Recent media coverage on renewables has focused on open-season subsidy-chasing by landowners and developers that is seeing Scottish local authorities in receipt of more planning applications than they can cope with.
This comes on top of concern a couple of months ag0 at the level of planning applications being received for single turbine farms of up to 80 metres tall. These can earn the owner up to £20,000 a year and, as with community wind farm initiatives, are being driven by developers who make the approach to the farmer, write the application and take a percentage of the profits.
The promise of renewable energy did not include prospecting worthy of the gold rush – but this is what it has become.
An associated problem with the flood of single turbine wind farm applications is that these do not attract the same level of planning scrutiny as do mult-turbine farms yet, where several may be in the same area, they amount to that.
Now the Scotsman has news that Fife Council, following Aberdeenshire, has asked for a sis month suspension of wind farm applications because it cannot cope.
The paper says: ‘It has been claimed developers are ignoring Fife Council’s guidelines on approved sites, and were swamping planners with ‘opportunistic’ applications.’
The Fife Council guidelines being ignored relate to areas it has identified as being potentially suitable for winde energy development.
Fife is now to consult the Fife electorate on its response to the approved sites it has identified. It is asking for a suspension of new applications until the public view is known.
The flood of subsidy chasing applications in not peculiar to Scotland. It is a UK-wide phenomenon and is the cause of Chancellor George Osborne’s proposal for a 25% cut in these subsidies.
2011 is reported as seeing a total of 1800 applications across Scotland, seven per working day. These seven will be shared between the 32 local authorities and some – clearly including Aberdeenshire and Fife – will face a heavier application rate than others.
The government does not know how many turbines have already been built but Scottish Renewables estimates this as being between 1400 and 1800.
Scottish Natural Heritage has a series of pdf maps here, with the developing situation given at regular intervals and showing installed or approved sites; applications made; and sites under scoping.
SNH say these are not to be taken as definitive – but they are authoritatively informative.