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- Are wind turbines better than other renewable energy sources?
The Sustainable Development Commission has established that wind turbines are one of the most efficient of all renewable energy sources. The ideal situation is where several forms of renewable energy work in tandem with one another, as this way we are more likely to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels. However, geographical limitations mean that many forms of renewable energy are suited to only certain parts of the world. The UK is especially well suited to wind power development, as it is the windiest country in Europe.
- What happens when the wind stops blowing?
Wind farms can produce energy when wind speeds are as low as 10mph. Given this, the Sustainable Development Commission has found that wind turbines in the UK operate up to 70-85% of the time. When the wind is blowing, grid connected generation plants do not need to operate at full capacity and in this way windfarms offset the emissions of that plant. When the wind stops there is capacity in the system to take up the slack. This process is predictable and manageable by the grid operating companies to ensure we have one of the most reliable electricity supply network in the world.
- Are wind turbines noisy?
Well-designed wind turbines are generally quiet in operation, and compared to the noise of road traffic, trains, aircraft and construction activities, to name but a few, the noise from wind turbines is very low. At distances of about 300m the sound of a wind turbine generating electricity is likely to be about the same level as being inside a typical living room with a gas fire switched on, or the reading room of a library or in an unoccupied, quiet, air-conditioned office. There are strict guidelines in place regarding noise emissions from windfarms to ensure the protection of residential amenity and Force 9 Energy design all its windfarm developments with those guidelines mind.
- Do wind turbines emit low frequency noise?
Some people have expressed concern over the low frequency noise (sound that cannot be heard) generated by wind turbines. There is always low frequency noise present in any quiet background, which is produced by a variety of man-made sources, such as transport, and natural sources, such as the sea. As a result of these concerns, a study by DEFRA was undertaken. The results led the author, Dr Geoff Leventhall, to categorically state that "there is no significant infrasound" from modern wind turbines.
- Are wind turbines dangerous to birds or other wildlife?
The RSPB indicates that as long as a wind farm is situated appropriately, it will not pose a significant hazard to birds. As part of the environmental impact assessment which is carried out on all of our wind turbine developments, Force 9 consults with relevant statutory consultees, the RSPB and where appropriate other environmental charities, to make sure that the impact on wildlife is minimal.
- Why can't all wind turbines be put out to sea?
Onshore wind turbines are currently more economical then offshore wind turbines. Offshore wind farms also take considerably longer to develop and require a significant maintenance regime once operational. Given these factors, it would be impractical at the present time to place all wind farms offshore. As the technology develops, offshore windfarms are likely to become more competitive, but on-shore wind will always be cheaper, quicker to deploy and easier to maintain.
- Are wind farms efficient?
Wind turbine engineers do not design turbines to run at full capacity for the whole year. Imagine the miles that would be covered by a car if it was operated at full power for a whole year. Energy is captured from the wind by the blades of the rotor and converted into electricity by the generator inside the turbine. In the same way that a car has an engine that is much more powerful than it requires most of the time, a wind turbine has a generator that is more powerful than is required. The reason for this is to allow the energy from a wide variety of wind speeds to be converted. If a smaller generator was installed inside the turbine then, at times when the wind speed was higher, the excess energy, which the generator was not powerful enough to convert, would be wasted.
- Will energy generated from a development provide direct electricity for the local community?
The whole of the UK electricity system is one integrated system. Electricity is not like gas or water where theoretically it would be possible to follow individual molecules and see where they end up. We all obtain our electricity from the national grid; and power stations and indeed wind farms across the country feed into this process.
- Will a nearby wind turbine affect the value of my home?
One of the most renowned studies on the effect of wind farms on house prices was undertaken in 2007 by Oxford Brookes University, on behalf of the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) concluded that "proximity to a windfarm simply was not an issue." Estate agents in the case study areas analysed reported that there were generally other factors that had a more significant effect on property prices than a wind farm.
- Will the wind turbines interfere with my tv/radio reception?
It is possible for wind turbines to affect the signal received by televisions and radios, although with the advent of digital signals such an effect is likely to be rare. However, these effects can be resolved, and, Force 9 Energy would always survey signal strength at properties at risk before and after installation of any windfarm and would fix any problems caused by the wind farm.
- How do you measure the capacity factor for each turbine?
The capacity factor is a measure of the amount of energy that a wind turbine produces in a year compared to the amount that it would produce if it operated at full power all year. It will vary according to the ratio of the diameter of the blades to the size of the generator and the average wind speed. Capacity factor can also be increased by putting larger turbine blades on smaller generators.