Land Search for Onshore Wind Farms
Onshore wind farms generate renewable energy via wind turbines that are driven by the natural movement of the air.
These turbines are generally set up in fields, farms and more rural areas to ensure that the wind supply isn’t interrupted by large buildings and other obstacles which might hinder power production.
According to National Grid there are more than 1,500 operational onshore wind farms across Great Britain, generating over 12 gigawatt hours (GWh) of electricity for the national electric system.
Between 2010 and 2016 Feed In Tariffs and government subsidies made it cost effective for both homeowners and businesses to install wind turbines, much in the way as the boom in solar panels for rooftops that came before. As part of the ISO environmental targets, energy companies were looking to build wind and solar projects to offset carbon emissions.
Onshore wind farms can be constructed in months, at scale, and are relatively cheap and cost-effective to maintain compared with offshore.
What do I need to consider before embarking on a wind farm project?
The planning process is the same as a (non-residential) solar development, although considerations need to be made for any dwellings overlooking a turbine as not everyone is happy to look at them!
When looking for a suitable site you’ll need to consider the following in your initial searches and then confirm them via a site visit;
- Environmental constraints as specified in the NPPF
- Terrain – not behind a hill or on a downward slope
- Wind – above 8 metres per second average
- Topography – not within 250m of a residence and at least 100m from a tree crown. Not within a National Air Traffic Radar Protection Zone, flight path or underneath one
- Any overhead Lines or Pylons
Then you’ll need to look into the feasibility of the project, for example how many turbines will fit, accessibility of servicing and more, here are the main considerations…
- Shadow flicker analysis – whether the autumn/winter turbine shadows fall on nearby residences
- Array layout – using 6×9 configuration at 235 degrees to see how many turbines can fit on the site
- Site Layout – can the site also fit the equipment that needs to be stored, a substation and tracks to the turbines
- ZTV – Zone of theoretical visibility (sometimes called a ZVI) – this shows how far the turbines can be seen. 3D terrain is also used to show whether turbines are blocked by any hills mountains and sometimes trees
- Microwave links and mobile operator links – whether the site will stop communication operator infrastructure – this is sometimes done by specialist consultants
In some instances a high level ecology and geological survey is undertaken and a temporary meteorological mast is sometimes put up at the site to capture wind data at this stage.
What happens when it comes to planning permission?
When it comes to securing planning permission, a range of surveys will need to be carried out to make sure the area is safe for the residents and wildlife in the area, typically including;
- Bird nesting surveys – to see if birds might fly straight into the blades
- Geological surveys – to ensure the ground is stable
- Topographical survey – this provides data to CAD teams and allows for detailed site information
- Ecological survey
- Communications/Internet – connection to turbines for SCADA
- As-built – model of project as it will be built
The planning department will also conduct an analysis of other projects in the area that are similar and why they won or failed. This is usually conducted on a county wide scale.
Other elements to consider
Each wind turbine has a life of around 20 years and they are subject to annual health and safety checks that must be carried out and documented. This work is completed by skilled professionals who access each turbine to check the equipment.
Turbines all have information systems built into the nacelle (cover housing of the generating components) called SCADA – this tells the operator real time data about the rotor speed, direction, operation time, output voltage and more.
Taller turbines might be preferable: they generate more electricity and can reduce the risk of bird strikes, which largely occur due to them not being able to see the turbines.
If you’re looking to embark on an onshore wind project, LandHawk has all the data you need for the scoping and feasibility stages to get you set for planning permission. Our platform generates detailed results and reports so you can see straight away if a project is viable.
Why not get in touch and we’ll show you how it works?