By Renewable Energy Focus staff

It will be up to communities how the wind funds will be allocated.

Maria McCaffery, CEO of RenewableUK, says: “The wind industry has voluntarily and with the full backing of key stakeholders and Government, adopted a Protocol setting out what cash benefits should accrue to communities living near onshore wind farms.

“There are a number of ways communities across the UK benefit economically from onshore wind, both in terms of business and employment, but community benefits have a special role to play, as they are distributed according to the wishes of the local community itself.”

The UK Government has also supported an initiative to allow host communities to retain the business rates paid by onshore wind farms in England, meaning that the local council can keep business rates paid by the wind farm operator on top of the windfall already allocated to the local community.

“Our ongoing study of the economic benefits of onshore wind clearly indicates that the local and regional economy gains over £1 million per MW during the development and operational cycle of a wind farm,” McCaffery adds.

Too little says REF

The Renewable Energy Foundation (REF), a charity saying it promotes energy conservation and the use of renewable energy, is critical of the amount proposed by RenewableUK.

REF says the community windfall from wind farms would only reflect around 0.5% of the total annual income of an average wind farm.

The charity says that of the £500,000 income received for a 2.3 MW wind turbine a year, half is a subsidy in the form of the Renewables Obligation (assuming an average load factor of 25%, a ROC price of £50/MWh and a wholesale electricity price of £50/MWh. The subsidy currently costs £1.4 billion a year.

REF believes a more generous and less divisive form of community reparation would be preferable, including direct “compensation to affected neighbours, and reduced council tax to reflect lost amenity.”

Dr John Constable, REF Director of Policy & Research, says: “The proposed community benefit is just half of one percent of the large subsidy enhanced income derived from our electricity bills; the wind farm industry is taking our money with one hand and expecting us to be grateful for the small change offered with the other. Many will perceive community benefit of this kind and scale as adding insult to injury, and the plan seems unlikely to be persuasive.”

Renewable Energy Focus notes that REF has come under criticism from the renewable energy community for appearing to be undermining the industry it claims to support.