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How does a wind turbine make electricity?Open

Turbines operate like a fan in reverse. Most wind turbines have three blades orientated to face the wind and on larger turbines turn slowly at around 10 – 20 revolutions per minute.

How long does it take for a turbine to pay back the energy used to produce it?Open

The average wind farm in the UK will pay back the energy used in its construction with 4-7 months and over its lifetime the wind turbine will produce over 30 times more energy than used in its manufacture. On average, a wind turbine will operate for approximately 20-25 years before being decommissioned. In terms of financial pay back, if you purchase a wind turbine outright, the pay back is estimated at 5-7 years and is dependant on a number of factors such as, wind speed and turbine size.

How much of the time are wind turbines producing electricity?Open

A modern wind turbine produces electricity 70-75% of the time depending on the wind in a particular site.

Will a wind farm affect birds?Open

The RSPB (Royal Society for the Protection of Birds) supports renewable energy because it is helping to mitigate climate change. It states “we have not so far witnessed any major adverse effects on birds associated with wind farms.”

 All of the evidence currently available indicates that appropriately positioned wind farms do not cause a significant hazard for birds.

Wind Energy Scotland would always undertake appropriate surveys and consultation before proposing a new wind farm development.

What about the noise wind turbines make?Open

Modern wind turbines are remarkably quiet, and are specifically designed to keep noise to a minimum. All wind farm noise assessments are undertaken using the methodology developed for the Department of Trade & Industry (DTI) and published in 'The Working Group on Noise from Wind Turbines (1996): Assessment and Rating of Noise from Wind Farms' (ETSU-R-97). Noise levels are considered in the overall planning process for wind farms, and permissible noise levels at nearby dwellings are controlled by strict guidelines to ensure residents are not disturbed.

What about infrasound - low frequency noise affecting health?Open

A report undertaken by the DTi in 1997, 'Low Frequency Noise and Vibrations at a Modern Wind Farm' (ETSU W/13/00392/REP), comprehensively assessed the vibrations from wind turbines and concluded that:

  • Vibration levels decrease rapidly with distance;
  • There was no clear increase in vibration with wind speed;
  • Levels were 10 times lower than the safety requirements for modern laboratories 100 metres away from the turbine. Subsequent studies have shown that levels of infrasound from wind turbines are substantially below the strongest levels known to have any effect on humans or structures.

It should also be noted that there are other sources of infrasound in the modern world - cars and other road traffic, aircraft, trains, factories, combustion, mining and quarrying and compressors and pumps, as well as domestic appliances like fridges, air conditioning and fans, sound systems and television sets. Infrasound also occurs in the natural environment through wind, the sea and storms for example.

Doesn't the back-up power required when the wind stops blowing mean that the CO2 saving is wiped out?Open

This rather bizarre claim is increasingly commonly made by anti-wind campaigners, this is not correct. The national grid needs back-up regardless of wind power because it is needed for all forms of energy generation to cover unexpected peaks in demand.

Only when there is a very large capacity of wind on the system (above 10%) will the variability of the wind become noticeable over the normal variation on the system.

Do wind turbines spoil the landscape?Open

This is very subjective, as while some people express concern about wind turbines on the landscape, others see them as graceful and a sign of a less polluted future.

In comparison to other energy developments like nuclear, coal and gas power stations, or open cast mining: wind farms have relatively little visual impact.

Wind energy is one of the most environmentally benign ways of producing the electricity we need to power our daily lives. If we don't switch to cleaner forms of energy, climate change will severely and irrevocably alter much of our landscape, as well as the animal and plant life it contains.

What happens when the wind stops blowing?Open

Wind turbines only operate when the wind blows. At the moment, when the wind stops blowing, electricity continues to be provided by other forms of generation. Scotland is the windiest country in Europe, so we have a massive resource waiting to be used. And in the future, all our electricity could come from a mix of complementary renewable sources - balancing wind power with wave, tidal, solar and biomass.

