December 24, 2012

Majority of councils ‘can’t put a number’ on wind farms in their area

By ANDREW WHITAKER | Published on Monday 24 December 2012 |

Two-thirds of Scotland’s local councils are unable to “put a number” on how many wind farms are in use in their areas, it has been claimed.

Only ten of the councils surveyed were able to say for definite how many wind turbines had been approved and were operational, figures released under freedom of information laws showed.

More than 2,000 wind farms have been confirmed as currently in use, based on the figures released by councils who were asked whether any turbines were “sited” or “operational” in their areas.

SNP ministers are heavily promoting renewable energy such as wind farms, with a target of meeting 100 per cent of Scotland’s electricity demand from alternative sources by 2020.

However, only ten of Scotland’s 32 councils were able to set out the definite number of wind farms in use, with the figure standing at 750, according to a report published by the Conservatives yesterday.

There were 261 turbines confirmed in Argyll and Bute and 232 in the Scottish Borders, the figures showed.

A further 12 councils were only able to estimate a number based on planning applications, which stood at 1,375. The other ten councils either had no record of operational wind farms or failed to respond to the Conservatives’ FOI request.

Holyrood’s energy committee convenor, Murdo Fraser, said: “I find it astonishing that most councils can’t put a number on how many wind turbines are in the ground and working.

“How are we supposed to build a sensible picture, and keep the number of wind farms under control in the face of an SNP obsession, if we can’t say how many are up and running? We need the Scottish Government and councils to present an accurate, up-to-date number, with the facility to change that as and when new turbines are built,” he said. “It is not good enough to shrug shoulders and say we don’t know – this should not be a difficult task.”

However, the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (Cosla) dismissed Mr Fraser’s claims as “opportunistic council bashing”.

A spokesman said: “The bottom line is that Scotland’s councils do know how many wind turbines are up and running in their area. Not only do they know how many there are, they would be more than happy to divulge this information because many of them believe they are granting too many.

“The problem I believe is the same as is often the issue with FOIs – the way the question is asked or indeed worded or what question was actually put to councils.”

SNP MSP John Wilson defended the Scottish Government’s flagship policy of increasing the reliance on renewable energy for the nation’s electricity.

Mr Wilson said: “This clearly shows the resistance by the Tories to alternative energy sources and is typical of their attempt to undermine the widely agreed targets of getting 100 per cent of Scotland’s electricity demand from renewables.”

Scottish Green co-leader Patrick Harvie said: “If there’s an issue with what planning records are kept that doesn’t demonstrate that there’s a problem with renewable energy.

“We do need to be clear what capacity is being installed, but this criticism by the Tories says nothing about energy policy.

“The Scottish Tories want more reliance on nuclear and are happy to exploit fossil fuels that would undermine climate change targets.”

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