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Large Areas for Wind Turbines Sterilised by Telecoms Links
2011-04-01

Many landowners looking to invest in wind energy are unaware that microwave links from telecoms masts may be crossing their land and hindering their chances of erecting a turbine, Mark Newton of Fisher German reports.

Telecoms Mast

Telecoms Mast

The invisible links cross over land with no rental payments being made to the landowner, sterilising large areas of land which otherwise might be suitable for wind turbines.

A microwave link, more complexly known as Fresnel zone, is a telecommunications signal from one telecom tower to another, one way of transmitting a mobile telephone call. Telecoms towers will very often have multiple links emanating from them and for the telecoms operators, this is usually a cheaper option than transmitting your mobile phone signal through a BT fibre optic cable.

If a landowner is thinking about erecting a wind turbine on their land, they must find out from the telecoms operators if a microwave link crosses their land. Very often the company will charge the landowner for an assessment for the purposes of a wind turbine project.

A landowner with a link crossing their land, will typically be requested by the telecoms provider to site medium sized turbines 150 - 300m away from the link or links, potentially sterilising part, or the whole of the farm.

If a landowner has a telecom mast on their land, the telecoms operator request the turbine is located the ‘topple over distance’ (height of the turbine to the tip of the blades), plus 10% away from the mast. For example, if the turbine is 50m to tip of the blade, then they will want it 55m away. One telecom company insists the turbine is located 500m away from their telecom tower, sterilising an area of 1km in diameter.

Even more extreme cases involve the utility companies, who insist that if the turbine is within 1000m of their ‘co-ordination zone’ for one of their microwave links (although this can be reduced to 500m for a 30m rotor diameter turbine), they will charge the landowner up to £3,000 to confirm to them the whereabouts of their links and whether they will object to a wind turbine if progressed to planning.

Fisher German has software programmes that can identify at an early stage, telecommunication links crossing landowners’ land. The firm can provide a microwave link appraisal as part of normal feasibility work for wind turbines. It is imperative that landowners seek correct and professional advice.

Mark Newton concludes “It is unfair that telecoms companies and utility companies should be charging for advice on what land their microwave links sterilise especially when the landowner receives no rent.

“Their microwave links can then reduce the landowner’s income by not just tens of thousands of pounds but for larger turbines by hundreds of thousands of pounds per annum. For example, a 250kW turbine could be producing a landowner in excess of £100,000 per annum and he certainly does not want to lose this type of income to microwave links”.

For further information, please contact Mark Newton on 01858 411246 or email mark.newton@fishergerman.co.uk

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Fisher German LLP