wp0a7c8067_0f.jpg

wpc0592e62_0f.jpg

wpa0bd6150_0f.jpg

wp097a670f_0f.jpg

wp71a5f54f_0f.jpg

wp447cb7f8_0f.jpg

wp6e0e3706_0f.jpg

wp99efc76e_0f.jpg

wpfd2ea2da_0f.jpg

wpb918abcf_0f.jpg


How Much Space Do Wind Turbines Require?

The wind is a diffuse form of energy, in common with many renewable resources. A typical wind farm of 20 turbines might extend over an area of 1 square kilometre but only 1 % of the land area would be used to house the turbines, electrical infrastructure and access roads: the remainder can be used for other purposes, such as farming or as natural habitat. To obtain 10% of our electricity from the wind would require constructing around 12,000 Mw of wind energy capacity. Depending on the size of the turbines they would extend over 80,000 to 120,000 hectares, (0.3% - 0.5% of the U.K land area). Less than 1% of this, (800 to 1,200 hectares), would be used for foundations and access roads, the other 99% could still be used for productive farming. For comparison, between 288,000 to 360,000 hectares, (1.2 – 1.5% of the UK land area is covered by roads and some 18.5 million hectares (77%) are used for agriculture. (From the British Wind-Energy Association FAQ sheet).

A collection of ten 125 metre blade-tip height wind-turbines have been proposed for the vicinity of Rotsea and Watton Carrs. The area enclosed by their layout will probably be about, or will not much exceed, one half of one square kilometre and, no doubt, the turbines themselves and the infrastructure associated with them will occupy a tiny fraction of that: but as a reply to the question, “ How Much Space Do Wind Turbines Require” is the BWEA FAQ sheet response an answer that satisfies you? Do ten turbines at Rotsea and on Watton Carrs occupy as much space as an identical layout of ten turbines erected in the Arabian Desert? Can the impact nationally of 10% electricity generation through wind-power be so easily, (or so complacently), calculated.

We have produced another set of photo-collages for you to look at. They purport to show the appearances of the proposed wind-farm from several different view-points around it. To enable the pictures to be “read” most usefully there will be a little geometry to digest. Along the way some pertinent points of interest will get a mention and we will conclude with some comments of general relevance. We cannot pretend that these images will be error free. The usual caveats apply and the imagery should be viewed rather as artist’s impressions than as architect’s drawings. Moreover the images relate to a proposal, (made two years ago). No planning application has yet been received from the developers, (RES Ltd). What in the event, will actually emerge to be approved or not by the planning authorities, (or, indeed, whether it will emerge or not), is unknown to us.

The Viewpoints.

The Viewpoints selected for this article are:

  • A). The Bridge at Scurf Dyke Farm (O/S Grid Ref on Explorer Map 295: 049507)
  • B). Corpselanding Cottages on Rotsea Lane (057526).
  • C). The Southern End of River Hull New Cut: The Pumping Station (079499).
  • D). Along Carr Lane about 250 yards eastward of the Bridge House corner (041491).
  • E). The West Bank of the Frodingham Beck about 250 yards downstream from its junction with the Driffield Canal (083525).
  • F). From Scurf Dyke about 500 metres eastwards of Turbine 8 (075505).

Fig. 1) The diagram shows the turbines marked in orange and numbered 1 to 10. The viewpoints are identified A to F and marked in green. The nearest-turbine distance for each viewpoint is shown as a line with an arrowhead at each end: (for the significance of the nearest-turbine distance see below).

The Geometry.

Both the European Wind Energy Foundation and the British Wind Energy Association have produced “best practice” guidelines and in both publications under the heading “Proximity to Dwellings”, (and in identical terms in each case), it is conceded that: “Wind turbines should not be located so close to domestic buildings that they unreasonably affect the amenity of such properties through noise, shadow flicker, visual domination or reflected light”.

The guideline is intended to have specific application for nearby dwellings but, nevertheless, it contains the implication that, in a more general sense and even for enthusiasts of wind energy, there exists a distance below which proximity to wind-turbines is unpleasant and has a direct negative impact.

We should notice too, that of the four potential impacts mentioned, namely noise, shadow flicker, visual domination and reflected light, by far the greatest of these is visual domination – something we will return to later.

Although there appears to be little in the way of definite distances to refer to, it would seem, (from talking to the ERYC planning department as well as to members of the wind-energy industry itself), that through custom and practice some informally accepted rules of thumb have nevertheless evolved.

