Contentious plans for giant wind turbines in parks, schools and leisure centres have been approved by Fife Council amid concerns that communities in their shadow will see no benefit.
The project has been approved as a way of slashing the council’s £13 million a year energy bills, an amount expected to top £20m by 2020.
The council’s executive committee unanimously gave the green light to seven potential sites for 77-metre wind turbines which could generate up to £11.75m.
The prospect of turbines appearing in the middle of local communities has proved controversial in some quarters with questions raised over the amount of consultation carried out with local people and the benefits they will see.
But Fife Council’s deputy leader, Councillor Lesley Laird, said the authority needs to “put its own house in order” as it continues battling a multi-million-pound budget black hole.
The council’s commitment to finding “new ways of doing things” was highlighted as the executive committee unanimously gave the green light to the seven potential sites for wind turbines.
The local authority spent £13m on energy bills last year and councillors were told it is “not an option to continue with the status quo.”
Councillor Laird, the council’s deputy leader, said: “This project is just one part of the council’s energy strategy, which has been drawn up to help reduce carbon emissions and cut the council’s energy bills.
“It’s vital we show communities that the council’s starting point is to get its own house in order by exploring new ways of doing things that can generate income against a backdrop of budget cuts so that we can continue to find ways to defend frontline services for all communities in Fife.”
Councillors backed plans to invest in turbines at Lochhead and Lower Melville Wood landfill sites, which already have planning consent.
They also instructed officials to apply for planning permission at Pitreavie Playing Fields, Dunfermline, Halbeath Park and Ride, Inverkeithing High School, Dalgety Bay Leisure Centre and Cotlands Park in Kennoway.
The wind power project is one of the ways the council is trying to reduce its energy costs, carbon emissions and generate income to protect services. Detailed studies have been carried out on 25 areas of land which have a council building next to them, shortlisted from an original list of 50. Investigations found the majority are no longer viable due to technical or planning restraints.
Feasibility studies into the potential development of a number of turbines which would feed all of their power into the grid are also being carried out.
Seasonal ecological work needed to determine impact on bird and wildlife means complete information may not be available for some of these sites until next spring.
An update on the project is also being reported to area committees.
Some concerns were raised, however. Conservative councillor Dave Dempsey said there had not been enough time to scrutinise and get answers on income and wind speed calculations.
Dunfermline SNP member Brian Goodall asked for assurances on levels of community benefit.
Kirkcaldy SNP member George Kay queried the public consultation. He is concerned some sites are not being taken forward when he did not know they were being considered in the first place.
Labour member Gavin Yates expressed concern about the possibility of floodlights at Dalgety Bay Leisure Centre causing flicker problems for a turbine there.
SNP group leader Peter Grant asked what benefits would go to communities directly affected by the turbines.
Fife Council leader David Ross said the idea of community benefit was to benefit the wider Fife community through savings to the council.
Last week west Fife anti-windfarm campaign group Stop Proliferation Of Turbines (Spot) Fife said it believe the council’s claims the turbines will save more than £11m are “ill-informed and inaccurate”.