The UK government has unveiled a new planning guidance which will allow local communities to have more decision-making power over the construction of onshore wind farms.
The government will make pre-application consultation with local communities compulsory for large onshore wind applications.
This will ensure that community engagement takes place at an earlier stage in more cases and may assist in improving the quality of proposed onshore wind development, the government said.
The package of measures will also include a five-fold increase in the value of community benefits paid by developers to communities situated near onshore wind farms.
New planning guidance will requires developers to pay £5,000 per MW of installed capacity from the current £1,000 per MW for the lifetime of the wind farm.
Communities agreeing to a medium-sized 20MW wind farm could receive a package of benefits worth £100,000 per year or up to £400 a year off each household’s annual bill.
A scheme run by wind farm company RES at its Meikle Carewe operation near Aberdeen will see local residents receive a £122 reduction in their annual electricity bills.
UK Energy and Climate Change Secretary Edward Davey said: "It is important that onshore wind is developed in a way that is truly sustainable – economically, environmentally and socially, and the announcement will ensure that communities see the windfall from hosting developments near to them, not just the wind farm.
"We remain committed to the deployment of appropriately sited onshore wind, as a key part of a diverse, low-carbon and secure energy mix and committed to an evidence-based approach to supporting low carbon power."
Energy Minister Michael Fallon said: "Today, we are putting local people at the heart of decision making on onshore wind.
"We are changing the balance to ensure that they are consulted earlier and have more say against poorly sited or inadequately justified turbines.
"When new turbines are agreed, we will ensure that they are developed in a way that benefits the local community, such as through cheaper energy bills," Fallon added.
Trade association RenewableUK has welcomed the new planning guidance and said it will work closely with the government and local communities to ensure that they share more of the economic benefits of wind energy.
RenewableUK chief executive Maria McCaffery said: "This guidance from government will help to shape the way our industry engages with local people even more closely in the future.
"Developing wind farms requires a significant amount of investment to be made upfront.
"Adding to this cost, by following the Government’s advice that we should pay substantially more into community funds for future projects, may unfortunately make some onshore wind energy developments uneconomic in England, so they will not go ahead and that is very disappointing," McCaffery added.
Image: The UK is planning to increase the power generating capacity of onshore wind farms to 13GW by 2020. Photo: Courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net.