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Winds of change in Pentlands as turbine applications rocket

A prominent community group in Kirknewton has admitted winds farms dotted around the Pentland Hills will be inevitable, with the flood of proposals for the area having now soared past 20 projects.

Alternative energy firm Partnerships for Renewables this month lodged an application to build six turbines at Camilty, about seven miles south-west of Kirknewton.

The plan is the latest in a series of wind farm applications and scoping studies that have now reached an estimated 22 projects across West Lothian.

Stewart McKenna, chairman of the Kirknewton Community Development Trust, said an area like West Lothian situated close to the country’s capital, had to accept some development linked to electricity needs.

He said energy developers were choosing to submit applications around Kirknewton because of the ideal conditions for strong winds.

Mr McKenna said: “There are aesthetic values that are wheeled out at this point when people want to object to something. What would you rather look at? Would you rather look at a nuclear power station, a coal mine, a smoking, belching stack burning coal or would you rather look at a wind ­turbine?

“We have to look at the alternatives because we’re all users of this commodity. As such we all have a responsibility.”

A total of 51 wind farm applications were submitted for West Lothian from 2007 to August this year.

Two major applications – a 23-turbine wind farm for Fauch Hill and a separate 22 turbines proposed for Harburnhead – are due to go before a public inquiry next year.

West Lothian councillors have previously voted to oppose both proposals.

First Minister Alex Salmond wants half of Scotland’s electricity to be supplied by renewable energy by 2015.

Mr McKenna added: “The Scottish Government have targets for renewables. They’ve got to be fulfilled somewhere.”

Lothian MSP Neil Findlay has been campaigning against the over-concentration of wind farm developments from Kirknewton to West Calder.

He reiterated his call for the government to produce a national, co-ordinated plan for wind farms, saying: “The situation is really just ridiculous. It’s like the race to the Klondike. One developer sticks his stake in the ground and gets permission, then the next thing they’re all sticking speculative applications in. There’s no planning involved.”

Fellow Lothians MSP Margo MacDonald said people were increasingly questioning the economics of wind power.

She said: “I think of late information on the performance of windmills as opposed to the cost of them has made people wonder about the advisability of having so many.”

Ms MacDonald added: “When any part of the country as much loved and as beautiful as the Pentland Hills skyline is broken in parts by windmills, some people it has to be admitted will like them, but most people regret the loss of the pristine look of the natural countryside.”