Scotland is braced for a wind farm explosion over the next few years with councils struggling to cope with a mountain of planning applications.
The Sunday Post has learned the number of turbines could rise 10-fold as energy giants, farmers and landowners swamp local authorities with proposals.
More than 210 wind farms are already operational across Scotland, with at least 2,440 turbines between them.
But figures obtained under freedom of information show a staggering 1,898 applications have either been granted by councillors or are still to be considered.
Among those are plans for 50 giant turbines, each 149.5 metres tall, in the South Kyle forest in East Ayrshire, and a staggering 700 separate developments in Aberdeenshire.
Our revelations last night sparked fresh demands for an “instant moratorium” on the construction of onshore wind farms and an inquiry into the growing use of turbines.
It comes only days after a group of community councils across Dumfries and Galloway said no more developments should get the go-ahead until their impact can be fully understood.
Lyndsay Ward, a prominent anti-wind farm campaigner, said: “We need councils and the government to stop and take stock, then see if the wind farms already there are even doing us any good, or if the countryside can actually sustain the growing numbers.
“Our council services are being cut, there are potholes on the roads, and our children are not getting proper schooling, yet local authorities are putting through planning application after planning application that cannot be sustained.”
Linda Holt of campaign group Scotland Against Spin, said: “We need an instant moratorium on wind farms and then we should hold an independent investigation into the costs and benefits of turbines.
“All we have at the moment is the sales pitch from operators but can we take their word for it? It’s time for a sensible energy policy not just wind farm after wind farm.”
Green energy, particularly the growth of onshore and off-shore wind farms, has been one of the SNP’s key policies since taking office in 2007.
The Scottish government’s target is to generate the equivalent of 100 per cent of electricity consumption, and 11 per cent of heat demand, from renewables by 2020.
In recent years ministers have invested heavily in the sector, insisting Scotland has a quarter of all of Europe’s wind energy potential.
But wind power is becoming increasingly more unpopular among the public, with giant turbines now scattered across much of the countryside.
Moray has the most wind farm sites, with 20 in operation, but Orkney has the most turbines, with 600 across the archipelago, although the majority are owned by farmers and other individuals.
Scotland’s largest onshore wind farm, Whitlee, on Eaglesham moor outside Glasgow, alone has 215 giant turbines up to 110 metres in height. Figures show Scotland’s 32 councils have only refused 247 applications for wind farms or individual turbines since 2007.
In stark contrast, a total of 1,629 applications have been granted, and a further 269 have yet to be considered by planning officials.
Among those set for construction is a proposal to create Scotland’s third largest wind farm, near Aberfeldy in Perthshire. Building work on the £200 million Griffin complex, with 68 turbines towering 124 metres above the ground, has yet to start but it will require extensive road works and the lowering of a bridge.
Controversial plans for a wind farm with 22 turbines in what campaigners insist are “idyllic and unspoilt” glens on the Perth-Angus border have also been put to Perth and Kinross council.
Swedish firm Vattenfall has submitted plans for a £190m wind farm in the South Kyle forest in East Ayrshire, with proposals for 50 turbines up to 149.5m in height and the creation of more than 40 miles of site access roads.
In the Scottish Borders, 27 projects have either been granted or are yet to be decided upon, including plans for large-scale wind farms in Lauder and nearby Oxton.
Operators of the Clyde Wind Farm in Biggar, Lanarkshire, are seeking approval for a further 54 turbines at the sprawling site, while the five applications awaiting consent in South Ayrshire would bring 81 new turbines to the council area. More than 120 turbines, each 197m tall, are also set to be built in the Firth of Forth, off Dunbar, and a further 213 at Inch Cape, near Arbroath.
Scottish Conservative MEP Struan Stevenson, president of the European Parliament’s Climate Change Inter-group, said yesterday he fears Scotland will become the “Palm Springs of Europe”.
More than 5,000 turbines are scattered across empty plains on the outskirts of the Californian desert city which lies in the shadow of the San Jacinto Mountains.
Mr Stevenson said: “The Scottish government is obsessed with wind farms, and the result is the fact one million households in Scotland now live in fuel poverty.
“This is an administration that got into office on a manifesto to end fuel poverty, yet they are not being held to account for pursuing this crazy obsession with turbines.”
Over the past two weeks a hard-hitting Sunday Post investigation has highlighted major concerns about wind power, including evidence of damage to Scotland’s countryside. We also revealed turbine operators have been awarded £1.8 billion in government subsidies to build turbines since the SNP took office in 2007.
Our figures showed a staggering £800,000 a day has been paid out of the public purse – with the costs added to fuel bills, leaving the average household £69 worse off. But officials at the Scottish government have defended their renewable energy policy and said wind farms have been pivotal in securing almost 12,000 jobs.
A spokesman said: “Renewable sources of energy met over 40 per cent of Scotland’s gross electricity demands in 2012, and renewable projects provide over £5m per year in community benefits.
“The Scottish government’s ambitious targets and consistent support have been major factors in the growth of the renewables sector.”
Twice as many trees have been planted as chopped down as a result of wind farm construction, it was claimed on Saturday.
Officials at the Forestry Commission say approximately 2,510 hectares of woodland have been felled to build turbines since May 2007.
But 4,500 hectares – about two million trees – have been planted across Scotland to compensate for those cut down.
However the John Muir Trust, a leading conservation charity dedicated to protecting wild places, is growing “incredibly concerned” about the
scale of wind development.
Helen McDade, head of policy, said: “In the Highlands and Islands, the Borders and most rural areas, planners cannot cope with the deluge of
“Our decision-makers need to ask themselves, ‘what is it that makes Scotland special for tourists, incoming business and for us?’”
The expansion of the wind farm industry is “out of control”, with ministers now unable to even say how many actually exist in Scotland.
Critics insist both local and national governments are failing to get to grips with soaring planning applications with no figures to quantify numbers across the country.
When asked by The Sunday Post under freedom of information for the total number of sites and turbines in operation, the Scottish government could not answer.
Officials said they only held data for “wind farms which the Scottish government has consented” and suggested asking power firms, the National Grid and local councils.
A statement then added: “Consent doesn’t necessarily mean that developers take their proposal forward.”
However, a handful of councils – including Aberdeen, West Lothian and Shetland – also told The Sunday Post they do not hold data on the number of wind farm sites or turbines either.
Dr John Constable, director of the Renewable Energy Foundation, said: “The Scottish government’s apparent failure to monitor the full scale and pace of wind development in detail suggests that this industry is in effect out of control.”
|Wind Watch relies entirely
on User Funding