SCOTLAND is now home to more than half the UK’s onshore wind farms – with thousands of turbines operating as part of the multi-billion-pound industry.
There are 2,315 wind turbines on land in Scotland, out of a total of 4,350 in the UK, according to data published yesterday. That is more than twice the number in England, which has 1,085. Wales has 587 and Northern Ireland 363.
The statistics, from industry body Renewable UK, do not take into account wind-farm developments making their way through the planning process.
Scottish Government ministers have heavily promoted renewable energy, such as onshore wind, and have set ambitious targets to generate the bulk of Scotland’s electricity from wind and wave power by 2020.
However, the sheer scale of developments in some of the most scenic parts of the country has led to claims that Scots are being forced to “suffer” more than their fair share of wind farms, despite representing only 10 per cent of the UK’s population.
In Scotland, there has been a surge in investment in wind farms during the SNP’s time in power, with the sector worth £3.5 billion to the economy in the past three years alone.
Local authorities and the Scottish Government have approved 1,162 more turbines, with a further 405 currently being built as part of a widespread expansion of the sector.
The Scottish Conservatives highlighted the fact that about five million trees – almost one for every person in Scotland – had been cut down to clear space for turbines in the past six years.
Murdo Fraser MSP, the party’s energy spokesman, said the SNP’s promotion of wind farms was “completely out of control”, as his party backed a moratorium of new renewable energy applications.
He said: “It’s quite incredible to think that, despite only consuming less than 10 per cent of the UK’s energy, Scotland has to suffer 50 per cent of the wind turbines. What is more worrying is these figures do not even take into account wind farms which are under construction, given consent, or are in the midst of the planning process.
“There is a place for wind farms, but the Scottish Government has allowed this to get completely out of control. It is ludicrous to put such emphasis on intermittent and unreliable energy sources which can damage the landscape for thousands of residents and tourists.”
The renewables industry said wind farms were more widespread in Scotland than in other parts of the UK because of the windier conditions north of the Border. Joss Blamire, senior policy manager at Scottish Renewables, said: “The reason Scotland has more onshore wind farms than England and Wales is simple: Scotland is the windiest country in Europe.”
He added: “The sector employs almost 3,400 people and invested £3.5 billion in the country’s economy in the last three years, as well as contributing to a 30 per cent drop in the amount of CO² emitted by Scotland between 1990 and 2011.”
A spokesman for energy minister Fergus Ewing said the higher number of wind farms north of the Border represented the SNP government’s commitment to “harnessing Scotland’s energy wealth”.
He said the “comments from Murdo Fraser are the height of hypocrisy, given that two land-owning Tory MSPs are raking in up to £51,000 from renewable projects on their own estates” – a reference to declared interests by MSPs Alex Fergusson and Jamie McGrigor.
He added: “The statistics simply reflect Scotland’s vast green energy potential. With a quarter of Europe’s offshore wind, a quarter of the continent’s tidal power and a tenth of its wave power potential, our renewable energy reserves are helping create many thousands of jobs, and bringing investment and opportunity to communities across the country.
“Our commitment to harnessing Scotland’s energy wealth – both onshore and offshore – will ensure that renewables continue to provide low-carbon energy supplies as well as jobs, investment and opportunities for Scotland’s communities long into the future.”