Family walking towards wind farm in the countryside

Wind industry pledges to provide cash benefits to communities

The wind industry has outlined a pledge to provide cash benefits to communities that host wind farms.

The protocol agreed by the industry will see communities paid a minimum of £1,000 a year for each megawatt (MW) of power that is installed. The average onshore wind turbine is 2.3MW - enough to power 1,400 households. The payments to the community would continue each year for the lifetime of the wind farm.

According to industry body RenewableUK, a number of communities are already benefiting from cash paid by energy companies for wind farms in their areas.

Funding is paid into community trusts which distribute the money for causes which have ranged from solar panels for sheltered housing and Christmas lunches for the elderly to country fetes and computer equipment for schools. In some areas local residents qualify for discounts on energy bills.

The protocol also pledges companies will have early and open dialogue with local communities about having a wind farm in their area.

RenewableUK chief executive Maria McCaffery said 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," McCaffery said.

According to RenewableUK, local and regional economies benefit to the tune of £1 million per megawatt during the development and operation of an onshore wind farm.

As part of efforts to encourage communities to accept local wind farms, which frequently struggle to get through the planning process, the Government has backed proposals advocated by RenewableUK to allow the local council to keep the business rates paid by wind farm operators.

McCaffery said the protocol, in line with Government proposals, clearly sets out what every wind farm in the UK could bring to the local community's table.

Energy Secretary Chris Huhne said that “right now, all too often, communities can see the windfarms but not the windfall”.

"Wind is an abundant, clean, home-grown alternative to fossil fuels. It can't be blown off course by instability abroad and so it's a vital that we use it for our low-carbon, energy security.

"We'll all benefit in the long run, and moves to help local people feel more immediate benefits of hosting a windfarm are crucial.”

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