By Graham Grant, Home Affairs Editor, Daily Mail, 10 May 2012
Giant wind turbines 260ft high must be built to realise Alex Salmond’s dream of a renewables revolution, it has been claimed.
MEG Renewables, a major company in the wind energy market, said the SNP’S radical green targets can only be met if planning rules are relaxed to allow massive new turbines.
The new giants would be taller than the Scott Monument, which at 200ft dominates Edinburgh’s Princes Street.
MEG said council planners were reluctant to approve medium–sized developments, where the turbines are more than 164ft high, because they are ‘well outside of their comfort zone’.
In a submission to a Holyrood inquiry, managing director Neil McGeoch said this limit should be increased to about 262ft as part of a ‘quantum shift’ in the planning process. Unless this increase is permitted, he warned that medium–sized wind farms ‘will struggle to deliver anything like’ the electricity SNP ministers require to meet their targets.
Struan Stevenson, a Tory MEP campaigning against the rapid spread of wind farms, warned that allowing gigantic developments and loosening planning rules further would be a ‘catastrophe’. He added: ‘Scotland is being vandalised already and anybody who suggests that should be exiled.’
MEG, which builds wind farms in conjunction with landowners and farmers, complained that councils ‘always find some way’ to block planning applications and urged ‘ greater intervention by the Scottish Government’.
But that testimony clashes with evidence from communities that the planning system is being swamped with applications from green energy companies for sites that are increasingly unsuitable.
The organisation that represents the country’s most senior council planning officials has already warned MSPS that Scotland will become a ‘wind farm landscape’ as hundreds more erected.
Mr McGeoch, who gave evidence to Holyrood’s economy, energy and tourism committee yesterday, praised the SNP’S ‘national policy’ of ensuring that the equivalent of all Scotland’s electricity comes from green sources by 2020.
But he warned that ‘there appears to be no such sentiment at local authority level’.
He said: ‘There appears to be a broadly applied height limit of 164ft for medium-scale turbine applications. There can be no doubt that being confronted with the prospect of a large structure, stretching up to several hundred feet in the air and with moving parts, takes the vast majority of planners well outside of their comfort zone.’
Mr Mcgeoch concluded that SNP ministers must overhaul the planning system ‘for there to be any realistic chance of us achieving our 2020 targets’.
He said banks were only willing to finance wind farms with turbines more than 230ft tall because only at this height do they generate enough electricity to be financially viable. Many green energy firms had detected ‘an inherent anti–wind mentality’ in local councils, he warned, before complaining that applications were being rejected on the basis of ‘unqualified’ judgments about their visual impact.
Meanwhile, the committee also heard the process for determining if wind turbines should get the go=ahead was like a roulette game.
MSPS were told there was a need for greater clarity over how councils decide if planning permission for such projects is granted.
Steven Watson, of charity Community Energy Scotland, claimed it could cost £40,000 to £60,000 to take an application through the planning process.
But he said people had to ‘hope for the best’, adding: ‘It’s a bit like roulette how that ends up being decided.’
A Scottish Government spokesman said it wanted to see ‘the right developments in the right places’, adding: ‘Scottish planning policy sets out the framework for the development of wind farms to manage impact on communities, landscape and environment.
‘Planning authorities and, where appropriate, the Scottish Government will only allow wind farms to be built where the impacts have been found to be acceptable. Unsuitable applications are rejected.’
URL to article: https://www.wind-watch.org/news/2012/05/10/march-of-the-giants/