The relentless spread of wind farms has accelerated, with hundreds more turbines erected in the countryside in the past year.
Capacity of Scotland’s onshore wind industry rocketed by 17 per cent in the past year, with the increase estimated to be equivalent to more than 350 extra turbines.
The further expansion of wind farms is expected to continue in the coming years, with the Scottish Government insisting that more are needed to meet its green energy targets.
But the move towards greener sources of energy is almost entirely reliant on increasing use of onshore wind, despite the massive concerns of residents about some developments. Noise, safety concerns and the damage developments cause to the natural beauty of an area are regularly cited by communities.
Scottish Tory energy spokesman Alexander Burnett said: ‘More and more turbines are emerging and communities in Scotland – particularly rural communities – feel powerless to stop them.
‘The SNP moaned that UK Government subsidy changes would wreck the wind farm industry. Instead, the relentless march of turbines has continued throughout the SNP’s tenure.’
Yesterday’s figures, published by the UK Government, show total capacity of onshore wind was 7,653 megawatts (MW) last year, compared with 6,547MW in 2016, a rise of 17 per cent.
With an average wind turbine adding around 3MW to capacity, this is estimated to amount to an increase of around 369 extra turbines.
Total capacity has increased by 93 per cent in the past five years, from 3,955MW in 2012. Wind energy generated north of the Border last year amounted to 16,783 gigawatt hours (GWh), a 34 per cent increase on the previous year.
On Monday Miss Sturgeon pledged to support the continued growth of onshore wind as she delivered the keynote address at the Scottish Renewables conference in Edinburgh.
She said she is ‘determined’ to achieve a target for at least 50 per cent of Scotland’s overall energy use to come from renewables by 2030, compared with 18 per cent today.
Yesterday’s figures show renewable energy generation increased by 26 per cent, from 19,676 GWh to 24,826 GWh.
Total generation from hydro increased by 8.5 per cent, from 4,963 GWh to 5,384 GWh, while there were also increases for tidal and solar power, although they produced comparatively tiny amounts of electricity.
Claire Mack, chief executive of Scottish Renewables, said: ‘Almost all of the increase in Scotland’s renewable energy capacity was due to new onshore wind capacity.
‘Onshore wind is our cheapest form of new electricity generation and enjoys record support from the public but is largely unable to compete in new power auctions.
‘That is preventing UK consumers from taking advantage of the cost and carbon savings onshore wind can provide, and we are working hard to ensure future projects find a way to sell the power they could produce.’
Energy Minister Paul Wheelhouse said: ‘Despite damaging policy changes from the UK Government we continue to harness and support Scotland’s renewables potential.
‘Renewable energy will play a hugely significant role in powering Scotland’s future and through Scotland’s Energy Strategy we want to ensure the correct strategic decisions are taken to support this valued sector of Scotland’s economy.’
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