The true pace at which wind farms are spreading across Scotland’s countryside has been disclosed after official figures indicated the number of turbines increased by a third in the last year alone.
The Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) published statistics showing all Scotland’s onshore wind farms had a maximum capacity of 3,808 megawatts (MW) at the end of 2012.
This total was 34 per cent higher than the 2,837MW total in the last quarter of 2011. Scotland’s total capacity is now nearly double that of England, Wales and Northern Ireland combined.
Scottish ministers yesterday welcomed the figures, saying they showed the amount of electricity generated by wind had increased 19 per cent last year to record levels.
However, anti-wind farm campaigners pointed out this increase demonstrated the inefficiency of the technology because it had required a much larger rise in the number of turbines.
They raised questions over how many more wind farms will have to be constructed to meet Alex Salmond’s target of generating the equivalent of nearly all Scotland’s electricity from renewable sources by the end of the decade.
The figures were produced after the Scottish Conservatives disclosed that more than 44,000 people have objected to wind farm applications in the last five years.
Struan Stevenson, a Scottish Tory MEP, said the DECC figures were “perfectly symbolic of how pathetically useless and inefficient the whole technology of wind is.”
Rebutting SNP ministers’ praise, he said: “This is not terrific news for the 44,000 people who have written letters of complaint to planning authorities and the Scottish Government.”
The Daily Telegraph has disclosed how SNP ministers are putting pressure on local councils to allow more wind farms even in areas where local people think they have reached “saturation point”.
DECC said installed generating capacity for all forms of renewable energy increased by 3,170MW across the UK last year.
Nearly half this total (1,224MW) was accounted for by five Scottish onshore wind farms opening or increasing their number of turbines.
The five included an expansion of Whitelee wind farm, Europe’s largest, near Glasgow, the Griffin wind farm in Perthshire and three in the Clyde area.
Scotland’s onshore wind generating capacity of 3,808MW is 84 per cent higher than the total of that of England (1,155MW), Wales (459MW) and Northern Ireland (453MW).
The figures disclosed the amount of electricity generated by all onshore and offshore wind farms increased to 8,296 gigawatt hours, more than four times the 2006 total.
However, the “load capacity” for Scotland’s onshore turbines – the proportion of a wind farm’s capacity that actually produced electricity – averaged only 26 per cent last year.
DECC suggested that the increase in electricity generated had not matched the rise in the number of turbines because “wind speeds were slightly (0.8 knots) lower than 2011.
Fergus Ewing, the Scottish Energy Minister, said 2012 was “another record year for renewables” and Scotland contributed more than a third of the UK’s green energy output.
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