Planning Portal

Draft PPS18: Renewable Energy
Annex 1 Wind Energy Planning Issues: Shadow Flicker and Reflected Light

A104. Under certain combinations of geographical position and time of day, the sun may pass behind the rotors of a wind turbine and cast a shadow over neighbouring properties. When the blades rotate, the shadow flicks on and off; the effect is known as ‘shadow flicker’. It only occurs inside buildings where the flicker appears through a narrow window opening. A single window in a single building is likely to be affected for a few minutes at certain times of the day during short periods of the year. The likelihood of this occurring and the duration of such an effect depends upon:
  • the direction of the residence relative to the turbine(s);
  • the distance from the turbine(s);
  • the turbine hub-height and rotor diameter;
  • the time of year;
  • the proportion of day-light hours in which the turbines operate;
  • the frequency of bright sunshine and cloudless skies (particularly at low elevations above the horizon); and,
  • the prevailing wind direction.
Only properties within 130 degrees either side of north, relative to the turbines can be affected at these latitudes in the UK – turbines do not cast long shadows on their southern side.
A105. The further the observer is from the turbine the less pronounced the effect will be. There are several reasons for this:
  • there are fewer times when the sun is low enough to cast a long shadow;
  • when the sun is low it is more likely to be obscured by either cloud on the horizon or intervening buildings and vegetation; and,
  • the centre of the rotor’s shadow passes more quickly over the land reducing the duration of the effect.
A106. At distance, the blades do not cover the sun but only partly mask it, substantially weakening the shadow. This effect occurs first with the shadow from the blade tip, the tips being thinner in section than the rest of the blade. The shadows from the tips extend the furthest and so only a very weak effect is observed at distance from the turbines.
A107. Problems caused by shadow flicker are rare. At distances greater than 10 rotor diameters from a turbine, the potential for shadow flicker is very low. The seasonal duration of this effect can be calculated from the geometry of the machine and the latitude of the site. Where shadow flicker could be a problem, developers should provide calculations to quantify the effect and where appropriate take measures to prevent or ameliorate the potential effect, such as by turning off a particular turbine at certain times.
A108. Careful site selection, design and planning, and good use of relevant software, can help avoid the possibility of shadow flicker in the first instance. It is recommended that shadow flicker at neighbouring offices and dwellings within 500m should not exceed 30 hours per year or 30 minutes per day9.
A109. Turbines can also cause flashes of reflected light, which can be visible for some distance. It is possible to ameliorate the flashing but it is not possible to eliminate it. Careful choice of blade colour and surface finish can help reduce the effect. Light grey semi-matt finishes are often used for this. Other colours and patterns can also be used to reduce the effect further. (See ‘The Influence of Colour on the Aesthetics of Wind Turbine Generators’ – ETSU W/14/00533/00/00).
9 The shadow flicker recommendations are based on research by Predac, a European Union sponsored organisation promoting best practice in energy use and supply which draws on experience from Belgium, Denmark, France, the Netherlands and Germany.
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