Sunday, 31 January 2010

Permitted Development for domestic wind turbines mooted in Scotland

According to the BBC, homeowners in Scotland may soon be allowed to put wind turbines up to 3m high and 3.5m in diameter on their roofs without planning permission, under permitted development rules. Free-standing wind turbines as tall as 11m and at least 100m from neighbouring properties could also be allowed, except in conservation areas. Air-source heat pumps would also be allowed, even in conservation areas, if they were invisible from the road.

The proposals are due to be launched next Friday as part of an ongoing consultation on renewable energy.

Climate change minister Stewart Stevenson claims the proposals strike the right balance in the best interests of Scotland, claiming: "By cutting red tape in the planning system we can make it easier for households to generate their own clean, green energy." He argued that the proposals will boost Scotland's renewables sector, potentially generating new jobs.

There's still considerable controversy about the carbon efficiency of small scale wind turbines, with fears that they may not be able to save enough carbon during their operational life to repay the carbon debt incurred in their manufacture. And many urban sites will not have sufficient airflow to operate the turbines effectively. The plans do allow anemometer masts, which measure wind speed, on roofs and in gardens, for a maximum of 12 months, but it's possible that many homeowners will skip this step to reduce the expense.

Relaxing planning restrictions on renewables is generally a positive step, but much better information on the relative efficiency of different systems is essential to avoid people investing in sytems which, despite their good intentions, don't reduce carbon emissions.

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