Salmond commits Scotland to MORE wind farms on the day UK Energy Minister halts march of turbines
Alex Salmond last night stepped up the march of wind farms across Scotland, on the day the UK Energy Minister vowed to slam the brakes on their endless expansion. The SNP leader fired the starting gun on a new drive that will see more turbines litter the countryside as he revealed that half of Scotland’s electricity must come from green energy by 2015.
But as he announced the latest drive to up the pace of development, Westminster’s Energy Minister John Hayes said ‘enough is enough’ and pledged to fight back.
The Tory politician said wind turbines had been ‘peppered around the country’ with little or no regard for the views of local communities.
He added that tough targets could be met by those already planned – suggesting a moratorium should be imposed after that.
But energy and planning remain devolved and Mr Salmond, who has been accused of having an ‘obsession’ with onshore wind power, made clear that he will take a very different approach. The developing policy schism between Edinburgh and London means Scotland can expect to see ever greater numbers of wind farms, while their growth south of the Border is checked.
In a charm offensive aimed at hundreds of representatives of the wind industry in Glasgow, Mr Salmond said: ‘When I became First Minister in 2007, I inherited a target for 50 per cent of Scotland’s electricity to be produced by renewable sources by 2020.
‘We now know that we can achieve much more than that, more quickly – having already exceeded our 2011 target.
‘In the light of that progress, I can announce that we have set a new interim target. By 2015, the equivalent of 50 per cent of Scotland’s electricity demand will be met by renewable sources.
‘This target is ambitious but also achievable. It is based on current data about capacity which is operational, under construction or has been consented.
‘I believe creating more clean energy is essential for Scotland and this target provides three benefits in particular – energy security, environmental sustainability and employment opportunities.’
Last year, 35 per cent of Scotland’s electricity was generated by green energy. Onshore wind is increasingly dominant and is responsible for 59 per cent of the country’s renewable energy capacity.
Mr Salmond said: ‘Scotland is uniquely positioned to develop offshore wind, wave and tidal power – we have immense natural resources, a world-class research base and generations of engineering expertise, particularly offshore.
‘Everything the Scottish Government does – our long-term targets and our significant financial support for developing renewables – is designed to maximise those advantages, and to encourage jobs and investment.’
Recent figures show that the number of wind farms will rise from 131 at present to 435 if all those currently planned go ahead, while the number of turbines will rise from 1,657 to 4,784.
The UK Government has set a target of 20 per cent of its total energy demand coming f rom renewables by 2020. But the SNP government wants the equivalent of 100 per cent of electricity to come from renewables by then.
Another example of the polarised stances at Holyrood and Westminster is on nuclear power.
Mr Salmond is firmly against the creation of nuclear power stations – directly in contrast with UK Government plans to develop new nuclear reactors on eight sites.
The First Minister’s comments on wind farms came in stark contrast to those of Mr Hayes, who said: ‘If you look at what has been built, what has consent and what is in the planning system, much of which will not get through and will be rejected, even if a minority of what’s in the system is built, we are going to reach our 2020 target. I’m saying enough is enough.’
He has commissioned research on the impact of turbines on rural landscapes and house prices, as well as complaints about noise.
‘We can no longer have wind turbines imposed on communities,’ he said. ‘I can’t single-handedly build a new Jerusalem but I can protect our green and pleasant land.’
Recent figures showed that, despite the total capacity of Scotland’s wind farms soaring by nearly a third in the past year alone, the amount of electricity produced by them reduced by 19 per cent.
Tory MSP Murdo Fraser, convener of Holyrood’s energy committee, said: ‘The biggest problem with the SNP’s renewable energy target is that it’s completely underpinned by wind power.
‘Not only is that an unreliable and intermittent source but it’s led to turbines blighting communities.
‘Elsewhere in the world enthusiasm for wind energy is cooling but not in SNP Scotland.’
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