Speaking to farmers and landowners in recent months appears to indicate a marked trend in the belief that the time has passed for investing in renewable energy in the form of wind power.
There appears to be an attitude that the time to invest in wind energy has long passed and if you haven’t got a turbine now you never will.
This sentiment appears to be echoed across the country with many saying that they just can’t see the point in investing. This fear of investment appears to stem from the perceived unlikelihood of gaining planning permission, coupled with the initial high capital cost of applying for and installing wind turbines. However, while councils continue to refuse permissions, they do also continue to grant permissions for wind turbines.
The feeling that the imaginary bubble has burst appears to coincide with the degradation of the Feed In Tariffs. Previously there was a larger lure to tempt in potential landowners looking for a way to diversify income and maintain a viable productive business.
With the decrease in FITS, it appears there is less appeal in the risk of seeking permission. Yet there are landowners almost ready to dip their toe in the water, should the incentive become big enough
The fact is the Scottish government still has high expectations and high targets to achieve their 100% target by 2020. The increase in off-shore wind interest will fulfil some of this required capacity, though on-shore wind will still play a vital role in achieving these targets. It will only be with the aid of smaller land owners and farmers that these targets will be achievable. The development of wind power on a smaller and more local scale also serves to benefit energy security in localising energy production.
Larger developers are still looking at and investing in sites across Scotland utilising a much larger scale of development than others can. It shows that there is still confidence in the industry and that wind is still a viable pursuit for those looking to diversify.
Not all landowners can afford to risk the kind of money it can take to see a wind turbine development from conception to planning and construction and not all landowners have the financial availability. There are however funds available to aid in this process from Community Energy Scotland, the CARES loan fund looks to provide a loan to landowners and community groups alike who would otherwise not be able to pursue a wind development application.
So has the wind bubble burst? It depends on where you are. Some areas such as Aberdeenshire have a wealth of turbine applications in planning on top of an already busy landscape of wind production. Other areas have little development with a lot of potential sites still to be utilised. There are still good incentives with the current FIT rates and funding to help with the application process where appropriate, and good internal rates of return can be expected on a variety of development sizes from small to large scale.
There is still a requirement for on-shore wind development on a smaller scale be it farm based or community based and the smaller landowner or developer will yet play a vital role in meeting our renewable demands. Landowners and community groups alike who are considering a wind development should seek advice from a reputable independent consultancy such as SAC consulting (a division of the Scottish Rural College, SRUC), who can aid in all aspects of pursuing a wind development.
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