SCOTLAND’S wind farms generated record amounts of power in the first quarter of the year, the latest official figures show.
New data from the UK Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) also confirmed that green energy generation reached its highest levels last year, with almost half of all electricity used coming from renewables in 2014.
The report reveals wind turbines produced 4,452 gigawatt-hours of electricity in the first three months of this year, up 4.3 per cent on the previous most productive quarter.
This is enough to power Scotland’s 960,000 households for a year.
Renewable sources provided 49.8 per cent of electricity used north of the Border in 2014, with installed capacity rising by 9 per cent, or 7,383 megawatts, in the year up to the end of March.
Scottish environmentalists and politicians welcomed the figures but said the UK government’s “perverse” decision to withdraw subsidies for new onshore wind schemes a year early threaten both climate goals and investment north of the Border.
Dr Sam Gardner, head of policy at the charity WWF Scotland, accused UK ministers of “pulling the rug from underneath the industry at a crucial time”, which he says puts environmental benefits and around £3 billion of future investment at risk.
“The UK government needs to restore confidence to a very nervous energy sector,” he said.
Energy minister Fergus Ewing warned that Scotland’s progress towards its renewables goals faces being substantially hampered by ending support under the Renewables Obligation.
“Given the record amounts of power now coming from wind, and a healthy pipeline of wind projects with consent and in planning, the UK government’s proposals will have a profound and disproportionate impact on Scotland,” he said.
“Onshore wind is one of the most cost-effective renewable energies, yet the UK government’s perverse decision to end support puts this hard work and progress in jeopardy and the Scottish Government will continue to argue against it.”
But anti-wind campaigners have backed abolishing the subsidies, which they say amount to a “blank cheque” for the wind industry.
Linda Holt, spokeswoman for Scotland Against Spin, said: “Of course Scotland is producing record amounts of wind because it has record numbers of turbines, but these figures obscure the fact that in the past few months periods of high pressure have stalled turbines across Scotland. Often the entire fleet is producing under 5 per cent of its capacity.
“Mr Ewing has no answer to this problem, except to call for more turbines. Even a child can understand more turbines are useless if the wind isn’t blowing constantly at the right speed. Other forms of reliable electricity generation are what’s needed.”
The report also showed renewable electricity generation was at record levels across the UK, with 21.1 terrawatt-hours produced in the first three months of this year – an increase of 15 per cent on a year ago.
Scotland produces about a third of all renewable power in the UK and is home to nearly 70 per cent of onshore wind schemes. Scottish Government climate targets aim for the equivalent of 100 per cent of energy to be generated from renewable sources by 2020.