EIA-report for new Dutch wind turbine standards not yet sufficiently complete

The Dutch government wants to set new standards for noise, safety, cast shadow, light pollution and distance from wind turbines on land. The environmental impact assessment report (EIA) prepared for this purpose provides a lot of information, but not everything is sufficiently in focus says the Netherlands Commission for Environmental Assessment in its advice on the report.

More insight is needed into the impact on noise pollution and the space remaining available for the development of wind energy.

Until 2021, there were national standards for onshore wind farms. The Dutch court, however, ruled in July 2021 that this lacked an environmental assessment report. The state secretary wants to set new, national standards for noise, safety, cast shadow, light pollution and distance of onshore wind turbines and has now drawn up an EIA report for this purpose. This is the first time in the Netherlands that such a report has been drawn up for national environmental standards. The State Secretary of Infrastructure and Water Management has asked the Commission to assess the content of this report.

Commission’s advice

The environmental impacts of various environmental standards have been predominantly well mapped out, says the Commission. Noise pollution, safety, cast shadow, light pollution and the distances to be observed between wind turbines and houses were examined. The envisaged new standard for noise is stricter than the previous standard. This significantly reduces the likelihood of serious noise pollution for people living in the direct proximity of wind farms. But the report does not say what effect this will have on the total population of the Netherlands. More information is needed on this.

The report also shows that with stricter standards, there will be less space left for wind energy on land. This analysis is incomplete. In addition to a noise standard, the state secretary wants to set a distance standard for wind turbines from houses. The distance standard offers no more health protection than the noise standard already does, the EIA report shows. However, the distance standard will be able to limit the available space for wind energy more than currently stated in the report, the commission says. It is not clear what consequences the new standards will have together.

Advice on scope and level of detail

Besides noise, cast shadow and external safety, wind farms have more environmental impacts. A broad view is needed to properly weigh up the new environmental standards in the alternatives. Do not dismiss standards in advance if they can contribute to the protection of the living environment. Think of standards on participation of residents in wind farms and standards on the protection of birds and bats. Also keep a broad view when selecting alternatives. For noise and cast shadow, for example, adjusted standards are conceivable: higher and lower ones.

Map the environmental impacts of the various options. In the Netherlands, a Regional Energy Strategy (RES 1.0) has been drawn up for each region. These provide a clear and recognisable basis for comparison of environmental impacts. Therefore, use the RESs to compare the situation under the “old” environmental standards with possible new standards. Show the impact on energy yields.

The state secretary will take the Commission’s advice into account when drafting the environmental assessment report. Source: EIA Committee.

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