Decommissioning bond should be in place for Scout Moor, says the Rooley Moor Neighbourhood Forum

Date published: 16 February 2017

A ‘decommissioning bond should be in place to restore Scout Moor Wind Farm to pre-wind farm conditions’, says the Rooley Moor Neighbourhood Forum (RMNF).

The Scout Moor Wind Farm was erected in 2008 by Peel Energy. There are 26 turbines, with another 16 planned, which generate 65MW of electricity, and a further 16 turbines have been proposed in an expansion.

Currently there is no requirement for onshore wind farm developers to put such a bond in place, meaning there is no way of ensuring the costs of removing them are met when the wind farm is no longer viable. The average life-span of a wind turbine is around 25 years.

The RMNF said: “Various organisations have been asked to raise the issue of a decommissioning bond for the Scout Moor Wind Farm Expansion Ltd (SMWFEL) application.

“If the Secretary of State (SoS) is minded to approve this application, then the basic idea of a bond is to ensure there is sufficient money available at the end the wind farms life, to ensure the site can be returned to its ‘pre’ wind farm condition.

“Currently there is no requirement for onshore wind farm developers to put a bond in place and we are asking for the SoS to consider putting a condition in place requiring a bond that tracks inflation and cannot disappear when the wind farm becomes redundant.

“This issue is bigger than just SMWFEL and perhaps a decommissioning bond should be a requirement for all future developments of this type.”

John Newcombe, a representative for the Prickshaw and Broadley Fold Conservation Area, agrees such a bond should be in place.

He said: “It’s a two-part potential problem. The ones up there have around 17 years left of their life-span, and there’s also plans to extend the windfarm and add an additional 16 turbines.

“The problem is that it’s vague as to who removes the turbines at the end of their life. Who’s going to pay for it? It’s going to be costly and it’s easy to walk away from responsibility.

“This is why we’d like to see a decommissioning bond that adjusts with inflation, properly managed by people such as trustees, the local authority and the applicant to be put aside when they’re no longer viable. It would ensure that the funds are there for the decommission.

“Turbines do provide profit, so whilst they’re operational, put some money to one side out of that profit to safeguard this. Really, this needs to be in place before the construction of the additional turbines.”

He continued: “We don’t want a situation like in America where these turbines at the end of their life-span are rotting because there’s no money to remove them. The United States is much larger and the turbines aren’t as near to people’s homes.

“I grew up on the moors. It’s important to keep the green space with a growing population and adequate safeguards need to be in place to restore it. It would be nice if our grandchildren could enjoy the moors as I do.”

A 2012 document from the former Department of Energy and Climate Change (now the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy) suggests it costs in the region of £60,000 to decommission a turbine in the UK.

Mr Newcombe added the location is not very accessible, which adds to his worry that the turbines would be left on Scout Moor to rot.

Based on the above figures, removing 42 turbines in the future could cost around £2.5 million.

Mr Newcombe added: “If you agree a decommissioning bond should be in place to restore the moor, contact your MP and councillors to support this.”

A representative for the RMNF said: “One very important point we need to consider is that the current decommissioning proposal, if it were to be delivered, is woefully inadequate and the 2012 costings are probably based on the absolute minimum.

“The current proposition feels like a disaster waiting to happen and we are already aware of situations in other countries where expired wind farms have been left to rot.

“We would like to see a comprehensive decommissioning plan that is realistic and reflects the true cost of restoration to ‘pre’ wind farm conditions; no turbines bases, no tracks, no infrastructure. We’re asking for defined responsibility for the restoration, so there is no possibility of ‘passing the buck and to ensure there is sufficient money at the end of the wind farm’s life to implement the restoration scheme, and for it to be treated like a company pension, so that the bond and responsibility would transfer with any sale.

“The Local Planning Authority advises the clean-up would rest with the company last responsible for operating the wind farm. Landowners independently make leasehold agreements with the operators, which would normally include financial arrangements to ensure responsibility falls with the operator, not the landowners. The landowners would be approached where the operator is out of business or does not co-operate.

“This leaves us with a number of scenarios from the operator going out of business to the landowners not having sufficient funds to cover the costs.

“We believe there are sufficient profits in wind farms to make our proposition acceptable.”

Peel Energy has not responded to a request for comment.

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