In a pioneering move, communities across Scotland will have the chance to invest in wind energy projects as part of a new scheme to promote renewables on national forest land.
The new move will also ensure leading edge payments could be made to communities – £5,000 per MW installed per annum – which could result in a £2.5million annual windfall if the full 500MW potential is realised for this programme.
The communities could, if they wish, use this money to reinvest in future schemes and could top it up with their own cash to get a greater stake in any windfarm development.
All wind energy projects will be handled in an environmentally sensitive manner and will be subject to stringent planning consent process. The Commission works under a policy to replant any trees that need to be felled for windfarm developments.
This new programme of work could result in hundreds of jobs being generated during the construction phase of windfarms.
The Commission will work with the following developers to explore schemes greater than 5MW:
Lot 1 – South-west Scotland covering Dumfries & Galloway and Arran – ScottishPower Renewables (UK) Ltd;
Lot 2 – Central Scotland, covering Stirlingshire, Cowal, the Trossachs and Tayside – PNE Wind UK;
Lots 3 and 5 – West and North-west Scotland, covering West Argyll, Lochaber, Invernesshire, and the Northern Highlands – E.ON Climate & Renewables UK Developments Ltd; and
Lot 4 – North-east, covering the Grampian area – Fred Olsen Renewables.
Schemes of 5MW and below, across all Lots, are to be developed by ScottishPower Renewables (UK) Ltd.
Today’s announcement follows a similar agreement back in October 2009 with Partnership for Renewables, a subsidiary of the Carbon Trust, to investigate projects in Lowland Scotland/ Borders.
Also last year, as part of the overall drive to increase renewables on national forest land, the Commission announced that the small Scottish company Green Highland Renewables and a consortium of Broadland Estates and Gordon Gilkes & Co would look to develop small scale hydro schemes.
Environment and Climate Change Minister Roseanna Cunningham today visited the new offices of Green Highland Renewables, in Perth.
Ms Cunningham said:
“Generating energy from clean sources is a key part of the Scottish Government’s strategy in tackling climate change. Forestry Commission Scotland is to contribute in this area by entering into new partnerships with energy companies.
“National forest land covers nearly a tenth of the country and has great potential for wind energy development. All these projects will of course be handled in an environmentally sensitive manner and will need to go through the proper planning processes. Any felling to make way for windfarm developments will be offset by compensatory planting.
“I am particularly pleased that communities have the potential to benefit from these projects. Communities in the vicinity will receive a leading edge annual payment which can be reinvested into the development. In addition, these same communities can add their own funds to get a greater stake in the schemes.”
Developers will now spend eight months working up a list of suitable wind sites in their allotted locations. If agreed by the Commission, the developers will take the proposals through the planning process and, if successful, construction and operation phases.
As a result of this agreement announced today, it is estimated that some 500MW of additional wind capacity could be installed on the national forest land in Scotland. This may equate to around 200 new turbines.
Niall Stuart, Chief Executive of Scottish Renewables,
“These companies are investing in wind power because it works, and this year renewables will meet around a third of Scotland’s electricity needs.
“This announcement will ensure that we harness greater economic, employment and environmental benefit from the Forestry Commission’s significant estate.
“The successful bidders already employ hundreds of people in Scotland and will now be spending hundreds of millions of pounds with local companies to design, build and operate their developments.”
Juliet Swann, Head of Campaigns at Friends of the Earth Scotland said
“Forestry Commission lands should be looked after for the public benefit in a way that increases their value to society and the environment.
“Given that some Forestry Commission Scotland (FCS) land has thin soil and high winds – conditions which are not ideal for trees, but typically great for wind turbines – it makes sense to look at other suitable uses, such as renewable energy. This initiative should add to the diversity of use, and increase returns for the public, as long as it is developed taking proper account of complementary forestry, public access and biodiversity interests.”
Dave Rogers, Regional Director of E.ON Climate & Renewables:
“We are delighted to have been chosen by the Forestry Commission Scotland as development partner for the schemes greater than 5MW in Lots 3 and 5.
“Scotland is a key area of focus for us and this announcement builds further on our Scottish renewables portfolio that includes onshore wind farms, the award winning Robin Rigg offshore wind farm and our dedicated biomass plant, Steven’s Croft near Lockerbie.”
Martin Billhardt, PNE WIND AG Chief Executive Officer, commented:
“PNE WIND UK is delighted to have been appointed as the preferred development partner for the potential development of wind power schemes in Lot 2 (Central Scotland).
“This is a landmark opportunity for us and coincides with the establishment of our Scottish based team and the opening of our new Edinburgh office.
“Our Scottish Team will be working closely with the Commission and local communities to develop the most appropriate wind farm sites thereby contributing to Scotland’s target of generating 80% of its energy from renewable sources by 2020.”
Dr Richard Dixon, Director of WWF Scotland said:
“Offering up opportunities for renewables on Forestry Commission land is an excellent way to get the right renewables in the right places, to reduce Scotland’s carbon emissions and to bring in new revenue to the public purse. This proposal will help keep public forest in public hands and working for the public benefit. Subject to the right safeguards on planning, wildlife and access we’re all for it.”
Keith Anderson, CEO of ScottishPower Renewables, said:
“The national forest estate offers great opportunities for Scotland to increase its electricity production from low carbon sources and we are very pleased to have been selected by Forestry Commission Scotland as the development partner for the Southwest of Scotland.
“We believe that there is great potential for wind power developments in the area of land that we have been awarded, but much work needs to be carried out before we can present detailed plans. As a company, we take pride in being a responsible developer and working closely with local communities when planning a project. We will adopt the same approach as we carry out this project.
“We are also pleased to be working with Forestry Commission Scotland, who we have developed good relationships with in the past from previous renewables projects. This includes work to develop Whitelee Windfarm near Glasgow, the largest onshore windfarm in Europe. “
Nick Emery, Managing Director of Fred Olsen Renewables UK, said:
“Fred.Olsen Renewables (FOR) is delighted to be awarded the Moray and Aberdeenshire area by Forestry Commission Scotland in this latest round of onshore wind farm tenders.
“We have much success in this geographical area already including the Rothes and Paul’s Hill wind farms -with a combined capacity of over 100MW.
“FOR looks forward to working in partnership with the Commission during this process and further demonstrates our commitment to the North East of Scotland and the UK renewables market.
“Our lead consultants Natural Power will now begin a thorough assessment to identify sites with good wind generation potential.”
Stuart Housden Director, RSPB Scotland said:
“The National Forest Estate plays an important part in delivering the nation’s biodiversity targets. Renewable energy, if planned carefully, can help reduce the greenhouse gas emissions that threaten wildlife and their habitats both in Scotland and across the world.
“By avoiding the most sensitive parts of Scotland’s natural environment through careful site selection and design, and investment in conservation work to mitigate any adverse impacts, this programme could deliver real benefits for Scotland’s wildlife. We look forward to working with Forestry Commission Scotland and the wind energy developers to make sure this happens.”