Land Required for a Wind Farm – What Landowners Should Know
|Topic: New wind farm projects||Read Time: 10 mins|
| Landowner type:|
Independent landowners | Institutional landowners
|Energy: Onshore wind|
If you’re a landowner, you might be trying to find information about the land required for a wind farm. Whether you’re curious about acreage, wind speeds, or planning permission, we’ve got all the answers right here!
It’s no secret that wind power is having its moment in the spotlight as the UK attempts to move toward a greener future.
And when you look at the moving blades of your average wind turbine?Well, it’s hard to believe that there’s a complex orchestration of planning, design, and engineering that goes into each one.
Although it’s easy to think that any large expanse of land would be suitable for a wind farm, it’s not quite that simple. Instead, starting a wind farm is a multi-faceted endeavour that involves scoping land, assessing the environment, and getting the support of local authorities.
For those reasons, the land required for a wind farm is about more than just impressive acreage!
In this in-depth article, we’ll head on a journey through the intricate landscape of wind farm development in the UK. We’ll cover everything from the space you’ll need for turbines to getting grid access. So, if you’re trying to become an environmental steward (or earn extra income) by putting a project on your land – just stick with us.
How Much Land Is Needed for Wind Turbines?
In simple terms, the amount of land required for a wind farm largely depends on the size and scale of your project. The average commercial wind turbine requires approximately 1.5 acres of land for the turbine itself. While it’s being constructed and installed, the land required for a wind turbine can be anything from 25-40 acres. When you consider that a typical wind farm requires between 2 to 40 acres per megawatt of capacity, we can get an idea of the overall acreage you’d need.
Take Scout Moor Wind Farm as an example. This site in northwest England occupies 1,347 acres of open moorland and has a total nameplate capacity of 65MW. That comes out at just over 20 acres per megawatt of capacity which falls within the boundaries of our original calculation.
If we look at the bigger picture, we can see that the land required for a wind farm is minimal compared to the UK’s overall land mass. The Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit also recently found that land affected by onshore wind farms could be as little as 0.02% of the UK’s total land.
This is based on the UK expanding to a 45-gigawatt capacity by 2035 (though this is being hampered by current onshore wind restrictions!). This would still leave over 99% of the UK’s land available for farming, wildlife, or housing.
When you consider that not all farmland is productive or arable, hosting a wind farm on your property seems like a decent trade-off!
Although you might have all the land required for a wind turbine, you need to make sure your land is suitable. So, let’s look more closely at the specific requirements for a wind farm.
Requirements for a Wind Farm: Does Your Land Measure Up?
If a developer is looking at the land required for a wind farm, they’ll need to focus on wind speeds. Any potential wind farm in the UK will need average wind speeds of at least 6 metres per second (m/s). If a site has speeds of 7 m/s it would be deemed exceptional, but some sites hitting 5.5 m/s are sometimes considered. But the acceptable and most common number is 6!
If you simply don’t have the land required for a wind farm acreage-wise, you probably won’t get very far. For obvious reasons, you’ll need to have the appropriate land size available to host a commercial wind farm. And that includes enough land to build access roads, support construction vehicles, and host the turbines long-term. Smaller wind farms will naturally need less space to flourish (and the same goes for lower megawatt turbines, too!). But if you’re hosting several 3.5MW turbines, you’ll need a large plot of land to do so.
Location and proximity to nearby properties
Obtaining planning permission in the UK is a tricky business, and you need to jump through several hoops along the way. Now, planning permission restrictions are different across England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland. But each region has minimum distance requirements relating to residential properties.
In England, a turbine’s height plus 10% is the distance that it needs to be placed from the boundary of your property. You’ll also need to make sure that the highest part of any turbine blade doesn’t exceed 11.1 metres.
Most grouped turbines (so, wind farms) also need to have a separation distance of 3 to 4 rotor diameters between turbines in Scotland. These restrictions mean that the land required for a wind farm can bump up significantly (if you get planning permission!).
Planning permission and local support
Speaking of planning permission, getting community support and having an active and involved local authority is crucial. Although this isn’t necessarily about the land required for a wind farm in strict terms, these parties are crucial when building a wind farm.
For a start, the local authorities are expected to signpost areas that are appropriate for wind farm development. But unfortunately, the current national planning policy is making it incredibly difficult to build new projects.
In fact, new wind farm projects won’t be considered acceptable by 89% of local authorities, which creates a significant roadblock. If you don’t believe us, we discovered from our own findings that only 14% of rural councils had identified suitable areas for wind development. And, this is a huge issue as for any wind turbines to be considered, councils need to at least consider suitable areas.
If this hasn’t been done, any progress in the area will be halted. So, developers certainly have their work cut out for them in this respect. It’s also important to remember that planning permission rules will vary based on your location.
Planning permission for new turbines in England is currently on hold as there is currently a major halt on onshore wind projects. Building continues in other areas, but England is seriously lagging behind.
In Scotland, planning permission is always required for a turbine unless it’s a domestic wind turbine allowed under permitted development. In this part of the country, the local authority also needs to approve the design and size of any proposed turbines.
Wales and Northern Ireland
In Wales and Northern Ireland, development is only permitted for wind turbines if the installation complies with the Microgeneration Certification Scheme Planning Standards. As planning permission can be quite specific in both of these regions, it’s always worth checking in with your local planning authority.
