The number of wind turbines in Scotland has doubled over the past year, with nearly 5,000 set to be scattered across the country. New figures show 4,519 turbines have been approved, built or are under construction, despite green energy targets already being met.
This is up from 2,315 turbines the previous year – and hundreds more are at the planning stage.
Scotland now has more wind turbines than the rest of the UK put together, with the Highlands soon to have a greater number than England.
Last night, critics demanded an urgent halt to their ‘out of control’ proliferation.
According to figures from Renewables UK, the wind farm companies’ trade body, Scotland is bearing the brunt of new development. While construction in the rest of the UK has slowed, 27 large- scale wind farms were built north of the Border last year – with 31 more planned for 2015.
But according to council planning applications, the scale of development is even higher. There are 2,068 turbines planned or under construction in the Highlands, with more than 500 around Loch Ness. Dumfries and Galloway has 1,315, while Aberdeenshire has more than 800.
The SNP has set a target of generating the equivalent of all our electricity from renewable sources by 2020, with the majority expected to come from onshore wind.
But the country is already on course to exceed green energy targets. According to the Scientific Alliance, which campaigns against wind farms, output from existing developments a nd pl a nned schemes given approval already stood at 99 per cent of the target more than a year ago.
As a result, campaigners are calling for a moratorium on all new wind farm applications.
Linda Holt of Scotland Against Spin said: ‘Wind farm development in Scotland is out of control.
‘The last thing Scottish ministers want to know is how many turbines have been imposed on the country. If they did, they would have to tell the Scottish people and they couldn’t blame Westminster as planning is fully devolved.
‘They would also have to stop dodging key policy questions like how many turbines do we need, how many can we afford and how many can our landscape and communities take.
‘In other words, they would have to do the j ob of government. Instead, they have lain down in front of the international wind industry and allowed speculators to besiege and blight communities and landscapes across Scotland.’
Scottish Tory energy spokesman Murdo Fraser said: ‘Wind energy has a part to play in the power mix, but the SNP’s single-minded obsession with onshore wind is blanketing our countryside with turbines producing inefficient, intermittent and expensive energy.
‘There are already enough turbines either constructed or in the pipeline to meet the 100 per cent target f or 2020. Communities across Scotland, already feeling under siege from wind companies, will ask why we need to keep building more and more.
‘What Scotland needs is a balanced energy policy. With major power stations at Longannet, Hunterston and Torness all set to close in the next eight years, and with the SNP proposing nothing to replace them, we are facing an energy gap which intermittent wind power cannot fill.
‘Even with all these turbines, we will be left having to import power from England to keep the lights on.’
Wind farm operators are being paid £1million a week to switch the turbines off during periods of over-supply.
The latest industry figures, from the Renewable Energy Foundation, show £53.1million was handed out to green energy companies over the past 12 months for shutting down turbines. The money is paid by consumers through a subsidy added to electricity bills.
Turbines have to be shut down at certain times because Britain’s electricity network is unable to cope with the power they produce.
On average, a wind farm paid to switch off earns about one-third more than if it produced electricity and sold it to the National Grid.
The scale of the payments has ballooned in the past two years. In 2012, wind farms were paid £5.9million to switch off. By last year, that had increased almost tenfold.
Since wind farms started receiving payments five years ago, more than £100million has been paid out.
Over the past year, Whitelee wind farm, just outside Glasgow, has been paid more than £20million for turning off its turbines.
With 215 turbines, Whitelee is Britain’s largest onshore wind farm and is owned by Scottish Power Renewables, a subsidiary of the Spanish energy giant Iberdrola.
A Scottish Government spokesman said: ‘Surveys show there is strong public support for onshore wind and the Scottish Government is ambitious for Scotland’s tremendous green energy potential and its ability to transform communities.
‘We continue to lead the way in supporting local and community ownership of renewable energy. We remain committed to growing renewables and are keen to see the right developments in the right places.
‘Scottish planning policy is clear that the design and location of renewables projects should reflect the scale and character of the landscape, as well as being considered environmentally acceptable.’
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