Most free standing renewable energy projects will require planning permission and so this should be one of the first issues you consider.
The Cornwall Council interactive mapping website can be used to check if your proposed site is affected by landscape designations such as ‘Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty’ (AONB) or ‘Site of Special Scientific Interest’ (SSSI). The ‘cumulative visual impact’ of renewables developments will form part of the planning assessment and a ‘Zones of theoretical visibility’ study may be required to support your planning application. Community Energy Plus can provide support and guidance for planning.
Establishing requirements and costs for connecting a community renewables to the national grid will be a vital step in determining the feasibility and cost of your project. Western Power Distribution are the Distribution Network Operator (DNO) in Cornwall and can provide guidance for new connections.
Before developing a wind turbine it is worth checking wind speed! RenewableUK provide resources for checking wind speeds.
Environmental Impact Assessment
An EIA is a systematic process for evaluating the likely impact that a renewable energy project will have on the local environment. Not all projects will require an EIA, but wind turbines above 15m will, as will projects in sensitive areas and hydro systems. Cornwall Council can provide a formal ‘Screening Opinion’ as to whether an EIA is required. Check Cornwall Council’s website for the latest guidance.
Renewable Energy Projects can affect local wildlife and eco-systems. A wildlife assessment may be required as part of securing permission for your project. A useful ‘ecological calendar’ is available from Cornwall Environmental Consultants. The RSPB bird map is also a useful resource, as is this guidance note on the impact of wind turbines on bats.
Noise can be a contentious issue especially in relation to wind turbines. Cornwall Council renewable energy planning guidance notes will provide you with further information on this issue.
If you are considering a hydroelectric installation you will need to seek approval from the Environment Agency, which will include carrying out an Environmental Impact Assessment. Their online guidance will provide you some information about the process and key considerations.
MOD and Civilian Aviation
Negotiating with landowners and statutory agencies
Unless your community owns land you will probably need to lease a site for your project. Community Energy Plus can provide support when negotiating with landowners and statutory agencies such as the Environment agency and the MOD.