Ellsmoor’s farm, which has sheep, cows and cereals, has been in his family since 1920. It regularly hosts visits for children, including many from schools in the Potteries. He said: “This puts everything into uncertainty. The wind farm could destroy the area. I’ve been having sleepless nights about it.”
(See article in The Sentinal, Staffordshire).
Contrary to what the developers tell you, there are numerous, and growing, numbers of cases where turbines have caused a severe nuisance to people living nearby with consequent effects on their physical and mental health.
(See the Noise Page, which has references to other sources of information).
Sleepless nights: Windfarms are multiplying and the Davises say they’re a nightmare
On a sunny spring morning, Deeping St Nicholas provides a perfect snapshot of English country life. The only buildings that break the flat horizon of the Lincolnshire fens are silver-grey church spires and neat red-brick farmhouses, around which are clustered barns and silos. A covey of wood pigeons clap their wings as they take off from the black, loamy, fertile soil striped with green lines of oilseed rape. And then you hear it. “Whoompf ... whoompf ... whoompf ...”
Like the sound of an approaching train that never comes, the thumps that break the still air are not overpoweringly loud - at about 65 decibels, they’re the level of a lorry going by at 30 miles an hour 100 yards away.
But what is so menacing is the regularity and the scope of the noise, which feels like a giant heartbeat shaking the earth.
When you see the culprits - the eight mammoth wind turbines installed just outside Deeping St Nicholas last May - you’re actually surprised that the noise isn’t louder.
These aren’t the little propellers that David Cameron nails to his roof to warm his cocoa and heat his children’s baths. [Unviable, since removed. Ed] They’re veritable behemoths - 100 metres high, as tall as Big Ben’s tower.
The turbines hove into view from the Peterborough to Deeping St Nicholas road several miles before you reach the little village, and they dominate the skies from here to the North Sea, 15 miles away.
Five of these monsters are set in a straight line heading away from Deeping St Nicholas. And if you trace that line onwards for half-a-mile on the map, your finger slams slap-bang into the middle of Grays Farm.
And there, in the farmhouse sitting room, with its wood-burning stove and its bookshelves jammed with family photos, are Julian and Jane Davis - wan, sleepless and very angry indeed.
Three generations of the Davis family have farmed these 300 acres of tenanted land for wheat, sugarbeet, beans, oilseed rape and - ironically, given the green glow of windpower - the new generation of biofuel crops. Mr Davis’s elderly parents live in a bungalow a few yards away along a gravel track.
For the first time in a decade, agricultural prices are looking rosy - and so were the Davises’ finances, until recently. But now their chances of enjoying a comfortable future are in jeopardy because of the whirring brutes next door, erected on land owned by two neighbouring farmers.
The Davises’ three-bedroom house, valued at £170,000 before the turbines arrived, is now essentially worthless because no one will grant a mortgage on a house blighted by noise pollution.
For the past eight months, the Davises have lain awake at night, staring at the ceiling, driven to distraction by the thump of the blades and feeling the whole house resonating around them.
During the odd moment of silence when the wind is in the right direction, they lie awake, still, dreading the inevitable return of the whoompfs.
Ever since the Davises were first woken from their sleep three days after the turbines were installed, they have kept a log of the noise. Of those 243 days, 231 have been disturbed.
Sometimes, the noise has been so bad that they have fled the house for friends’ sofas, and once for the comfort of the local Travelodge. It is on the busy Helpringham roundabout but, for the first time in weeks, they slept through until 7.20am.
Noise generated by a constant flow of traffic is easier to ignore than a repetitive thump that seems to go right through the body. “It’s just that little bit faster than the noise of a heartbeat,” says Mr Davis, aged 42. “So your body is constantly racing to catch up.”
As well as the thump-thump-thump - which makes the television flicker - there is a low-level hum from the electric motor housed in the turbines’ main shaft, which gets the blades going and controls the mechanism’s air-conditioning.
This noise often mutates into what the Davises call the WD-40 noise - a grating sound similar to that produced by an engine that needs oiling.
“It drives you mad,” says Mr Davis. Y“our whole body becomes sensitive to it. It draws you to it. Your mind is constantly looking for the noise. I can be farming half-a-mile away or watching telly, and then suddenly you’ll hear it. It’s destroyed our lives.”
Things have now become so bad that the Davises have been forced to rent out what they call a ‘sleeping house’ in the village for £600 a month.
Now, every night at around 10pm, they take a look at the weather and decide if they should abandon ship for the evening. The noise is particularly irksome if the wind comes from the south along the line of the turbines, whipping them up in unison, so their individual noises are harmonised and amplified.
