A national drive to expand the network of windfarms across Scotland with a new generation of “bigger, more efficient” turbines has been unveiled by ministers as part of a shift towards green energy.
The “onshore wind” push will be play a growing role in Scotland’s power needs, energy minister Paul Wheelhouse told MSPs yesterday. He unveiled a new target to generate half of Scotland’s power from renewables by 2050 to mark the Scottish Government’s new energy strategy.
But the announcement met with concerns over the impact of industrial-scale windfarm developments on wild landscapes of Scotland.
Mr Wheelhouse told MSPs: “We expect onshore wind to play a growing and invaluable role in our transition to a low carbon future. The support and investment frameworks for onshore wind have fundamentally changed just as the technology is also changing with moves towards larger, more efficient turbines which have made onshore wind highly cost effective.”
Ministers will support a “route to market” for new developments, he said. “Our planning system already makes positive and tactful provision for onshore wind, protecting our landscapes and ensuring that developments only go ahead in the right places.”
Ministers have faced criticism from campaign groups for pushing through windfarm developments in unspoiled areas. One recent case saw a 22-turbine scheme on the Altnaharra Estate in the north Highlands backed, despite being located on a new map of Scotland’s Wild Lands expected to escape developments.
Tory MSP Donald Cameron yesterday asked Mr Wheelhouse whether “wild land can be protected” while pushing more onshore wind. “Does he recognise the very significant concerns of many environmental groups as well as huge numbers of local communities who feel that our natural landscape has already been compromised by onshore wind?”
Andrew Bachell, chief executive of the John Muir Trust, pointed to the recognition in the new strategy that any further expansion of onshore wind should be done in a way that is compatible with Scotland’s “magnificent landscapes”. Mr Bachell added: “We would hope this marks a shift away from recent decisions to give the go-ahead to major developments in and around wild land areas.”