Unlocking small scale wind
The planning regulations for onshore wind need to be amended to make deployment of smaller, locally-owned turbines more straightforward. While the Government has made some efforts to do so, the issue of what counts as community consent has not been clearly defined, and in particular there is a lack of clarity over what level and type of objections should be allowed to block a development.
Currently the only small-scale wind turbines allowed under permitted development rights are restricted to a maximum height of 11.1m and rotor diameter of 2m. Very little commercially-available equipment can meet these limitations. 11.1m is very small by comparison to the largest onshore turbines, which may be 120-150m high, yet most of the available small and medium-sized turbines are covered by the same complex planning rules for large-scale onshore wind farm developments, which can be halted by a single objection.
Small-scale wind can play a vital role in community energy projects and for providing energy to rural homes, farms and small businesses to help reduce their energy costs. We also know that onshore wind is one of the cheapest forms of electricity generation, with a typical annual output profile that complements solar power, by generating energy at night and through the cold, dark winter months.
We are asking that, under permitted development, the height limit for small-scale wind be increased from 11.1m to 30m, with the blade length less than 8m long. This modest increase in height for small-scale wind is urgently needed, and would mean turbines would be only a little taller than a mature oak tree, which is around 25m in height. We note that existing permitted development rights for mobile phone masts were amended last year to allow up to 30 metres height in non-protected areas and up to 25 metres in protected areas (such as conservation areas and national parks).
Enabling a low-carbon energy supply and reducing energy bills is vitally important for farmers, small businesses and rural communities. Single small wind turbines can complement on-site solar PV generation. They can contribute to critical national infrastructure and help relieve pressure on the grid in remote rural areas, where grid upgrades to provide for a transition to a low carbon economy would be particularly costly.
We are proposing that the Department for Levelling-up, Housing and Communities change the height and rotor size limits under permitted development for single small-scale wind turbines. We hope you can help encourage the government to consult on such changes, for the benefit of community energy projects, farmers, and small-to-medium sized enterprises (SMEs) and the many rural communities that suffer with fuel poverty.
Send our letter here to your MP and to the Rt Hon Michael Gove MP, Secretary of State responsible for planning, asking that rules around small-scale wind are changed, so that the height can be increased to a maximum of 30m with permitted development rights for farmers and community energy projects.
Small scale wind statistics
Max current turbine height
Max current rotar diameter
Proposed max turbine height
Proposed max blade length