So, for example, a 100 metre blade-tip height wind-farm could be expected to have a separation distance of about 600 – 700 metres between any dwelling and the nearest turbine to it.

If we were to take 650 metres as our guideline distance, then an area of directly, (and adversely), affected landscape – envisaged as 10 variably overlapping circles of 650 metres radius with each circle centred on a different turbine – could be inferred for a wind-farm of ten 100 metre high turbines.

Furthermore, this area can be easily quantified, (albeit approximately), by enclosing our cluster of circles with a polygon whose sides are tangent to the circles. The area of the polygon can then easily be worked out and although the area of the polygon will be greater that the area covered by the cluster of circles within it, closer approximation to the true area of the latter is easily achieved by simple adjustment.

It is true that the end result is mathematically imprecise but this does not devalue, (in my opinion), the illustrative power of the figure arrived at.

The diagram below will hopefully clarify my approach.

Fig.2) The area of the five sided polygon is the sum of the areas of the three large triangles into which it can be subdivided and amounts, in round figures, to 107 square centimetres on a 1:25000 scale map. The sum of the all the shaded triangular areas, (13 square centimetres), is subtracted from the figure of 107 square centimetres to give a figure of 94 square centimetres. This scales up 5.85 square kilometres or 2.3 square miles. The true area of the cluster of circles, (for which we are seeking an approximate value), is outlined with a continuous red line which is the perimeter of the circle cluster. The circles centred on individual turbines are outlined in broken black lines except where they contribute to the perimeter of the circle cluster. Each of the turbines is numbered and its location indicated by an orange dot. Any relevant “nearest turbine” distance is shown by a line arrowed at each end. This scheme will apply to all the figures used in this article. For this particular diagram the “nearest turbine distance” shown is that from the Scurf Dyke Farm Bridge viewpoint to Turbine 4, (see below). I have no doubt that the precise area of our circle cluster can be calculated with mathematical niceness. But this is not necessary for our purposes, so why bother when we don’t need to?

Using this method for the layout of 10 turbines proposed for Rotsea but applying it to turbines with a blade tip height of 100 metres only, then an area of adverse impact extending over of about 2.3 square miles, (5.3 square kilometres), would be implied: an area which, in the particular case of the Rotsea proposal, has 3.7 miles of Public Right of Way enclosed within it.

So: How much space do 10 wind-turbines at Rotsea require? How about 2.3 square miles? ......what do you think?

The Pictures

Our first illustration, shown immediately below, is the view-point from the bridge as Scurf Dyke Farm.

The distance of the view-point from the nearest turbine, (Turbine 4), is 650 metres. This is the companion image to the specified and particular geometry given above.

So far so good! Or so it would be if the blade-tip height of the turbines intended for Rotsea was only 100 metres. Unfortunately, a blade-tip height of 125 metres is proposed. But if 650 metres is an accepted nearest-turbine distance for 100 metre turbines then 750 metres would not seem unreasonable as an acceptable nearest turbine distance for 125 metre blade-tip height turbines.

Using the same method as before, but this time for a cluster of circles each with a radius of 750 metres, we then obtain a corresponding area of local impact, (for the layout of 10 turbines proposed for Rotsea), of 3.12 square miles.

So: How much space do 10 wind turbines at Rotsea require? How about 3.12 square miles? .......what do you think?

Within this area of 3.12 square mile there would be 4.1 miles of Public Footpath and/or Bridleway enclosed.

And it is worth remembering I think that this is for the sake of only 20MW of wind-energy capacity.

The view-point illustrated immediately above is from Corpselanding Cottages on Rotsea Lane and is 750 meters distant from the nearest turbine to it. The imagery has its limitations, (they are photographic stills after all): nevertheless, some sense is conveyed of what would be directly experienced from such wind-farm proximity.

Rembering that the landscape of Watton Carrs and Rotsea is flat, it is also worth noting I think, that to the extent that any other viewpoints around the wind farm were 750 meters from the nearest turbine, this view-point, (at Corpslanding Cottages), would be representative of them all.

Since all such viewpoints, (including the one shown), must lie on the boundary line of a circle cluster, we might assume that, in general, as one approached closer to the wind-farm from any such viewpoint distance, the visual impact due to the turbines would tend to increase. Moreover, closer proximity or approach to the wind farm could bring into prominence those other adverse aspects of turbine presence – acknowledged in the BWEA guidance – the noise, the shadow flicker and the nuisance due to reflected light.

