Science museums should be built alongside wind farms in a bid to make Scotland a world leader in renewables tourism, a leading expert has said.
Professor Cara Aitchison, whose research assesses the impact of wind-energy developments on UK tourism, is urging the Scottish Government to fund collaborations between centres like Our Dynamic Earth in Edinburgh and green developers.
The proposal follows the growing success of Whitelee near Glasgow, Europe’s largest wind farm, now a tourist attraction in its own right, drawing 250,000 visitors each year to a visitor centre.
It is funded by electricity giant ScottishPower and run by Glasgow Science Centre as a smaller version of the city museum, with interactive exhibits explaining wind energy.
Prof Aitchison, who is speaking at a Scottish Tourism Alliance event debating the effect of turbines on tourism later this month, said: “If we are trying to establish Scotland as a world leader in renewables and we have already identified tourism as one of the six growth sectors for investment, why not develop the two together?
“Two or three sites could be identified in Scotland and paid for with public funding, as well as private. We should think about drawing together something like Our Dynamic Earth [Edinburgh’s geological museum] constructed around a wind farm. It would not be intrusive and it would really benefit the local economy.
“You could create something really innovative around education and sustainable development, too. Scotland could lead the way on renewable tourism.”
Our Dynamic Earth scientific director Professor Stuart Monro supported the idea. He said: “The links between science centres and tourism are really important. Many visitors to Edinburgh come to engage with our history and our culture.
“I agree that engaging with the science behind wind farms and other forms of renewable energies is important. The Glasgow Science Centre has done an excellent job at the Whitelee visitor centre and has demonstrated that the public wants to know about many aspects of the science behind our need for energy.”
Campaigners opposing wind farms ridiculed the proposal, however, and demanded a halt to the “indiscriminate turbanisation” of the nation.
A spokeswoman for Communities Against Turbines Scotland said: “It is ludicrous to suggest wind farms could be significant tourist attractions. Whitelee is a one-off and attracts visitors in the way that garden centres do.”
Research has shown about ten per cent of people are put off visiting places by wind farms, while another 10 per cent would come specifically to see them.
Whitelee became the first wind-energy project in Scotland to join the Association of Scottish Visitor Attractions in June after visitor numbers reached the 250,000 milestone, just three years after the £2 million centre opened.
A ScottishPower spokesman said Whitelee’s success surpassed expectations and it “wouldn’t rule out” establishing other tourist attractions. The Scottish Government refused to say whether it would fund future projects, but stressed that it was “continuing to work with the sector”.