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Scotland’s forests to generate £13m a year from renewables

Around £13m a year is to be raised for the public purse from leasing Scotland’s national forest estate to renewable energy developers by 2020.

Wind and hydro power developments on land owned by Forestry Commission Scotland land are well on target to generate 1.2GW of electricity within the next four years.

More than 900Mw is already produced – with around 50 more projects either under construction or in the planning process.

So far, operational schemes have created around £3.1m of community benefit each year, with this expected to rise to around £5m.

Michael Ansell, Head of Estates Development at Forest Enterprise Scotland said: “Through the development of renewable energy on the National Forest Estate, Forest Enterprise Scotland is assisting the Scottish Government with its climate change and renewable electricity targets whilst providing significant income and investment opportunities to communities.”

Whitelee, the largest onshore windfarm in the UK with 215 turbines, sits on Forestry Commission land on Eaglesham Moor just south of Glasgow.

Latest figures show there is 917.4MW of wind power now generated on Forestry Commission land with a further 19.7MW produced by hydro schemes.

Two new windfarms are currently under construction. At A’Chruach in Argyll and Bute, 21 turbines are being built near Lochgilphead with work underway on 96 turbines at Kilgallioch, near Barrhill in South Ayrshire.

Six further windfarms have been approved by planners but yet to be constructed in Highland, Moray, Dumfries and Galloway, Argyll and Bute and West Lothian,

Meanwhile, planners are considering eight new windfarms on Forestry Commission land – capable of generating almost 300MW of power – including 18 turbines at the Braemore development, near Lairg, in Highland.

Councillors have objected to the plans with developers now lodging an appeal with the Scottish Government.

Meanwhile, a campaign is underway to halt 11 turbines at Blairadam Woods in Fife.

Some developers working with the Forestry Commission have indicated that the cut in subsidies for onshore wind projects could impact on future development.

However, significant development activity is still going on in respect of potential future sites, the organisation said.

Since 2007, 1,292 hectares of forest have been felled to make way for wind turbines – with 1250 hectares replanted.

All leases signed by energy companies include a reference to the Scottish Government’s woodland removal policy, which includes the need for compensatory planting where appropriate.

Friends of the Earth Director Dr Richard Dixon commented: “It is really encouraging to see a Government body making real progress in meeting their renewable energy targets.

“The Forestry Commission appears to be striking a good balance between making space for renewables and replacing any tree cover lost. We know that increasing forested land is crucial to drawing down carbon from the atmosphere.”