However, what is also worth noting is that just as we may relate, (as we have so far done), a quantified area of adverse impact to correspondent imagery from any viewpoint at its boundary, so alternatively, by reversing the direction of our thought, we might relate any image from a boundary viewpoint to a correspondent area of adverse impact, (quantified itself by reference to the distance of the nearest turbine to the viewpoint).

We would say to ourselves: here is an image of a wind-farm. The nearest turbine to this view-point is x metres away and this would imply an area of impact relating to this image of y square miles. But remembering also that the landscape is flat, that we are looking at a still photograph taken from a view-point at the boundary of an area of impact, it could occur to us that what each view-point image represents is the minimum level of turbine presence over the area concerned.

Put another way: from this or any similar type of image we can infer the minimum level of impact over a quantified extent of landscape and we can imagine from the image itself how and to what degree that impact might intensify across this landscape, (as one moved closer towards the wind-farm or deeper into it).

Clearly, a greater distance between some view-point and the nearest turbine to it will suggest, relatively speaking, a reduced degree of minimum impact. On the other hand the level of impact one starts with in the image will intensify for longer over the greater area associated with the longer view-point distance, (from the nearest turbine to it).

Maybe all this seems a bit overblown but it is the 3-dimensional presence of the turbines in the landscape that I am trying to concern you with. I have to use 2-dimensional images but it is their 3-dimensional meaning that I am trying to convey.

Let us move quickly on.


Before we do so, it is necessary to say something about the photography that follows.

So far on our website we have used panoramic photo-collages to give views of the wind-farm This had seemed reasonable as a means of showing the landscape setting in which it is proposed to site the turbines. However wide-angle panoramic views of wind-farms can mislead by suggesting a reduced visual impact from the turbine size than will actually be the case. Put simply, if you wanted to reduce the visual impact of an elephant in your garden you would take a photograph using a lens with the widest possible angle of view, (and produce a photograph that is as panoramic as possible).

There is a professional consensus outside the windfarm industry that to get the best sense of the naked-eye appearance and scale of the turbines in a medium to long range landscape situation you should use an A4 print of a single frame image taken with a 70 mm focal length lens and view it at an ordinary, (comfortable), viewing distance. To enable you to do this I have provided, for each viewpoint, an appropriate companion image with each panoramic. You can download this and print to A4 size.

A fuller explanation of the above is to be found in an article called “The Visual Issue, An Investigation into the techniques and methodology used in windfarm computer visualisations”, published by the Architech Animation Studios (UK) Ltd. To get a copy simply type Visual Issue into Google Search.


By comparison with Rotsea and Watton Carrs, there are significant areas of East Yorkshire that, in terms of their landscape quality and/or the lack of access to them, offer far less amenity for the general public.

Rotsea and Watton Carrs and the landscapes around them, provide an expansive area of park-like agricultural countryside with, at the heart of it, an extensive collection of drains, becks and canals and other tributaries converging centrally on the River Hull.

Moreover, but particularly in the vicinity of the wind-farm proposed, this landscape has a quite elaborate, (though somewhat frayed), network of Public Footpaths and Bridleways providing access to it.

You may believe as I do that the landscape belongs to everyone however the land is owned or by whom. That is a belief. Public Rights of Way are facts however. They are the facts supporting the belief.

For most of us they provide our only opportunity to enjoy the landscape directly which otherwise we might have to glimpse or peer at through hedgerows, or know only at a distance across extended runs of boundary fence.

They are an asset of real value. In our ever more crowded land they are an asset of increasing value.

And in this country they are the birthright of all of us.

Hasn’t that right been degraded or become nugatory?

The right of way is still there but what it is that one now has a right to?


We have sought to test the BWEA’s answer to the question “How Much Space Do Wind-Turbines Require?”

We have done this by taking their own “Proximity to Dwellings” guideline and then, supposing some consensus between the industry and the planners in its application, we have used this to give our response to the same question in relation to the wind-farm proposed for Rotsea / Watton Carrs.

So far, and with reference made from the area of impact to the view-point image, we have considered relatively close view-point distances, (to the nearest turbine), of 650 and 750 metres.

