Energy giants oppose wind farm wild land ban

March 5, 2014 by  
Filed under Green Energy News

Ministers are considering introducing safeguards that would make it more
difficult to build on wild land, which is defined as being rugged, remote
and free from modern visible human structures.

The energy companies were responding to a map drawn up by Scottish National
Heritage (SNH), a quango, suggesting 43 areas that should be designated for
protection.

Their intervention marks a straining in relations between wind farm companies
and the First Minister, who has championed the rapid increase in onshore
turbines in the face of growing fury from rural communities.

Mr Salmond has set a target of generating the equivalent of all Scotland’s
electricity needs from renewable sources by 2020, with the bulk expected to
come from onshore wind.

An analysis of all 383 responses to the proposed wild land map found 300
broadly supported it, but that “nearly all energy industry respondents were
opposed.”

The French energy giant EDF said it understood the Scottish Government’s need
protect areas such as national parks but warned the map set a “dangerous
precedent”.

“This is because it would introduce controls over diverse areas of land and
act as a barrier to all types of well-sited, responsible developments,” its
response to SNH said.

The power firm said the current planning process is “robust” and applications
should be judged on their own merit.

E.ON, the German energy giant, criticised the map for providing a
“prescriptive” definition of what is wild land, arguing that this is a
“subjective” judgment.

“Issuing a blanket ban on developing on wild land will do more to hinder than
help our transition to a low carbon economy,” it said.

SSE, which was formerly known as Scottish and Southern Energy, issued a
22-page critique of the plans that claimed some of the information used to
define which land is “wild” was inaccurate or out of date.

In some cases, the energy giant argued that areas should not be included
because they already have too many turbines to be considered “wild”.

The company questioned the classification of a series of areas, including
Monadhllath Mountains, to the west of the Cairngorms, and the central
Highlands between Kintail in the South West and Strathconon in the North
East.

SSE said the former should not be considered a “core area” of wild land
because it already has a major pylon line, a road, tracks and buildings.

Scottish Power criticised the “concept of ‘wild land’ (as it) has the
potential to impact our future developments, particularly our onshore wind
and hydro interests”.

Meanwhile, Banks Renewables, another wind farm company, warned: “All this will
achieve is to force wind farm proposals closer to more populated areas and
away from where the wind resource is at its greatest.”

But Scottish Borders Council warned that the map does not protect “smaller
areas of fragile or fragmented wild land” because they are not deemed rugged
enough for inclusion.

“It is the relative wildness of these areas that is critical because it is
where people can ‘escape’ to from centres of population,” the local
authority said.

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “The responses and advice received from
SNH will be taken into account in the finalisation of Scottish Planning
Policy, for publication in June.”

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