Wind farm community benefits

MORE must be done to ensure communities affected by large wind farm developments reap long-term benefits from such schemes.

That is the conclusion of the Joseph Rowntree Foundation who are calling for urgent action to ensure growing wind farm expansion is matched by help for neighbouring communities to redress the negative impact commercial windfarms can have on them.

The Joseph Rowntree Foundation research outlines three key reasons why justice is important in wind energy developments: legitimate concerns over the impact on the environment; an unequal distribution of impacts from wind farms on places (particularly economic); and the concentration of wind farms disproportionately falling on disadvantaged groups.

The report says that a mechanism for deals between developers and local people to ensure benefit for the latter must be put in place now.

Here in Berwickshire, windfarms developers offer a range of benefits to the local community: Crystal Rig allocates £22,425 a year which is administered by Garvald & Morham Community Council in East Lothian; Fallago Rig operators have indicated that £240,000 a year will be available for environmental improvement and sustainable develop projects, administered by the Tweed Forum; and the Black Hill Wind Farm Community Trust has between £20-30,000 a year to benefit the residents of the community council areas of Abbey St Bathans, Bonkyl & Preston; Cranshaws, Ellemford & Longformacus; Duns; and Gavinton, Fogo and Polwarth.

The Joseph Rowntree Foundation wants to see the provision and expansion of community benefit funds, in terms of both size and geographic scope.

Dr Richard Cowell, author of the report, said: “We are seeing the size of community benefit funds increase in line with the growing scale of wind farm developments. That presents a huge opportunity to address the disadvantages faced by those living alongside wind farms, and ensure these communities become more sustainable into the future.

“What we would like to see is those living near wind farms having locally-embedded energy and jobs, as well as money to fund other community goals and schemes. By widening the remit of community benefit funds, beyond the village or parish in the direct shadow of the wind farm, more people can share in the benefits of investment, and more significant projects can be realised.

“Community benefit funds should go beyond trying to foster acceptance of schemes. They should be provided out of fairness, particularly in disadvantaged areas where wind farm development is often concentrated.”

Katharine Knox, at the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, said: “Climate change requires us to develop new forms of renewable energy, but not at the expense of social justice. “We need to respond to climate change and its effects by generating energy from sustainable sources. But action is also needed to ensure that communities which live in the vicinity of wind farms are supported to become more resilient in the long term.”