Scotland Should Not Rush to Develop Wind Farms

Scottish MP urges nation to become world leaders in development of offshore windpower technologies.

Published: 30-Dec-2004

There are few issues as contentious in rural Scotland today than the development of large-scale wind farms. The Scottish Executive have set ambitious targets for development of renewable energy – 18 per cent of generating capacity by 2010 and 40 per cent by 2020 – backed up by generous incentives through the issue of Renewable Obligation Certificates (ROCs). The result of this has been a modern gold rush on Scotland’s hills as developers and power companies seek to cash in, vying with each other to identify suitable sites and win planning permission.

As a consequence, many elected politicians have found their mail bags and surgeries dominated by concerned locals worried about the visual and environmental impact of wind turbines, their effect on birds and wildlife, lose of property values, and so on. This is a particular problem in Perthshire, part of the area which I represent, where because of its proximity to the Central Belt of Scotland, where most of the population live, and its access to good grid connections, there seems to be a current planning application for virtually every hillside.

In response to these widespread concerns, the Scottish parliament’s enterprise and culture committee established an inquiry into renewable energy in Scotland. This spent six months taking evidence from interested parties across the country. The committee’s report was published in June, and makes serious criticisms of the Scottish Executive’s current approach. Remarkably, considering the cross-party nature of the committee, and the fact that the Executive parties have a majority, the report was unanimous in its conclusions.

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