New wind farms ‘to power half of Scots homes’

RSPB Scotland has raised fears the turbines would threaten wildlife. Picture: Jane Barlow

RSPB Scotland has raised fears the turbines would threaten wildlife. Picture: Jane Barlow

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SCOTTISH ministers have approved four major offshore wind farms that it is claimed could generate enough electricity for more than half of the homes in Scotland, as part of the SNP government’s flagship policy of promoting renewable energy.

The developments in the Forth and Tay regions will include hundreds of turbines said to be capable of producing up to 2.284 gigawatts of electricity – enough to power 1.4 million of the 2.4 million homes in Scotland.

It is estimated that the four wind farms combined will produce carbon savings of 135 million tonnes of CO² over their lifespans.

The announcement has been welcomed by some environmental groups. However, RSPB Scotland has raised fears the turbines would threaten marine wildlife. The Scottish Government said consent has been granted subject to strict conditions to minimise the impact on birds and the environment.

The SNP has set a target of meeting 100 per cent of Scotland’s electricity demand from renewable sources by 2020.

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Energy minister Fergus Ewing said: “Renewable energy is extremely valuable to Scotland’s economy, to reducing our carbon emissions and in providing low-carbon energy supplies as well as jobs and long-term investment.

“These wind farms alone could generate a combined gross value added of between £314 million and £1.2 billion in Scotland over their lifetime and generate between 2,567 and 13,612 jobs within Scotland during the construction period.”

Maggie McGinaly, director of energy and clean technologies at Scottish Enterprise, said: “As well as the significant electricity generation created by these sites, developers will now be able to move forward with these projects, bringing opportunities for new investment – and new jobs.”

Dr Richard Dixon, director of Friends of the Earth Scotland, welcomed the announcement as a “big step forward” but warned the “lack of enthusiasm” for renewables on the part of the UK government meant the wind farms may never be built.

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He said: “These four developments could supply two-thirds of Scotland’s electricity needs with clean, green energy on windy days. These schemes represent as much capacity as Scotland’s current nuclear reactors. The UK government needs to stop its obsession with nuclear power skewing the electricity market to the major disadvantage of renewable energy.”

Stuart Housden, director of RSPB Scotland, said it was “extremely disappointed”at the decision. He said: “If the assessments of potential damage prove accurate, these wind farms would be amongst the most deadly for birds anywhere in the world.”

The Neart na Gaoithe wind farm, off the Fife Ness coastline, would have a maximum of 75 turbines generating up to 450 megawatts of power.

The Alpha and Bravo Seagreen developments would be located off the Angus coast and would consist of up to 150 turbines, with a generating capacity of up to 1050 MW, while the Inch Cape farm, also off the Angus coastline, would have up to 110 turbines, generating up to 784 MW.

Dart Energy appeals go to ministers

THE Scottish Government has taken over the decision on two planning appeals for the production of coal bed methane after it said the plans were of “national interest” and needed further scrutiny.

Dart Energy had applied to Falkirk and Stirling councils for permission to drill at 14 sites in Airth and the Forth Valley. The company then called on the Scottish government to make the ruling instead of the local authorities.

Planning Minister Derek Mackay said: “The decision has been taken in light of the considerable public interest in the proposals, as well as its relevance to the implementation of the new recently updated Scottish Planning Policy. Scottish Ministers therefore believe there is a national interest that would be best served by further scrutiny of these proposals.”

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