Wind farms chaos leads to demands for rethink
BESIEGED councils and MSPs are demanding a ban on wind farm applications until a national strategy is drawn up that says where the controversial turbines can be built.
More than 250 applications for wind farms are already in the planning system, with many facing fierce opposition from campaigners.
Perth and Kinross, Highland and Aberdeenshire councils have all admitted they are struggling to deal with the deluge of wind power proposals.
The local authorities have now called for the Scottish Executive to step in with a cohesive plan on how to deal with the contentious issue.
And MSPs have asked for a moratorium on all plans for wind farms until guidelines have been drawn up.
They fear the current disjointed method of assessing wind farm sites, in which each planning committee applies its own policy, is leading to confusion, with different rules for different parts of the country.
Scotland’s biggest energy provider, ScottishPower, also fears the lack of a national strategy might lead to parts of the country getting too many turbines, which could push the power grid over capacity.
Nanette Milne, Tory MSP for North East Scotland, said: "I am not against wind farms and think there needs to be a mix of energy supplies available. At the moment, though, wind farms are coming in a piecemeal fashion with no guidance on which parts of the country are more suited to turbines than others.
"The people who are having to implement the renewable energy policy are crying out for guidance from the Executive."
Murdo Fraser, Tory MSP for Mid-Scotland and Fife, and Pete Wishart, SNP MP for North Tayside, have also called for a halt to wind farm applications.
Fraser added: "Planning authorities have been left in the dark about the criteria they need to apply to wind farms."
The Executive has identified wind power as one of its main ways of meeting its target of supplying 40% of Scotland’s electricity from renewable energy. But despite the ambitious pledge, local authorities claim the Executive has been slow to set up a national framework for the programme.
Last week Highland Council announced it is to implement its own renewable energy policy because of its frustration with the Executive.
Perth and Kinross Council and Aberdeenshire Council have also called for coherent guidelines on dealing with wind farm applications.
"The Executive has said ‘there will be wind farms’, but this is not sufficient," said Liz Grant, a councillor on Perth and Kinross Council’s planning committee.
"The guidance they have given on where wind farms should be sited and the criteria applications must meet have been inadequate. It has made making decisions quite difficult.
"We have had to draw up our own guidelines, but it is not the same as getting proper guidance from the Executive."
A spokesman for Aberdeenshire Council added: "This has been an area of concern for councillors on the planning committee. They have made repeated requests for guidance from the Executive and the council has now drafted its own guidance for applicants."
Scotland is one of the windiest places in Europe and its rural areas have seen developers clamouring to set up farms. A recent study by Scottish Natural Heritage revealed up to 15,000 wind turbines might be built across Scotland.
They estimate the country could end up with almost 500 farms, with turbines up to 460ft tall scattered around exposed rural areas.
But developments have faced mounting opposition, with more than 2,000 objections being lodged against one plan to build the largest wind farm in Europe on the Isle of Lewis.
Campaigners against wind power have reacted furiously to such large-scale developments, claiming they could destroy the nation’s remaining wilderness.
They also fear the massive turbines could kill rare birds of prey such as golden eagles, and wader birds, which often nest and fly in the surrounding areas.
Sigrid Rausing, the daughter of one of Britain’s richest men, Hans Rausing, who made a fortune with Tetra Pak cartons, last week attacked plans to build wind farms near her Coignafearn estate in Aviemore as "mad".
Generous government subsidies for wind power mean developers have been keen to push on with their plans. But ScottishPower has now joined calls for a national strategy on wind farm implementation.
It wants targets on the number of turbines to be set in each area to ensure the capacity is evenly spread throughout the country.
A company spokesman said: "There is a finite amount of power the grid can cope with in each area, so to meet the renewable energy targets set for 2010 there has to be a suitable spread right across the country."
A growing number of environmental groups are also coming out against a proliferation of wind farms.
Simon Milne, the new chief executive of the Scottish Wildlife Trust (SWT), which runs more than 100 nature reserves, said: "It is essential that a full environmental impact assessment is carried out on each proposed site, and this should be coordinated nationally rather than locally."
The SWT is objecting to the giant wind farm proposed on the internationally important peatlands on Lewis.
Amec and British Energy want to install 234 turbines across 20 miles of open land in the biggest current project of its type in Europe.
Milne added: "Here there is a clear and pressing danger to wildlife. The decision will be a critical test of ministerial commitment to the Executive’s own policy on biodiversity."
Some campaigners insist wind power is not an effective renewable energy supply, pointing to the experiences of European countries with more advanced schemes than the UK’s. In Denmark, carbon dioxide emissions have continued to rise as older coal power stations have been forced to make up for shortfalls in electricity on low wind days.
David Bruce, from the research group Scottish Wind Assessment Project, claims evidence from Germany and Ireland also shows that unpredictable winds cause the level of power in the grid to fluctuate wildly.
He said: "The evidence we are seeing from the continent is that wind power does not work. It is pushing prices up, destabilises the electricity grid and does not cut emissions."
A spokesman for the Scottish Executive said: "To impose a strict national framework at this point would suppress good applications that are worth consideration. We already have robust planning guidelines and will continue to work with planning authorities to ensure that no project comes at an unacceptable environmental cost."
THE TURBINE REVOLUTION
SCOTLAND has 332 wind turbines on farms scattered across Europe’s windiest country, according to Scottish Executive figures.
With 250 wind farms either operating or planned, capacity is expected to double by the end of the year. But 2,500 turbines are needed if the Executive is to meet its target of producing 40% of electricity from renewable sources by 2020.
Scottish Renewables, an industry body, estimates that wind farms in Scotland will provide enough power to supply 403,000 homes with electricity by the end of this year, saving the release of 1.6 million tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere every year. But the scale of the wind farm revolution has led to protests across the country. Earlier this month, councillors in Perth and Kinross rejected Scottish and Southern Energy’s plans for a wind farm at Drumderg because of the risk to the local water supply and wildlife, and an "adverse visual impact".
On Orkney, a plan to locate a wind farm on Enyas Hill was put on hold after 150 residents signed a petition claiming it would ruin the open landscape.
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Tuesday 18 June 2013
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