Scotland’s national forests could support up to 200 new wind turbines and bring in an annual windfall to communities of £2.5million, following an agreement announced yesterday.
Constructing the windfarms could also create hundreds of jobs, according to Forestry Commission Scotland (FCS).
The commission owns a tenth of Scotland’s land mass, with considerable potential for renewable energy generation.
The commission has decided to work in partnership with developers across the country to explore the potential for wind power generation of up to 500 megawatts – some 200 turbines – on its estate.
The commission has negotiated favourable terms for communities hosting the turbines.
For each megawatt of power generated, the host community will receive an annual payment of £5,000, twice the national average.
If the full potential of the 500MW programme is realised, communities could benefit from a £2.5million annual cash boost.
Communities can reinvest the money in their wind power scheme if they choose, or add their own funds for a greater stake in the project.
For the purposes of the scheme, FCS has divided Scotland into five “lots”, with different partners to work with on developing schemes bigger than 5MW.
Lot 1 covers Dumfries and Galloway and Arran, with Scottish Power Renewables as the development partner.
Lot 2 – Stirlingshire, Cowal, the Trossachs and Tayside, with PNE Wind UK as partner.
Lots 3 and 5 – West Argyll, Lochaber, Inverness-shire and the Northern Highlands in partnership with E.ONClimate and Renewables UK Developments Ltd.
Lot 4 – Grampian area, with Fred Olsen Renewables as development partner.
Announcing the move, an FCS spokesman said: “All wind energy projects will be handled in an environmentally sensitive manner and will be subject to stringent planning consent process.
“This new programme of work could result in hundreds of jobs being generated during the construction phase of the wind farms.”
Developers will now spend eight months building up a list of suitable wind sites throughout the lots.
If agreed by FCS, they will then take the proposals through the planning process, and if successful, through the construction and operation phases.
Meanwhile, Environment and Climate Change minister Roseanna Cunningham visited the offices of Green Highland Renewables in Perth yesterday.
FCS has appointed the company, alongside Broadland Estates and Gordon Gilkes & Co to look at developing small-scale hydro schemes on its land.
Ms Cunningham said: “Generating energy from clean sources is a key part of the Scottish Government’s strategy in tackling climate change.
“Forestry Commission Scotland is to contribute in this area by entering into new partnerships with energy companies.”
“I am particularly pleased that communities have the potential to benefit from these projects through an annual payment.”
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