Lack of wind farm benefits decried
Communities in Northern Ireland do not feel they are benefiting enough from wind farms in their area, a report has said.
The creation of community turbines should be investigated so people living nearby exercise some control over the project, the study for the Chartered Institute for Environmental Health suggested.
While Northern Ireland is ideally placed to exploit some of the best wind resources in the European Union, concerns have been expressed in the past about noise or spoiling areas of scenic beauty. There are 28 onshore wind farms in Northern Ireland.
Gary McFarlane, director of the institute, said: "The lack of perceived benefits from the required community fund and the need for greater opportunities to be made available through community ownership is a major area of concern."
In Wales community turbines have been created, where the hosts benefit from wind energy installations and local people can exercise a degree of control.
Other findings of the 42-page report, produced by the University of Ulster and centred on residents in two sites in Northern Ireland, included that 85% of those asked said they had not been affected at all after the development of a wind farm;
A tenth had concerns about noise prior to installation but less than 2% reported being affected by it, and almost half felt cheaper energy for their local area should be a benefit from having a wind farm nearby.
Mr McFarlane added: "Despite the perception that wind farms present challenges for host communities, these concerns are far removed from the realities with the findings highlighting that the experience of living in close proximity to operational wind farms largely reduces or mitigates any previous anxieties or fears."
The number of wind farms in Northern Ireland is set to grow, with the Executive aiming to maximise the amount of electricity generated from renewable sources to reduce carbon emissions and contribute to the 40% renewable electricity target by 2020.