Plans for an explosion in the number of wind farms littering the landscape have been unveiled by the SNP.
The Scottish Government yesterday published proposals for a huge increase in the number of turbines in every part of the country.
The ‘onshore wind policy’ sets out how the unsightly structures will double in number over the coming years – and says that even more of them will be needed ‘in locations across our landscapes’.
It also champions the construction of larger turbines on existing sites.
In addition, ministers set a new target for half of Scotland’s entire energy needs to come from renewables by 2030.
But opponents accused the SNP of being ‘obsessed’ with wind farms and said the developments should never be forced on residents who do not want them.
According to figures in the policy document, there are 3,335 turbines on 285 sites producing 6,747 megawatts of energy. But it says a further 2,957 are in the development pipeline at 192 sites across Scotland, which could produce a further 11,009 megawatts.
The document goes on: ‘The Scottish Government is determined to influence, enable and deliver a clean and integrated energy system, delivering reliable supplies at an affordable cost. Onshore wind, a mature and established technology, is now among the lowest-cost forms of generating electricity, renewable or otherwise. We expect onshore wind to remain at the heart of a clean, reliable and low carbon energy future in Scotland.
‘In order for onshore wind to play its vital role in meeting Scotland’s energy needs – and a material role in growing our economy – its contribution must continue to grow.
‘Onshore wind generation will remain crucial in terms of our goals for a decarbonised energy system helping to meet the greater demand from our heat and transport.’
It goes on: ‘This means that Scotland will continue to need more onshore wind development and capacity, in locations across our landscapes where it can be accommodated.’
The Scottish Government has already set a target for the equivalent of 100 per cent of Scotland’s electricity needs to come from renewables by 2020.
But it yesterday cemented a new target for 50 per cent of all the energy required for heat, electricity and transport in the country to come from renewables by 2030. The previous target was 30 per cent by 2020.
Meeting this goal will involve a huge expansion in the number of onshore wind farms.
Scottish Conservative energy spokesman Alexander Burnett said: ‘These figures further prove the SNP’s obsession with wind farms.
‘While there is a need for onshore wind development, it has to be done in appropriate places, and with the consent of those living in the area.
‘The fact that there are hundreds more being built or awaiting construction is therefore alarming, and many communities will understandably be concerned about the impact this will have.’
Energy Minister Paul Wheelhouse said: ‘There is no question that onshore wind is a vital component of the huge industrial opportunity that renewables more generally create for Scotland. The sector supports an estimated 7,500 jobs in Scotland, or 58 per cent of the total for onshore wind across the UK, and generated more than £3billion in turnover in 2015.
‘Our energy and climate change goals mean onshore wind will continue to play a vital role in Scotland’s future. We must support development in the right places and – increasingly – the extension and replacement of existing sites, where acceptable, with new and larger turbines based on an appropriate, case by case assessment of their effects and impacts.’
Mr Wheelhouse said there had been a 12 per cent increase in the level of community and locally owned renewable capacity operating in Scotland to more than 660MW.
At Holyrood yesterday, Tory MSP Donald Cameron, who represents the Highlands and Islands, raised concerns about the ‘many environmental groups, as well as a huge number of local communities who feel that our natural landscape has already been compromised by onshore wind’.
Labour MSP Jackie Baillie said there was little information on how a promise of new jobs would be delivered.
She added: ‘It is fair to say that the major investment in renewables so far has not led to a significant number of jobs or supply chain opportunities retained in Scotland. It is surely not beyond us to retain a greater proportion of work and jobs at home.’
Alex Neill, of consumer group Which?, said: ‘The Government must use this strategy and its devolved advice powers to help get energy consumers engaged, empowered and protected, so they get a better deal.’
Heat makes up more than half of the energy used in Scotland, with a
quarter used for transport.
Scottish Renewables chief executive Claire Mack said: ‘Onshore wind, which provides the bulk of our renewable energy capacity – both operating and in development – is not only more popular than ever, but is the cheapest form of new power generation available.’
She added: ‘A doubling of renewable electricity capacity over the coming decade will serve to increase the economic and environmental benefits of all these technologies as well as cementing Scotland’s place as a world leader in renewable energy skills and technology.’
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