Wind Energy in the Landscape Wind turbines are large machines and cannot be hidden in the landscape. But most parts of the countryside are managed and forever changing. Human activity has shaped the countryside for thousands of years. Wind farms can be designed to fit harmoniously into different types of landscape. Opinion polls show that most people support wind energy and would like to see it developed further. They find wind turbines attractive and interesting. However, any person’s attitude towards, and understanding of, clean sustainable energy is likely to influence their opinion. Photomontage depicting the cumulative effect of two ten-turbine wind farms in the same landscape. Wind energy schemes range from individual turbines to small clusters of turbines to large wind farms (comprising of several tens of turbines). They are unavoidably conspicuous, and it is therefore essential that projects are carefully sited and sensitively developed. The wind is a diffuse form of energy, in common with many renewable sources. A typical wind farm of 20 turbines might extend over an area of 1 square kilometre, but only 2 % of the land area would be taken out of use, the remainder can be used for other purposes, such as farming or as natural habitat. Wind Energy with Heritage Ireland has a rich and varied archaeological, architectural and cultural heritage, which shapes the character of our landscape. Consideration must be given to the nature and extent of archaeological remains and the impact a wind farm might have on the site. It is imperative that our heritage is protected from the dangers associated with conventional fuel generation, notably acid rain and air pollution. Appropriately developed and sensitively sited wind farms can aid this protection and live in harmony with heritage sites. One day wind farms will be a part of our heritage to be proud of. Energy from Clean, Fresh Air Each year, environmental pollution and CO2 emissions from the use of fossil fuels constitute a threat to health, the environment and sustainable development. Wind turbines cause virtually no emissions during their operation and very little during their manufacture, installation, maintenance and removal. Every Megawatt of wind power installed in Ireland avoids: • the release of 2,700 tonnes of Carbon Dioxide (CO2), the main gas responsible for global warming • 49 tonnes of Sulphur Dioxide (SO2), the main cause of acid rain • 5.5 tonnes of Nitrous Oxides (NOx) responsible for building corrosion and global warming • the need to import 6,450 barrels of Oil • the landfilling of 175 tonnes of slag and ash Glossary and facts: Power is measured in: 1,000 watt (W) = 1 kilowatt (kW) 1,000 kW = 1 Megawatt (MW) 1,000,000 kW = 1 Gigawatt (GW) Energy is obtained by multiplying time by power. Energy is measured in: 1,000 kilowatt hours (kWh) = 1 megawatt hour (MWh) 1,000,000 kWh = 1 Gigawatt hour (GWh) 1 kWh is roughly the electricity used by an electric cooker plate in one hour. The average household uses roughly 5 MWh per year for their domestic electricity requirements. Fossil fuel: Material that is extracted from the earth derived from the remains of living things e.g. coal, peat, oil or gas. They take thousands or millions of years to form. Greenhouse gas (GHG): Gases emitted, typically through the combustion of fossil fuels for energy, which contribute towards global warming and climate change. GHGs include Carbon Dioxide (CO2), Methane (CH4) and Oxides of Nitrogen (NOx). Other sources of Information: Recommended Websites www.sei.ie www.sei.ie/windmaps www.windpower.org www.ipcc.ch www.iwea.com www.ewea.org www.mnag.ie www.retscreen.net Recommended Magazines Renewable Energy World www.jxj.com/rew/ New Energy www.wind-energie.de/englischer-teil/english.htm Sun and Wind Energy www.sunwindenergy.com Refocus www.re-focus.net Windpower Monthly www.windpower-monthly.com Wind Directions www.ewea.org Sustainable Energy Ireland, was established on May 1st, 2002, as a statutory authority charged with promoting and assisting the development of a sustainable national energy economy and is funded by the Irish Government under the National Development Plan 2000-2006 with programmes part financed by the European Union. The Renewable Energy Information Office, a national service of Sustainable Energy Ireland was established to promote the use of renewable resources and provide independent information and advice on the financial, social and technical issues relating to renewable energy development. Sustainable Energy Ireland, Renewable Energy Information Office, Shinagh House, Bandon, Co.Cork. t +353 23 42193 f +353 23 29154 e [email protected] w www.sei.ie/reio.htm Printed on recycled paper Sustainable Energy Ireland is funded by the Irish Government under the National Development Plan 2000-2006 with programmes part financed by the European Union Wind Energy and the Environment Friend or Foe? Wind Energy and the Environment Friend or Foe? Today, wind energy is the vanguard of clean energy technologies. It is the most viable energy option if we are to meet our future electricity needs without causing global warming and climate change. Wind energy can save the environment from the damage associated with conventional fossil fuel generation, such as coal and oil. Global Climate Change Global climate change is now believed to be the most serious environmental threat facing the human race. The globally averaged surface temperature is projected to increase by between 1.4 and 5.8°C by the end of this century, much larger than the observed changes during the 20th century and very likely to be without precedent during at least the last 10,000 years. Global mean sea level is projected to rise by 0.09 to 0.88 metres between 1990 and 2100, causing flooding to low-lying coasts and islands. Larger year-to-year variations in temperature and rainfall are very likely over most areas leading to problems for biodiversity, agriculture and the wider economy. All methods of power generation have an impact on the environment, but the effects of wind power, in contrast with conventional energy technologies, are negligible. Wind turbines produce no pollutants, no