RES participated in the BBC documentary Windfarm Wars, which
follows the development and planning of Den Brook wind farm over a
number of years. The film shows the detailed process that wind farm
applications have to go through, often with costly legal challenges
and delays. It tells an interesting story about the debate that
surrounds the development of renewable energy in the UK - the
choices we have to make when balancing changes to the local
landscape with addressing big issues like climate change and
keeping the lights on.
We went to great lengths to consult openly and widely with the local community to develop a good, low-impact project with minimal impacts that could bring important economic and environmental benefits.
Since the BBC programme Windfarm Wars has been aired we have had some people asking us why we did not release the raw noise data for Den Brook Wind Farm. We would like to provide some more information on the matter of noise data to help answer these questions.
Every wind farm that we develop is subject to an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA). As part of the EIA process we undertake a period of noise monitoring to assess the background noise levels at a selection of properties nearest to the proposed wind farm and these noise monitoring locations are agreed in advance with the local planning authority. Typically the noise monitoring takes place over 6 - 8 weeks and is recorded 24 hours a day to ensure that we have an accurate record of both the day and night background noise levels. This generates large volumes of raw data which is then assessed by our independent acousticians and forms the basis of the information presented in the Environmental Statement.
In 2005, during the early stages of development for Den Brook, it was our policy not to make the raw data available. This was standard across the industry as developers identified that there was a real risk of the data being misinterpreted unless the underlying acoustic data was analysed by professionals who are experienced and qualified to do so.
When we submitted the planning application for Den Brook we plotted the background noise data in the Environment Statement so the results could be easily understood and interpreted by everyone viewing the document. The Planning Inspector did not request the raw data to be presented to the inquiry as it is the output contained within the Environmental Statement that determines the noise limits to be applied. This is common across all wind farm applications and indeed for other forms of development too.
At RES, we have always been happy to send the raw data to any independent noise experts, regardless of whether they are for or against the proposal and we have done this in the past on other wind farm projects. We also offered to make the data available to the planning authority in 2005 as you will have seen during Episode 1 of the documentary. In 2008 we reviewed our policy and decided that in the interests of openness we would release all raw data in electronic format for all of our projects. This includes both wind data and noise data and it is available to anyone who requests it, as long as it is not used for commercial purposes. We made this decision because we have nothing to hide.
After RES released the data for Den Brook we asked for the equivalent data from the group appearing against us at the 2nd Public Inquiry. Our requests were consistently refused. However, the day before the second Public Inquiry started we received a very small sample of data without any of the detail needed for analysis.
The Den Brook noise data has been scrutinised over two public inquiries and both Planning Inspectors found that our proposal would not have a negative effect on neighbouring residents and that any noise generated by the wind farm would be minimal and well within the ETSU-R-97 guidelines.
The current position still remains that we release all raw data in electronic form to anyone who wants it. At Den Brook, we released the data 3 years ago but yet the campaign to stop the wind farm continues regardless.
We have produced a number of short videos about the Den Brook Wind Farm, which you can view on our You Tube channel: www.youtube.com/denbrookwf