Client & Design Award
E.ON is seeking planning permission to construct a wind farm in Northamptonshire and expects to submit a planning application to Daventry District Council in May 2010.
The proposed wind farm site is situated in relative isolation, with the closest villages being Cold Ashby and Winwick. It consists of seven turbines, each up to 126.5m tall, and supporting infrastructure such as access tracks, a control building and anemometer mast.
The turbines will generate up to 2.5 MW each and the wind farm will have a total capacity of up to 17.5 MW. Winwick wind farm will provide clean, sustainable electricity every year, enough to meet the annual energy (electricity and heating) needs of up to 7,800 average UK homes1. This would save up to 15,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide each year for the 25-year operational life of the project2 . The project will only take less than 2% of the site land so agriculture can continue on the site.
Consideration of the environment
As part of E.ON’s pre-application preparatory work, an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) was carried out to identify any potential significant effects on the environment. The EIA process has given consideration to all environmental topics including landscape and visual, ecology and ornithology, access, noise, safety and cultural heritage. The results of these studies have allowed E.ON to responsibly design a wind farm that is sensitive to the surrounding area.
E.ON undertook detailed consultation with statutory and non-statutory consultees, the local community and landowners. The main focus was to provide clear information about the need for renewable energy, give information on the project, evaluate feedback from the community, use this to improve the wind farm layout and implement, where possible, improvements to the surrounding area for the environment and people.
Consultation was held during the early stages and throughout the development. Key issues identified as a result included: landscape and visual impact, recreation and public rights of way (including opportunities for enhancement), noise and health, scale and transport. These issues were considered throughout the design of the wind farm.
Methods of engagement and consultation involved public exhibitions, newsletters, presentations, public visits to existing wind farms and individual meetings.
The design has been continuously improved throughout the development process, in response to feedback from consultation and results of the EIA process. This has allowed E.ON to exploit opportunities for positive design and to carefully balance stakeholder, environment and engineering considerations resulting in an optimal design.
Landscape and visual assessment
The effects of a wind farm in the landscape, and the visual effects it can potentially create were key concerns of local residents. Every update of the design was assessed by considering the appearance of the wind farm from a range of viewpoints. A seven turbine layout with all turbines to be located in the southern part of the development site was selected as the most suitable design.
A further design review concluded that minor changes to the location of the turbines would have considerable benefits for residents living in properties on the northern edge of West Haddon.
Ecology and ornithology
The proposed wind farm is not likely to have any significant adverse effects on the conservation status of any habitats or species. Indeed, the project design incorporates a number of measures that are likely to enhance the overall nature conservation value of the site, including the enhancement and creation of areas of semi-natural habitats. Numerous studies for ecology and ornithology were carried out to establish the species and habitats of ecological value within the development site. Findings from these studies have influenced the design so that the proposed wind farm avoids or minimises potential impacts.
Public roads, public rights of way and bridleways
The scheme has been designed so that turbines would be situated a minimum of 200m from public rights of way (byways, footpaths and bridleways), allowing paths to remain open throughout the operational life of the development. All turbines will also be located at least 200m from public roads.
1. Based on an average annual household electricity consumption of 4,700kWh (source: DECC). The annual electricity generation estimate is based on wind speed data measured on site. This data has been independently verified.
2. This figure is based on the government’s long-term marginal plant figure of 430g CO2/kWh. Although it is difficult to predict the exact impact of a wind farm development, we can be certain that over the course of its lifetime, green electricity from a wind turbine will offset large amounts of CO2 that would have otherwise been produced if that electricity had been generated using fossil fuels, such as coal and gas.