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Wind farm targets may be hit by no-go zones

Alex Salmond will struggle to fulfil his ambitious renewable targets as a result of Scottish Government proposals to increase wind farm-free zones around towns, a leading energy expert has claimed.

David Toke, an Aberdeen University academic studying energy policy, has questioned a new plan to increase the “separation distance” between cities and towns and wind farms from two kilometres to 2.5 kilometres.

The suggestion has been made in the Government’s recently published Scottish Planning Policy consultation.

Toke claimed the measure, which has been suggested to reduce the “visual impact” of wind farms, would lead to a shortage of land available for onshore wind generation.

“Local councils may be able to declare virtual no-go zones for wind farms within two and a half kilometres of towns or cities,” said Toke, at Aberdeen University’s Politics of Oil and Gas conference last week.

“If you want to limit onshore wind it is going to make it very difficult to achieve the Scottish Government’s target of 100 per cent renewables by 2020. The two things are more or less in direct contention. I think these proposed planning restrictions do put in doubt the ability to reach that target.

“The empty areas that would tend to be left over would be precisely the sort of nature-sensitive areas that rule out [wind farms] on other criteria. If you leave it up to local councils they may well be pressed to interpret it rather broadly. There is a potential here of, if not ending the onshore wind farm programme in Scotland, severely attenuating it.”

Yesterday a Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “Separation distances are a feature of existing Scottish Planning Policy and we do not consider that this makes our renewables targets difficult to achieve. The draft SPP seeks consultation responses on whether the proposed increased community separation distance is ­appropriate.”