If your micro-power generation project is tiny, you are unlikely to have any problems with nearby residents. However, wind turbine and hydro-electric power projects are more emotive and can cause issues with installing a micro-power system.
If you are a farmer planning to install a 20-50kW wind turbine on your land, you can reasonably justify this because you will use most of the electricity you produce on the farm itself. This is particularly true if you own a dairy or poultry farm, as your electricity usage will already be considerable.
Once you go beyond 50kW sized wind turbines, it can be harder to justify your turbine purely on these grounds, and the size of the turbines become considerable. At this point, you run the risk of your project becoming the focus of more determined opposition.
Common objections of micro-power projects
Objections to micro-power projects: Noise
Noise is usually only a concern with wind turbines. Designs have vastly improved over the past ten years and continue to improve all the time. Today it is quite possible to stand underneath a modern wind turbine and hold a conversation without raising your voice.
The noise from a wind turbine comes from three different sources:
• The motion of the rotor blades as they cut through the air,
• The gearboxes inside the wind turbine that convert the low speed of the blades to high speed for the generator,
• Longwave propagation: a little resonance sound that is often undetectable to the human ear and entirely inaudible when standing next to a wind turbine, but that can resonate when it comes into contact with buildings some distance away.
Resolve the problem
All three of these noises have been reduced with the latest designs of the wind turbine. Rotor blades have been reprofiled to reduce noise, while gearboxes are now far more efficient than before or have been eliminated with new generator designs that can generate electricity from the turbine without a gearbox whatsoever.
Many older designs of wind turbines ampliﬁed the gearbox noise through the steel casing for the turbine and the tower it was mounted on. Modern designs have rectiﬁed this problem and now absorb much of the internal noise from the gearbox rather than amplifying it.
Longwave propagation is mainly a problem with the much bigger wind turbines and is not generally experienced with the smaller wind turbines discussed in this book. The industry is resolving this problem using noise cancellation technologies.
Another way to resolve the problem with long-wave propagation is to plant a row of semi-mature trees and bushes between the wind turbines and nearby buildings. This breaks up the sound waves, so they do not cause the resonation in the ﬁrst place. Take care, however, that the trees are far enough away from the wind turbine so that it does not affect the performance of the system.
Objections to micro-power projects: Aesthetics
I am always a little bemused by people complaining about a wind turbine being ugly. They are comparing it to the elegance, majesty, and beauty of a coal-fired power station?
The wind turbines elegant and graceful, but I can appreciate that they do have an impact on the landscape and that areas of outstanding natural beauty are not enhanced by installing fifty or sixty wind turbines on it.
People love the countryside, and plonking a wind turbine in the middle of a pastoral scene isn’t going to go unnoticed. A 50kW wind turbine has a 9 meters length blade and stands on a tower that is either 24 meters or 3 6.5 meters tall. That is not too bad, but scale that up to a 5ookW system, and the blades are around 28 meters in length, standing on a tower that can be up to 90 meters tall! If you are going to install a large wind turbine, or if you are proposing a wind farm with half a dozen wind turbines, you are going to get objections because of the aesthetics.
Reduce the visual impact of with aesthetics
You can reduce the visual impact with aesthetics: instead of bright white, many wind turbines are now available in grey, which reduces the contrast between the wind turbine and the sky. Towers do not need to be white, either. You can have a tower with the lower section painted dark green or brown and the upper section in blue or grey to help the tower blend in better.
Aesthetics also matter for hydro-power as well. Micro-power in hydro-electric terms relates to systems of up to 100kW peak output, which can be quite sizeable. As many streams and rivers are picturesque, how well the system blends into the landscape may be an essential factor.
People don’t like to install micro-power installation in their backyard
If people decide they don’t want a wind turbine, hydro-power or a solar farm in their vicinity, you often end up with lots of entirely inaccurate claims being made to discredit your plans. Some people have even had objections for even small 4-6kW wind turbines that are creating electricity for their smallholding or rural business.
In my experience, people who start coming up with these claims do have some legitimate concerns and worries about your project, but instead of saying what they are, they make general objections to wind turbines, gleaned from the internet, which is often inaccurate or entirely irrelevant to your project.
The majority of concerns are related to wind turbine projects. If you are only erecting a wind turbine to provide sufficient power for a household or a small farm, telling people that this is the case is usually enough to persuade people that your plans have merit. To the uninitiated, even a low power wind turbine looks large, and people may fear that you are going to destroy their landscape with dozens of enormous wind turbines.
Some information that can help you for installing your wind turbine
If you are planning on installing a large wind turbine, or a series of wind turbines, then you are going to have a lengthy planning process, and you may get a lot of resistance from local people. If, on the other hand, you are constructing one wind turbine for your power production, you are unlikely to have signiﬁcant problems with planning, so long as your wind turbine is suitably sited, and if you are prepared to make a few some concessions along the way to reduce legitimate concerns from residents.
Having answers ready for the nay-Sayers and then moving on to ask questions about their speciﬁc concerns and ﬁnding ways to accommodate them is constructive. Don’t focus on the negatives. Instead, highlight the beneﬁts of locally produced, green electricity and ﬁnd means of resolving any legitimate concerns.
Micro-power Frequently Asked Questions
Renewable energy resources don’t make enough energy to make it worthwhile
It depends what you mean by worthwhile. As a micro-generator, you’re not trying to change the whole world. A 20-50kW wind turbine produces enough electricity to provide all the power for a farm, with some to spare. With the current desire of many people to buy local produce, surely it makes sense for the farmers to harvest the wind to produce local energy as well?
Renewable energy sources are financed by our taxes. Why should we pay?
True, subsidies are available, but not necessarily from taxes. Nuclear, oil, gas, and coal ﬁred taxes regularly bankroll power stations. For example, when a new power station is built, it is often with government-backed loans and grants that can easily run into hundreds of millions in tax-payers money. In the case of most renewable energy projects, there are usually no up-front grants or loans. Instead, you are paid by power companies for the energy you produce through a feed-in tariff. You also earn renewable energy credits -in the United Kingdom- which can be sold to energy providers who are not providing sufficient green energy of their own. This money is paid by the power companies themselves, which means there is little or no subsidies being paid for through government funding.