The list of disasters goes on and on, all recorded in the Davises’ scrupulously kept logbook. Last July, reads the book, “we tried to have a BBQ and had to go inside due to noise and vibration - felt by guests also. Difficult to get to sleep. Wind SSE, SSW.
“Whoosh - yes. Pulse - yes. Hum - yes. We are so tired today that the simplest things - following a recipe, assembling a cupboard - seem impossible. Everyone very tired and totally exhausted. This is not living any more.”
Of the 126 windfarms erected in Britain so far - most of which are far from human habitation - 5 per cent have engendered complaints about the overwhelming noise.
The next tranche of building is likely to attract far more outrage because the power companies are simply running out of wilderness.
As for the Davises, they don’t even have the consolation that the turbines are providing power for their own home.
“They’re making electricity for other people,” says Jane. “One night, our power was hit by a lightning strike. So we had the worst of both worlds - nothing working inside the house, and then that noise going on and on outside. Whoompf ... whoompf ... whoompf.”
(Harry Mount, Daily Mail, 10 March, 2007. See full article).
“I am not able to place a current market value on the property as I do not believe any prospective purchaser would want to inhabit the property, or, in the current climate whether any mortgage lender would be prepared to lend on the property.”
Jane and Julian Davis, who have been forced to move from their house by windfarm noise, have now had their loss of amenity and loss in value of their home acknowledged by a Valuation Tribunal which lowered their Council Tax banding in recognition of:
‘Significant detrimental effect’
‘Nuisance real, not imagined’
‘Potential sale price affected’
See BBC TV News piece: ‘Wind farm blights farmhouse’.
The Telegraph, 26 July 2008.
‘Thousands of homeowners may see the value of their properties plummet after a court ruled that living near a wind farm decreases house prices.’
‘Estate agents have said no one is likely to buy the Davis’ house,
which was worth £170,000 before the wind farm was built.’
‘In a landmark case, Jane Davis was told she will get a discount on her council tax because her £170,000 home had been rendered worthless by a turbine 1,000 yards away.’
‘Estate agents have said no one is likely to buy the Davis’ house, which was worth £170,000 before the wind farm was built.’
‘The ruling is effectively an official admission that wind farms, which are accused of spoiling countryside views and producing a deafening roar, have a negative effect on house prices.’
‘It means many other families living in the shadow of the giant turbines could see thousands wiped off the value of their homes, as the Government pushes ahead with plans to build 7,000 more wind farms over the next decade to meet ambitious green targets.’
‘Campaigners also fear ministers want to remove the legal right to complain about noise nuisance, condemning those who live near wind farms to years of blight and reducing the opportunity for them to resist expansion plans.’
(See full story in The Telegraph, 26 July 2008).
The Davis family are, unfortunately, far from alone in their misery. Even brand new turbines are causing problems:
Bicker house blighted by turbines
A family living near a part-constructed wind farm is experiencing the same problems that plagued the Davises at Deeping St Nicholas. Seven of the 13 turbines planned for Bicker Fen are up and working but neighbouring couple Steve and Lorraine Rashleigh are horrified by the noise.
Mr Rashleigh, of North Drove, is upset because he was assured there would be no noise pollution. He said: “They’re not all up yet and we can hear noise like an old steam train in the distance 24 hours a day. The turbines are as close as they can be to us. We can’t have windows open.”
(See full story in Lincs Free Press and Spalding Guardian, 12 August, 2008).
You will be responsible, with any turbine operator, for any nuisance, damage or injury caused by turbines on your land.
So far, in the very few years that turbines have been built in lowland, settled areas, operators have escaped legal action for the nuisance and injury caused by turbines.
The lawyers tell us that this can, and probably will, change.
UK civil law is based on tort and on precedent, and it will only take a couple of successful actions to open the floodgates for civil actions from the close neighbours to wind power schemes who are suffering health effects or who have suffered damage to the value of their property.
If you go into the power generation business, you are advised to take expert legal advice on possible future liabilities and the consequent level of liability insurance that your business should carry.
In an effort to have the turbines switched off at night or even taken down altogether, Jane and Julian Davis from Deeping St Nicholas (see above) took the developers, landowners and operators of the Deeping St Nicholas turbine array to the High Court in 2010.
The legal case was paid for by NFU Mutual, their insurers, and is thought to be the first private nuisance case brought against a wind power station.
A settlement was reached before the court heard technical evidence from the Davis family’s expert witnesses. Confidentiality clauses mean that the Davises are unable to report the terms of the settlement.