As we have noted before, of the four particular impacts that the BWEA/EWEF guideline mentions, namely noise, shadow flicker, visual domination and reflected light, by far the greatest of these is visual domination. Perhaps this is self-evident1, (although is seems curiously obscured in the text of the guideline itself where, implicitly, it ranks third out of four).

But does visual domination cease with a “nearest-turbine” distance of 750 meters?

Does the question “How Much Space Do Wind-Turbines Require?” have any relevance, (as a question), for greater distances?

For the remainder of this article the reference will be from view-point image to area of impact.

Please remember in what follows that it is the non-panoramic view of each pair of views that can approximate to the naked-eye experience of turbine size and, again, one should never forget that these are still images.

I have pointed out elsewhere how, even at great distances, the extended spread of the turbines, their size and the rotating blades will preoccupy the mind so as to make everything around them seem invisible.

And again: you should remember in what follows, that this is all for the sake of only 20 MW of wind-energy capacity.

The view-point shown below is our photo-collage representation of the appearance of the Rotsea wind-farm from the southern end of the River Hull New Cut.

1 I should be: A 125 metre blade-tip height turbine is 11 metres higher than the cooling towers at Drax.

This view-point is 1150 metres from the nearest turbine, and, (using our clustered circles method for estimation), corresponds to an impact area extending over 4.5 square miles and enclosing 7.45 miles of Public Footpath and Bridleway. The diagram provided below illustrates the calculation.

In this case, the area of the 5 sided polygon amounts to 208 square centimetres on a 1:25000 scale map. The sum of all the shaded areas, (20.5 square centimetres), is subtracted from 208 square centimetres to give a figure of 187.5 square centimetres. This scales up to 11.7 square kilometres or to 4.5 square miles. The nearest turbine in this instance is Turbine 8. The relevant “nearest turbine distance” in this case – marked with a line arrowed at each end – joins the view-point to Turbine 8.

As before, the image purports to convey the minimum turbine presence that could be experienced across the area of ground specified, (i.e. 4.62 square miles).

So: How much space do 10 wind turbines at Rotsea require? How about 4.5 square miles? …..what do you think?

Now look at the next two pairs of photo-collages. The first pair is taken about 250 yards eastwards from the Bridge House corner of Carr Lane. The second is taken from the west bank of the Frodingham Beck about 250 yards downstream from its junction with the Driffield Canal.

The two sets of views are counterparts of one another to the extent that they are at opposite ends of a South-West to North East axis and both are 2.2 kilometres from the nearest turbine to them, (Turbine 5 and Turbine 7 respectively). I think these two sets of pictures taken together, (perhaps with a map helpfully nearby), provide a useful reminder that for every view-point of the turbine field there is a counterpart view-point, more or less far away on the opposite side, (in this case the two view-points are 5.5 kilometres – or 3.14 miles – apart).

From these view-points the wind farm will continue to dominate the view, though at this distance by virtue of the turbines’ spread across the landscape as much as by their height.

The corresponding area of impact and length of Public Footpath and Bridleway enclosed, are 11.05 square miles and 17.049 miles respectively.

Again, I have provided a diagram to illustrate the calculation. In this case the area covered by the circle cluster on a 1: 25000 scale map means that not all of it can appear on the screen, (a fact illustrative in itself you might think).

In this case the area of the 5 sided polygon is 509.34 square centimetres on a 1:25000 scale map. The sum of all the shaded areas, (51.19 square centimetres) is subtracted from the figure of 509.34 square centimetres to give a figure of 458.15 square centimetres. This scales up to 28.63 square kilometres or 11.05 square miles. In this case there are two “nearest turbine distances” illustrated, connecting the separate view-points to Turbine 5 and Turbine 7 respectively. Both of these distances are shown by a line with an arrow at each end, (as in the earlier Figures).

So: How much space do 10 wind-turbines at Rotsea require? How about 11.05 square miles? ……what do you think?

Along with the view-points used in the course of this article we have moved steadily further and further away from the turbines. However, the two images shown below look westward from a view-point on Scurf Dyke about 500 metres east of Turbine 8, (the nearest turbine to the view-point).

This is the closest we will get to the wind-farm in this article. As before, one image is a panorama and the other is a 70 mm focal length still.