harmful gas emissions, no effluent, no waste products and no radioactivity. There are no ill effects to populations elsewhere in the world, or to future generations. Although the environmental impact of wind energy is far lower than that of conventional energy sources, there are some effects on the environment such as impacts upon the landscape, bird life, noise, and electromagnetic interference. How the Irish Public View Wind Farms Lansdowne Market Research recently carried out an independent survey to assess the attitude of the Irish public towards wind energy and wind farms. It revealed that Irish people are realistic about the probable effects of climate change and 84 % support energy policies that encourage the development of wind and other renewable energy sources. Amongst the findings: • More than 8 out of 10 believe wind energy to be a good thing; • Two thirds of Irish adults are favourable towards having a wind farm built in their local area; • Wind farms are viewed positively compared to other utility structures in the environment; • Residents near operational wind farms do not generally consider it to have adverse impacts; The development of renewable energy, including wind energy, is one of the main ways of mitigating climate change. Today, wind energy provides electricity to the equivalent of 40 million European citizens, and wind farms in Ireland supply enough clean green power to support over 146,000 users, equivalent to the domestic electricity needs of County Cork. Wind Farms and Birds In the Environment… The impacts of wind turbines upon bird life are very site specific and are either by collision or migration interruption, rather than habitat or ecosystem impacts and disturbance. Wind turbines are a relatively new feature in the Irish countryside, and will become more visible as more wind farms are built. Consultation with, and acceptance by local communities is essential, especially in rural areas where particularly high value is placed on the landscape amenity. Acceptance is more likely where there has been a clear assessment of the impacts of a proposed wind farm and the mitigation measures have been properly explained. Once sited, existing activities such as agriculture can continue operating alongside wind farms. • There is a preference for smaller, clustered groups of turbines over larger scale installations. Research cited by the European Wind Energy Association shows that the risk of bird deaths through collision with wind turbines is low. For example, it is estimated that 33,000 birds are killed annually by wind turbines operating in the USA, an average of 2.2 fatalities for each of the 15,000 turbines. In Spain, a study showed 0.13 dead birds per year per turbine. By comparison in the USA, over 100 million birds are estimated to die each year from colliding with vehicles, buildings, power lines and other structures, with wind power responsible for just 1 out of every 5,000 - 10,000 avian fatalities. Wind farms from 15 - 20 years ago that were poorly sited caused a greater number of bird deaths than today, but there is still a need to continue research with modern turbines. Careful turbine siting, away from migration routes for example, can virtually eliminate fatalities altogether. Worldwide, 99 % of the threat to bird life is related to human activities, the most serious is habitat loss. Wind Farms and Noise Virtually everything with moving parts generates sound, and wind turbines are no exception. The turbine blades passing through the air generate sound. This aerodynamic sound is minimised by careful attention to the design and manufacture of the blades. The sound made by the gearbox and generator is minimised through efficient engineering and any remaining noise is contained within the nacelle by sound insulation and isolation materials. Wind turbines produce very low noise levels, comparable with the levels found inside a typical living-room, a reading room of a library or in a quiet, airconditioned office. When the wind is blowing, the noise level of the wind turbine is masked by the sound of the wind itself; when the wind isn’t blowing, the turbines will not be moving and thus sit silently in the landscape. The sound level produced by typical wind farms is so low that it would not be noticeable in most residential areas. However, the areas suitable for such developments can be in quiet but exposed areas of the countryside. A significant amount of effort is therefore put into minimising the sound. Wind Farms and EMI You need not worry about the effect that a wind farm could have on the TV and radio reception in the locality. Careful siting and minor technical adjustments can easily overcome potential Electromagnetic Interference (EMI) to telecommunications systems. So you can watch your favourite programmes in the peace and quiet of the nearby wind farm! Wind Farms and Shadow Flicker Shadow flicker occurs where the blades of a wind turbine cast a moving shadow over a window in a nearby house. This effect lasts only for a short period and happens only under very specific and rare conditions. Careful site selection, design and planning, and good use of relevant software, can help avoid the possibility of shadow flicker in the first instance. However, where shadow flicker could be a problem, developers should provide calculations to quantify the effect and where appropriate take measures to prevent or ameliorate the potential effect such as turning off a particular turbine for a certain number of hours. Without Wind Wind energy saves emissions of polluting gases because every unit of electricity produced by wind power replaces a unit of electricity generated by other means. This is usually oil or coal-fired plant, which tends to be taken "off-line" when supply exceeds demand. Nuclear and some new gas plant tend to be run continually as "base load", whenever they are available. Coal fired power stations such as Moneypoint in County Clare typically emit around 800 1000 grams of carbon dioxide for every unit (kilowatt hour) of electricity they produce. Therefore each unit of electricity produced by wind energy avoids an equivalent amount of emissions.