European Setbacks (minimum distance between wind turbines and habitations)

Windmills must be situated at a minimum distance of 4 × their height away from habitation. If the windmill is erected closer than 6 × its height, an estimation is carried out free of charge regarding the depreciation of the property value. If the loss is more than 1%, full compensation of the loss in property value is paid out. If the property is situated farther away than 6 × the height of the windmill, 4,000 DKK is payable to have an evaluation of the loss in value carried out. If it is estimated that the depreciation is more than 1%, the loss in value of the property is paid out and the 4,000 DKK reimbursed. If it is estimated that there is no loss in value of the property, the 4,000 DKK is forfeited. Owners of windmills have to pay the compensation.

350 metres (1,148 feet) in theory (stated in draft legislation, but never voted). In practice the developers avoid problems by making it no closer than 500 m (1,640 ft), although many turbines are as close as 150 m (492 ft).

There are no regulations on setbacks from wind turbine. In practice: 400 m to 800 m (1,312-2,625 ft).

No regulations. I suppose the courts would enforce the laws on noise levels, but the experts invariably seem to show up on days with little wind, and of course never at night. In a court case, the previous owners of a house were condemned to compensate the buyers because they had not disclosed the windfarm project affecting the house: “District Judge Buckley decided that this amounted to ‘material misrepresentation’ and ordered the Holdings to pay compensation of 20 per cent of the market value of the house in 1997, £12,500, plus interest, because of damage to visual amenity, noise pollution and the ‘irritating flickering’ caused by the sun going down behind the moving blades of the turbines 550 metres [1,804 ft] from the house.” John Etherington says: “There have been permissions as close as 350 m [1,148 ft] I think.”

On a case-by-case basis, only limited by noise legislation. The French Academy of Medicine recommends 1,500 m (4,921 ft). This is not respected, however. In practice, 500 m (1,640 ft) seems to be the minimum observed.

Different setbacks apply according to the noise level protection of the area :

– “quiet regions” [35 dB(A)]: 1,000-1,500 m (3,281-4,921 ft)
– “middle regions” [(40 dB(A)]: 600-1,000 m (1,969-3,281 ft)
– “standard region” [(45 dB(A)]: 300-600 m (984-1,969 ft)

All makes and models of wind turbines are not equally noisy, hence the lack of a precise distance. Some states have standards of their own.

Setbacks are determined by regional authorities. Some regions have defined setbacks, others don’t. Calabria and Molise: 5 × the height of the turbines (not specified if mast or total height). Basilicata: 2 km from urbanized areas. Campania: 10 × the turbine height from urbanized areas. Molise: 20 × the turbine height from urbanized areas.

In practice, they use 4 × the height of the mast of the wind turbine. This is not a legal setback. The legal setback is linked to a maximum noise level [40 dB(A)]. New limits are proposed and in discussion at this time and a possible change of setbacks is expected to become law in the middle of this year (2009).

The “Best Practice Guidance to Planning Policy Statement 18 ‘Renewable Energy’” (August 2009) states: “As a matter of best practice for wind farm development, the Department [of the Environment] will generally apply a separation distance of 10 times rotor diameter to occupied property (with a minimum distance of not less than 500m).”

The setback is 3 × the height of the mast, and this distance may be shortened with the approval of local communities but not shorter than height of the tower + length of blades + 3 meters. So far, this appears to be the European record on the nuisance scale.

On a case-by-case basis within 2 km of the edge of cities, towns, and villages (SSP6 legislation). Some people skim this and interpret it as a 2 km setback. It is nothing of the sort. The policy was adopted after the vast majority of wind proposals were submitted so does not apply to them. Another caveat: note that “cities, towns, and villages” in practice suggests probably a minimum of 3,000 or more homes. Isolated country houses, in any event, are excluded from this. Some examples:

– Bankend Rigg (awaiting approval): just over 1,000 m (3,281 ft)
– Chapelton (awaiting approval): 750 m (2,461 ft)
– Dungavel (awaiting approval): 1,000 m (3,281 ft)
– Whitelee (built): about 1,000 m (3,281 ft)
– Gathercauld Ceres (awaiting approval): 572 m (1,877 ft)
– Auchtermuchty (approved): 650 m (2,133 ft)

Addendum, April 18, 2009:  The Stop Highland Windfarms Campaign wrote to Jim Mather, Minister for Enterprise, Energy and Tourism, for clarification. In reply, the Directorate for the Built Environment wrote: “The 2km separation distance is intended to recognise that, in relation to local communities, visual impacts are likely to be a prominent feature and this should be taken into account when identifying the most suitable search areas. However, impacts will clearly vary considerably depending on the scale of projects and the proposed location. That is why SPP6 confirms that, in all instances, proposals should not be permitted if they would have a significant long term detrimental impact on the amenity of people living nearby. This principle applies to houses within and outwith 2km of the proposed development and regardless of whether they are single dwellings or part of a settlement.” Click here for a copy of the correspondence in full, by courtesy of the Caithness Windfarm Information Forum.

National: noise legislation applies. Regional: windpower policies sometimes specify a setback. Examples:

– Valencia: 1,000 m (3,281 ft) from any piece of land that may be built upon.
– Andalucia: 500 m (1,640 ft)

The only limit is the noise level [40 dB(A)]. In practice, 500 m (1,640 ft) seems to be the setback applied, but there are exceptions (350 m [1,148 ft] in one case). I am told there are regulations for shadows.

Documentation from Suisse Eole (quango promoting windfarms) mentions 300 m (984 ft) from the tip of turbine blades of a 70 m (230 ft) turbine. But each canton is still working on a clear setback policy.

See also:  “Safe setbacks: How far should wind turbines be from homes?”

This article is the work of the author(s) indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

Author:  <rel=author value=”European Platform Against Windfarms”>European Platform Against Windfarms | Europe, Health, Human rights, Noise, Ordinances, Property values, Regulations, Safety, Siting

Information provided by EPAW members and summarized by Mark Duchamp

Note from the NWW editor:  These are not necessarily good examples. For information about noise and health impacts that require a setback from homes of at least 2 kilometers (1-1/4 mile), see the NWW Noise & Health page.