Quality of land
It may not be something you’ve ever thought about, but the land required for a wind farm relies a lot on soil quality. If you’re wondering what we mean, just stick with us.
The weight of an average 1.5 MW turbine is around 164 tons, with towers alone weighing 71 tons. If the soil is too soft or degraded, it simply won’t be able to support the foundations required to hold the turbine steady. It’s also worth mentioning that areas underlain by a deep peat resource should be avoided for wind farm development. And that’s largely because there would simply be too much damage to fragile habitats and a loss of carbon storage in these areas.
So, it’s a non-starter.
A Science Direct study found that 94.5% of the total available land for turbine development in Scotland is brown earth and podzol. Other chosen soils include alluvial soils, calcareous soils, and ground-water gleys. The soil type won’t usually make or break a potential project as wind speeds are typically more important. But it’s certainly something to consider!
Power grid access
Electricity generation and transmission don’t just happen – it all requires a connection to the National Grid. For that reason, a site that already has access to the grid will always be favoured by developers. And that’s because connecting to the grid can be a long and arduous process filled with delays.
Part of this is down to a major backlog in the system, and part of it is down to how complex a particular wind project is. Believe it or not, some renewable energy project de
Access for work vehicles
When you’re looking at the land required for a wind farm, you need to make sure it can support access roads. Sure, the size and scale of the turbines themselves will take up decent acreage. But many local authorities will require the construction of proper access roads for the site which can take up a lot of land. The exact acreage required will vary from authority to authority – but heavy construction vehicles are rarely small!
My Land Meets the Requirements for a Wind Farm – What Now?
If you’re still unsure about the land required for a wind farm and aren’t quite sure whether your property is up to scratch – don’t be! All relevant checks of your land will be carried out by a developer (unless you’re self-financing as a landowner-developer). In most cases, developers will approach you based on previous checks they’ve already undertaken on your land. And that’s because developers handpick properties based on their soil quality, acreage, and wind speeds. So, if a developer approaches you, you’ve probably already fallen into their shortlist of suitable sites for wind development.
Once you’ve been approached, you can expect the following things to happen:
- The developer will carry out further checks on your land to confirm its suitability (known as a feasibility study).
- The developer may offer an option agreement to reserve your land for a wind project while they seek planning permission and regulatory approvals.
- You’ll discuss a watertight lease for the project by consulting with experts.
- They’ll engage with local communities and stakeholders to gather input and address any concerns relating to the project. They may even check in with your neighbours to gauge their opinion on the wind farm.
- They’ll secure grid connection agreements.
- Developers will create an environmental impact strategy to mitigate potential environmental and wildlife impacts.
- They’ll order and manufacture the turbines and secure any necessary equipment. This is also when you’ll work with your developer to sort access roads, foundations, and cabling.
- Once the turbines are assembled, they’ll be tested to ensure proper functioning and compliance with local safety standards.
- Developers will secure Power Purchase Agreements utilities or buyers to sell the generated electricity.
- The developer will discuss a maintenance plan with you and the site operator to keep the turbines in tip-top shape.
- The developer will eventually decommission the turbines at the end of the project, but this isn’t something you’ll be worrying about for around 25 years.
If you’re even remotely unsure about the wind farm building process, feel free to check in with your developer. Any developer worth their salt will be happy to field any questions a landowner has during this process.
What Are Landowners Paid for Wind Turbines?
If a landowner is leasing land for wind turbines, site operators will usually pay them via a preapproved payment arrangement. There are several different payment arrangements that landowners can choose from, ranging from fixed payments to hybrid forms. The type you choose will depend entirely on your projected involvement in the project and your risk appetite. Luckily for you, we’ve rounded up every type of payment arrangement available to landowners to help you pick the right option.
In terms of figures, it’s impossible to pinpoint an exact sum as payments will depend on the amount of land leased, the output of the site, and various other factors.
The average 3.5MW turbine can make up to £7,100,000 a year, but this won’t all trickle down to the landowner. In our experience, landowners usually get around 20% of the overall income from the project. This, of course, depends on the payment arrangement you choose, but that tends to be the general ballpark sum
We hope that this in-depth article has helped you figure out the land required for a wind farm!
As you can see, figuring out the kind of land required for a wind farm is quite an undertaking! The general takeaway is that you’ll need decent wind speeds, a cooperative local authority, and suitable soil. But it’s also important to remember that a pre-existing connection to the grid and enough access for work vehicles can clinch the deal.
If you’re even remotely unsure about the steps you’ll need to host a wind farm on your land, just get in touch. Our experts will guide you using our innovative SiteStart(™) service and make sure you’re getting fairly compensated for leasing your land. Talk about starting on the right foot.
Landowners often ask us about clearance distances and planning permission. So, if you’re curious about these topics, we’ve rounded up a couple of frequently asked questions for you.
How much clearance does a wind turbine need?
In general, a wind turbine should be at a distance that’s at least ten times the height of the highest obstacle (usually the rotor blades).
How close can a wind turbine be to a house in the UK?
The typical distance between commercial turbines and the nearest residential property in Northern Ireland and Wales is usually 500 m to avoid excessive noise. In England, there is no official separation distance, but councils usually suggest 350 m. In Scotland, the councils give a 2km separation distance as a guide but not a rule.
Do I need planning permission for a wind turbine in my garden?
Permitted development in England includes a standalone wind turbine if you don’t already have an Air Source Heat Pump installed.