Wind Farm Developments

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Wind Farm Developments in Northern Ireland by Radek Chanas

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Rationale: Why is this case study interesting?

  • The wind energy can be regarded as one of the most sustainable energy resources. Wind farms actively reduce our carbon footprint and help safeguarding the existing resources for future generation. At the moment Northern Ireland is highly dependant on imported oil and coal to sustain its development. The geological history didn't provide inhabitants of this area with many fossil fuels. However it did create a unique landscape which mostly due to its elevated form, benefits from high wind speed. Those elevated landscapes are also recognised as being of high amenity value. Bare, woodless upland areas and dramatic escarpments with distant views are one of the reasons why people visit Northern Ireland. They are one of the main assets of Northern Ireland which greatly benefits from tourist industry. Those amenity value and uniqueness were recognised by the Government and protected through many national and local designations. Like everywhere else there is a great pressure from developments upon those designated landscapes. The Planning Service is very reluctant to approve any major developments within those areas. Due to their nature, wind farms can have a major impact upon the visual amenity and therefore are the subject to a long Environmental Impact Assessment process.
  • The wind farm developments are becoming more common and more acceptable form of energy. Despite the fact that they introduce a vertical, man-made aspect into an open, rural landscape more often Northern Ireland sees wind farms being approved and built.
  • New technologies are now being adopted and new tendencies are becoming more acceptable. At the moment the size of the turbines is becoming bigger which allows to greatly reduce number of wind turbines on site. This is due to the height of the tower and rotor diameter. The most recent guidelines suggest that for wind turbine exceeding 101m height the study area should be 35km. This however could be a subject to discussion between individual teams and Planning Service depending on the nature of the study area. One of the most useful tool for assessing acceptability of these developments is Zone of Theoretical Visibility (ZTV) which is simply a map with ...
  • Think about it from the view of another educator/student in a different country. Why should I use this case study in my teaching/education?

Author's perspective

  • Through my professional work I've been involved in many wind farm developments. This work involves site study, desk study, choosing viewpoint locations, taking photographs, preparing wirelines,photomontages and ZTVs. At the end of this process is a Visual Impact Assessment report which combine all gathered information and describe the methodology, Landscape Character Areas, designations and assess impact that the proposed wind farm may have upon the study area.

Landscape and/or urban context

  • The study zone covered in this topic is the whole Northern Ireland area. The wind farm developments occure in many parts of this country. All areas which experience pressure from wind farm developments are regarded as being of high amenity value and rich history. These are the reasons why they were designated and are protected. This is also the reason why they are so popular amongst tourists. They usually could be described as bear mountain summits with no woodland vegetation, except some forestry areas, mostly coniferous. They are covered with low growing heath and pure pasture fields. These areas are historically being used for grazing sheep or cattle. At present there are tendencies to introduce more forestry with more broadleaf species but grazing is still the most common land use.

Cultural/social/political context

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Spatial analysis of area/project/plan

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Analysis of program/function

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Analysis of design/planning process

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Analysis of use/users

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Future development directions

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  • Are there any future goals?

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Peer reviews or critique

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Points of success and limitations

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