Community Benefits from Wind Power
Examining the scale and nature of benefits to communities hosting wind power developments
Project duration: January 2005 to May 2005
The primary objective of this study was to provide a firm evidence base of the scale and nature of benefits flowing to communities hosting wind power developments in the UK, particularly in comparison with developments elsewhere in the EU.
This study examined a series of detailed case studies of wind power projects in the UK, Denmark, Germany, Spain and Ireland with more than 10 turbines. It also undertook a questionnaire survey of all wind power developments in the UK in the last five years before the project commenced in June 2004.
The study’s particular focus was the nature and scale of benefits available to local communities and the following aspects of a wind power project were considered in the assessment:
- involvement in the development process by local landowners, groups or individuals
- the use of locally-manufactured content
- the use of local contractors during construction
- equity share or other investment opportunity for local communities
- land rental to a local landowner
- local community facility improvements through lump sum or ‘in kind’ contribution
- revenue or profit share
- energy-related benefits (principally relevant to overseas projects)
- employment of local people in operation and maintenance provision
- education visits and school support
- visitor centres and tourist facilities
- community liaison activities (meetings, information provision, talks to groups, etc.)
In direct contrast to the UK where community benefits typically rely on voluntary cash contributions to a community fund from the project developer, the evidence from Spain, Denmark and Germany indicates that significant local benefits are effectively built into the fabric of all wind power projects. These routine benefits typically take the form of the local tax payments, jobs and economic benefits from regional manufacturing, and, for Denmark and Germany, opportunities for local ownership.
Simon Roberts, CSE Chief Executive and lead author of the study report, said; "These other countries show us the importance of making community benefits part of the fabric of wind power development. But that doesn't mean we can simply import their ideas and approaches."
The study concluded that the use of permitting systems to support local manufacturing in Spain is not consistent with the UK's strict interpretation of EU procurement rules. The dominance of Danish and German wind power industries was born out of their own historically high development activities. And UK support mechanisms for renewables have created market conditions with relatively high entry costs (and risks) making it harder for local ownership to feature.
Simon Roberts outlines a different approach; "In the UK, it makes sense to focus on perfecting approaches which are already emerging as best practice — from the quality of local community engagement to direct financial contributions and opportunities for communities to own or take ‘dividends' from projects. These are all ways of capturing for the local community at least some of the benefits of a wind project which in other countries would be accruing as a matter of course."