Jane Davis says that she knows of 190 people around the country who have problems with turbine noise. Many are expected to consider legal proceedings following the Davis case.
(See The Telegraph, 16 September 2009).
WHAT HAVE I DONE?
Now each morning when I awake, I pray and then ask myself, “What have I done?”
I am involved with the BlueSky/Greenfield wind turbine project in N.E. Fond du Lac County. I am also a successful farmer who cherishes his land. My father taught me how to farm, to be a steward of my fields, and by doing so, produce far better crop production. As I view this year’s crops, my eyes feast on a most bountiful supply of corn and soybeans. And then my eyes focus again on the trenches and road scars leading to the turbine foundations. What have I done?
In 2003, the wind energy company made their first contacts with us. A $2,000 “incentive” started the process of winning us over, a few of us at a time. The city salesmen would throw out their nets, like fishermen trawling for fish. Their incentive “gift” first lured some of us in. Then the salesmen would leave and let us talk with other farmers. When the corporate salesmen returned, there would be more of us ready to sign up; farmers had heard about the money to be made. Perhaps because we were successful farmers, we were the leaders and their best salesmen.
Sometime in 2004 or 2005, we signed $4,000 turbine contracts allowing them to “lease” our land for their needs. Our leases favored the company, but what did we know back then? Nobody knew what we were doing. Nobody realized all the changes that would occur, over which we would have no control. How often my friends and I have made that statement: What have I done?!
I watched stakes being driven in the fields and men using GPS monitors to place markers here and there. When the cats and graders started tearing 22-foot-wide roads into my fields, the physical changes started to impact not only me and my family, but, unfortunately, also my dear friends and neighbors. Later, a 4-foot-deep by 2-foot-wide trench was started diagonally across my field. A field already divided by their road was now being divided again by the cables running to a substation. It was now making one large field into 4 smaller irregularly shaped plots. Other turbine hosts also complained about their fields being subdivided or multiple cable trenches requiring more of their land. Roads were cut in using anywhere from 1,000 feet to over half a mile of land to connect the locations. We soon realized that the company places roads and trenches where they will benefit the company most, not the landowner. One neighbor’s access road is right next to some of his outbuildings. Another’s is right next to his fence line.
At a wind company dinner presented for the farmers hosting the turbines, we were repeatedly told — nicely and indirectly — to stay away from the company work sites once they start. I watched as my friends faces showed the same concern I had, but none of us spoke out. Months later, when I approached a crew putting in lines where they promised me they definitely would not go, a representative told me I could not be there. He insisted that I leave. The line went in. The company had the right. I had signed the lease.
Grumbling started almost immediately after we agreed to 2% yearly increases on our 30-year lease contracts. Some felt we should have held out for 10%. What farmer would lock in the price of corn over the next 5 years, yet alone lock one in at 2% yearly for 30 years? Then rumors emerged that other farmers had received higher yearly rates, so now contracts varied. The fast-talking city sales folk had successfully delivered their plan. Without regard for our land, we were allowing them to come in and spoil it. All of the rocks we labored so hard to pick in our youth were replaced in a few hours by miles of roads packed hard with 10 inches of large breaker rock. Costly tiling that we installed to improve drainage had now been cut into pieces by company trenching machines.
Each night, a security team rides down our roads checking the foundation sites. They are checking for vandals and thieves. Once, when I had ventured with guests to show them foundation work, security stopped us and asked me, standing on my own property, what I was doing there. What have I done?
Now, at social functions, we can clearly see the huge division this has created among community members. Suddenly, there are strong-sided discussions and heated words between friends and, yes, between relatives about wind turbines. Perhaps this is a greater consequence than the harm caused to my land — life is short, and friendships are precious.
I tried, as did some of the other farmers, to get out of our contracts, but we had signed a binding contract. If you are considering placing wind turbines on your property, I strongly recommend that you please reconsider. Study the issues. Think of all the harm to your land, and, in the future, to your children’s land, versus the benefits from allowing companies to lease your land for turbines.
WHAT HAVE I DONE?
PLEASE DO NOT DO WHAT I HAVE DONE!
Many farmers who signed up for wind turbines on their land in this country are now bitterly regretting that decision. Too late, they find they have signed away many of their rights.
When you sign a 25 year contract to host wind turbines on your property you may be signing away many rights you're unaware of. A confidentiality agreement in the contract may mean legal action can be taken against you if you publically criticise the company or their activities on your land.
See: the ‘Better Plan, Rock County (BPRC)’ website.
ELECTRICITY GENERATIONBalancing Mechanism Reporting System (BMRS).