Can wind meet all our electricity needs?Open

At the moment, wind meets less than 1% of the UK's electricity needs, but the UK wind resource is enormous. The DTI calculates that onshore wind could theoretically meet 80% of our current electricity demand, and that the offshore wind resource could supply 10 times our needs.

Do wind farms affect house prices?Open

There is no evidence to date to show a negative trend in property values amongst properties close to wind farms. According to the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, there are no studies that suggest prices are influenced either way, but at Nympsfield in Gloucestershire, house prices continued to gain after plans for the turbine were announced in 1992 and have continued to rise since the turbine began operating in 1997.

Isn't energy efficiency just as important?Open

Energy efficiency is essential - it is the other half of the solution to meeting the UK's energy demands. Decreasing electricity demand can deliver immediate benefits both in terms of carbon reductions and energy security. It is also one of the cheapest short term solutions since efficiency in energy use usually also saves on costs.

For more on energy efficiency see:

Does wind farming affect tourism?Open

There is no evidence to suggest that wind farms deter tourists, indeed many wind farms are themselves tourist attractions.

In Scotland a MORI poll was undertaken in 2002 regarding wind farms in the Argyll area. 80% of tourists said they would be interested in visiting a wind farm if it were open to the public with a visitor centre.

How can wind energy benefit Scotland?Open

It will benefit the economy. Scotland has a strong supply chain and has taken advantage of its oil and gas experience and success. The Government and other sources are providing funding and support to diversify into wind energy as they have recognised its importance. Ultimately wind energy in Scotland is creating thousands of skilled jobs as well as a reputation for manufacturing and engineering expertise.

The Scottish Government’s Routemap up to 2020, states that renewables in Scotland could provide:

  • Up to 40,000 jobs and £30b investment to the Scottish economy
  • Significant displacement and reduction in carbon emissions
  • A strengthening of future energy security through the harnessing of sustainable indigenous resources
  • A transformational opportunity for local ownership and benefits.

More information is available on

Why is Scotland a good location for a wind farm?Open

Scotland is one of the windiest countries in Europe.

The use of wind power is dramatically increasing and Government has a legally binding obligation to ensure that 15 per cent of the UK’s energy is from renewable sources by 2020.

The Scottish Government aims for Scotland to generate the equivalent of 100 per cent of its own electricity demands from renewable sources by 2020.

Scotland is ideally located to become a major supplier of renewable power to the rest of Europe. With over 25 percent of Europe’s wind resource Scotland has the potential to produce vast amounts of clean, sustainable energy. Once developed, our massive wind energy capacity of 159 GW far outstrips our own peak requirement of 10.5 GW.

The Scottish Government is strongly committed to developing Scotland’s unique position in the renewable energy sector and Scotland offers your renewable energy company a welcoming investment environment and a range of financial incentives for inward investment.

Ambitious targets to produce the equivalent of 100 per cent of Scotland's own electricity demand from renewable resources by 2020 and to cut carbon emissions by 80 percent by 2050 are in place.

Scotland's 100% renewables target is the most ambitious in the European Union. Meeting 100% of its electricity consumption from renewables in 2020 means that, together with its 11% renewable heat and 10% renewable transport targets, Scotland's overall share of renewable energy will be at least 30% by 2020. This exceeds the EU's and the Country’s ambition is clear - that with the largest offshore renewable energy resources in the EU (25% of EU offshore wind; 25% of EU tidal; and 10% of EU wave power), Scotland will be making an even greater contribution to the EU's overall target than its population size.

Scotland has developed clear links with its neighbouring Governments in Ireland, Northern Ireland and across the North Sea to promote the development of offshore grid connections to harness the vast renewable energy potential of the North and Irish Seas. The Scottish Government is pleased that the EU has now recognised these offshore grids as priority infrastructure projects, and will work with Governments and industry to ensure deployment can take place rapidly over the next decade.

How much power can be generated by wind in the EU?Open

The EU power sector continues its move away from fuel oil and coal with each technology continuing to decommission more than it installs. The wind power capacity currently installed in the EU would produce in an average year enough electricity to cover the 8% of the EU’s electricity consumption.