There is no evidence that windfarms bring significant local employment, but they can impact adversely on traditional industry and tourism and on property values, and thus the level of available investment in local businesses.
• Turbine manufacturers use their own trained staff for construction, off-site monitoring and maintenance. The majority of wind farm developers in Britain are non-UK so “for an average £50m wind farm, approximately £35m will go abroad. The employment they bring to a local community is limited. During construction there may be several jobs, but once completed a large wind farm can be run by two or three staff with technicians called in for maintenance, they are certainly not the answer to stimulating the jobs economy.” (Mary Scanlon, Scottish Conservative MSP for the Highlands and Islands).
• Site preparation is specialist and few contractors have the equipment available e.g. Cefn Croes windfarm was said to use local labour; in fact Jones and Co, the contractors building roads and turbine bases were from Rhuthin, some two hours away.
• A major renewables study commissioned by the European Commission (Employ- RES research project for European Commission DG Energy and Transport 2009) drew a number of interesting conclusions:
– The renewables sector has the potential to create many jobs, predominantly in the solar, hydro and biofuels areas;
– Wind energy is only an important contributor to the labour economy where the country manufactures the turbines;
– The countries that could benefit the most from the growth of renewables are Eastern European (biomass production);
– Some countries (UK and Spain are cited as examples) will experience a net loss of jobs.
There is evidence that wind power does not stimulate the economy across Europe:
• “Wind power costs Spain €1.1 million per job in subsidy and setting minimum prices for renewably generated electricity far above market prices, wastes capital that could be allocated to other sectors. This has resulted in 2.2 jobs being destroyed for every ‘green job’ created.” (Gabriel Calzada Álvarez, et al (2009) Study of the effects on employment of public aid to renewable energy sources. Universidad Rey Juan Carlos)
• Evidence gathered shows that local enterprises are often developed by releasing collateral in the family home by re-mortgaging. The reduction in value of homes where windfarms and associated infrastructure are proposed is impacting upon the money available to develop small local businesses.
• Tourism enterprises, especially but not exclusively where the individual caravans and chalets are owned, have suffered considerably when windfarms and associated infrastructure affect them. For example, there has been a 40% drop in lettings and a collapse in caravan sales at Nab’s Wood site in North Yorkshire after construction of a wind turbine site in the vicinity two years ago.
• A survey carried out by the Welsh Tourist Board indicated that the commonest reasons for visiting the country were the scenery, wild landscapes and an unspoilt environment whilst for 71% of respondents the things which most spoilt landscape views were pylons, transmission lines or wind turbines. Remarkably similar results were found from research carried out for a Visit Scotland and here over a quarter of respondents said they would actively avoid areas with windfarms and a further 25% preferred areas without windfarms.