Renewable energy heavyweight Vattenfall has said Scotland leads the way in the UK in terms of its attractiveness to windfarm developers as it announced plans for a big project in Argyllshire.
Vattenfall proposes to build a windfarm featuring around 26 turbines five miles south of Oban that it reckons would be capable of producing enough electricity to power around 117,500 UK homes.
The Swedish company has set out to win the support of locals for the Musdale development, which could have a big impact on the area. It is expected to feature turbines with a blade tip height of up to 200 metres.
Proposals to build onshore windfarms have run into opposition from locals in other areas of Scotland.
News of Vattenfall’s Musdale project comes amid mounting concern that Scotland has not enjoyed as much economic benefit from windfarm developments as was expected.
Vattenfall said it wanted to collaborate with people in the area of the proposed windfarm to allow them to influence its development. It held out the prospect that the windfarm could generate significant benefits for the area as well as helping Scotland to meet its targets for the reduction of carbon-dioxide emissions.
“Vattenfall wants to work with the local community and businesses to explore how we can create opportunities and benefits for the local area through community investment, skills development, jobs and employment,” said the company’s UK development director for onshore wind, Frank Elsworth.
He added: “Scotland is a frontrunner in onshore wind energy compared to the rest of the UK and is reaping the benefits for the environment, communities and businesses.”
Vattenfall has amassed a significant portfolio of windfarms in Scotland. This includes three that are operational and seven that are in either the development or construction phase.
A spokesperson for Vattenfall said Scotland has excellent wind resources but the main advantage comes from the level of support for onshore wind at political level, and more broadly.
The spokesperson noted a study of public attitudes found 70 per cent of the public in Scotland support onshore wind. She highlighted a 2017 policy paper in which the Scottish Government said that onshore wind was a vital component of the huge industrial opportunity that renewables more generally created for Scotland. It plays a valuable role in empowering and rewarding local communities located near developments.
Other investors based outside Scotland have developed significant windfarm portfolios in Scotland, which they may expand.
In August, the Renewables Infrastructure Group underlined its appetite for further acquisitions in Scotland. It has interests in 16 windfarms in Scotland, including a 100% stake in a project to build a windfarm on the Kintyre Peninsula which it acquired in January.
Greencoat UK Wind has interests in 12 windfarms in Scotland. In April, it agreed to buy the giant South Kyle windfarm from Vattenfall in a £320 million deal. Vattenfall will buy the power that will be produced by the windfarm.
Firms that develop windfarms can generate return on their investments by selling stakes in them at various stages in the project cycle.
However, critics says investment in windfarms has not generated the boost to the economy that was expected in Scotland. Developers have stoked controversy by awarding contracts for the manufacture of turbines for big offshore developments to overseas firms.
Economy Secretary Fiona Hyslop recently criticised SSE for awarding work on the £3 billion Seagreen windfarm that will be built off Scotland to overseas firms rather than Fife-based Burntisland Fabrications (BiFab).
On Wednesday, SSE boss Alistair Phillips-Davies said the Perth-based giant had worked hard to ensure companies in Scotland got a fair share of work on its projects.
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