It is worth pointing out, I think, that the viewpoints from Hutton Cranswick and North Frodingham and Skerne, (which are already on our website, if only in panoramic form), lie at a distance of between 3.0 and 3.5 kilometres from the nearest turbine to them, (in each case). I have not applied our clustered circle method for these view-points – I leave that to you.

So: How much space do 10 turbines at Rotsea require? How about . . . . . . . ? ……what do you think?

You may be wondering what the strings of yellow dots and lines appearing in some of the photographs represent. They are an attempt to highlight for the photographs concerned the tracks of some of the footpaths and bridleways appearing in them.

It is so that you may sense to what extent and in what way you own rights over this landscape might be affected that, (for the first four sets of images), I have quoted a figure for the extent of footpath and bridleway enclosed within the relevant area, (of adverse impact).

4). Concluding Comment

1). The Drax-B power station occupies an area of about one square mile. It has a capacity of 4000-MW and exists to supply power amounting to 7% of the UK’s needs. Ten 2-MW wind turbines, (at Rotsea or anywhere else), have a capacity of 20-MW but, because of its relative inefficiency, to obtain 7% of our electricity from wind-power will require 8400 MW of wind-energy capacity, (i.e. 7/10 of the 12000 MW which – in their FAQ sheet – the BWEA estimates are required to provide 10% of our power). 8400 MW of wind-energy capacity is the equivalent of four hundred and twenty 20-MW wind-farms.

Some of our Kyoto requirement, (of 10% renewable energy by 2010 and 20% by 2020), will be met by wind-farms offshore, (which in my view is where all wind-farms should be), but if we accept that four hundred and twenty 20-MW wind-farms would be required to provide only 7% of our present Kyoto requirements and when we realise that the EU has now set us a renewables target of 32% for 2020, (most of which would have to be met by wind-power), we can see I think that huge areas of our national landscape are being threatened by the kind of adverse impact that for most people who experience it can only provoke aversion now and avoidance later. This will not be a matter merely of a few scattered areas of lost amenity but will be on a scale to decisively impair the quality of our lives by removing all opportunity of refuge from the tyranny of each other and divorcing from us any restorative communion between mind and landscape.

2). Wind-farm proliferation is inherent to any form of wind – energy program. The nature of the technology and the relative inefficiency of this kind of power generation make this certain. It would be self-deception on the part of anyone to presume that a wind-farm “over there” precludes the probability of a wind farm “over here”.

3) Greening of the public consciousness is prerequisite, (one imagines), for public cooperation in the fight against climate change and reference is often made by wind farm enthusiasts, to the “opportunities for green tourism”. Years ago when motorways first appeared in this country, curiosity had some people picnicking on the hard shoulder. It is an interest that hasn’t lasted. In truth any idea of “green tourism” in the wind-farm context is just so much sauce from Barry Businessman and his acolyte Philip in Public Relations. By and large people in this country are not enamoured of the consequences for our landscape of its industrialisation. Wind-farms, (wind – plant is an expression commonly used in the USA), are an aspect of that industrialisation, and wind-farm proliferation, with impacts on our countryside as widespread as they are profound will surely de-stimulate the green consensus aspired to, while continuing at the same time to provoke a wider and widening local resentment.

4). The Renewable Energy Target for the East Riding of Yorkshire is 41 MW by 2010. Since 24 MW are now approved for Lisset and 9.1 MW of capacity already exist at Easington where is the requirement of a further 20 MW at Rotsea?

How Much Space Do Wind Turbines Require?

The wind is a diffuse form of energy, in common with many renewable resources. A typical wind farm of 20 turbines might extend over an area of 1 square kilometre but only 1 % of the land area would be used to house the turbines, electrical infrastructure and access roads: the remainder can be used for other purposes, such as farming or as natural habitat. To obtain 10% of our electricity form the wind would require constructing around 12,000 Mw of wind energy capacity. Depending on the size of the turbines they would extend over 80,000 to 120,000 hectares, (0.3% - 0.5% of the U.K land area). Less than 1% of this, (800 to 1,200 hectares), would be used for foundations and access roads, the other 99% could still be used for productive farming. For comparison, between 288,000 to 360,000 hectares, (1.2 – 1.5% of the UK land area is covered by roads and some 18.5 million hectares (77%) are used for agriculture. (From the British Wind-Energy Association FAQ sheet).

How much space do wind-turbines require? How about…………….? What do you think?

Return to the top of this page


wp71b3de31_0f.jpg