The number of onshore wind turbines in Scotland is set to double to about 10,000 by the end of the decade as part of the SNP’s power-sharing deal with the Greens.
Despite complaints that the country is already “one giant wind farm”, ministers have signalled plans to produce up to a further 12 gigawatts of green energy from turbines on the land by 2030.
More than 4,000 turbines are set to appear across rural parts of the country, on top of the thousands already built, under construction or with planning consent. The march of wind turbines has met resistance from rural communities who feel under siege. Some face being “encircled” by multiple wind farm proposals and claim the planning system is weighted in favour of developers.
Ministers insist “bold action” is needed to tackle climate change and point to onshore wind as one of the most cost-effective forms of large-scale electricity generation — last year, it met the equivalent of nearly 60 per cent of Scotland’s gross electricity consumption. Thousands more turbines will also surface around Scotland’s coastline under plans to install 11 gigawatts of offshore wind by 2030.
“Subject to public consultation, we will set an ambition for between 8 and 12 gigawatts of installed onshore wind by 2030,” said a Scottish government spokesman. “We will ensure that the planning system enables the growth of this zero-carbon sector while continuing to protect our natural heritage.”
According to data published by Scottish Renewables, there were 34 proposed wind farms in Dumfries and Galloway as of March. They include a ring of two wind farms and two extensions around the Galloway Forest Park and Scoop Hill, a 75 “mega-turbine development” across 22 square miles between Eskdalemuir, Boreland and Moffat. Its developer, Community Windpower, claims the wind farm will power up to 572,000 homes.
The Highlands face 34 new developments, followed by Strathclyde region, with 32.
Government officials insist that Scotland has some of the most stringent environmental impact regulations anywhere in the world.
However, a petition with the Scottish parliament lodged by Aileen Jackson from the campaign group Scotland Against Spin, calls for communities to receive “professional help” in the planning process with an independent advocate appointed to prevent alleged “bullying and intimidation” by developers.
The petition also calls for all wind farm proposals to be considered at council level, as in England and Wales.
More than 100 people have written in support of the petition, including residents on Shetland who raised £200,000 to fund a legal challenge against the government’s decision to approve a 103-turbine wind farm which was proposed by Viking Energy. Islanders lost the case and construction of the wind farm started last year.
“It is frequently a David against Goliath scenario,” wrote Frank Hay, from Sustainable Shetland in support of the petition.
Helen McDade, from the Renewable Energy Foundation, said onshore wind had reached “environmentally devastating levels”. She added: “This latest increase in the target levels will not be the last.”
Oliver Mundell, the Scottish Conservatives MSP for Dumfriesshire, said: “I support the desire in this petition to give local people the power to have a real and meaningful say in major developments at an early stage.”