A few weeks ago the Scottish Government unveiled new planning guidance for wind energy developments.
This set of best practise guidelines is intended to speed up the planning process for developers as well as making it easier for planning authorities, affected communities and developers to assess proposals.
Much of the guidance is devoted to encouraging the closer involvement of communities in proposed developments from the earliest possible stage as well as seeking to minimise environmental impacts.
The guidance has been produced as a result of the GP (Good Practise) Wind Project, a European Union project led by the Scottish Government.
The Scottish Government drew up the guidelines in consultation with a number of relevant bodies including Scottish Power Renewables, the RSPB, Scottish and Southern Energy and Comhairle nan Eilean Siar (the Western Isles Council).
The guidance was launched by the Scottish Energy Minister Fergus Ewing:
“I’m delighted to launch these materials, developed with industry, planning authorities and stakeholders, which aim to make the planning process for wind developments go more smoothly for everyone involved.
“The Scottish Government wants to see the right developments in the right places, and this guidance will help to ensure that – while also making sure there are fewer unsuitable applications and that communities are properly consulted and informed.
“We have set an ambitious, but achievable, renewable energy target and we are determined to ensure that communities all over Scotland benefit from our renewable energy revolution, which is already bringing jobs and investment.
“But we are determined that this should be done in a sustainable way, sympathetic to the needs of communities and protecting the environment and our fantastic natural heritage.
“This project supports our drive to promote engagement with communities and consultees from the beginning of a plan’s development.”
Representatives of the Government’s consultees also commented on the launch of the guidance. Councillor Angus Campbell, Leader of Comhairle nan Eilean Siar stated:
“Comhairle nan Eilean Siar is pleased to have had the opportunity to participate in the GP Wind project. As an island community on the edge of Europe, the Outer Hebrides stands to lose the most from the impacts of Climate Change but these islands are also home to one of the best wind and wave resources in Europe.
“If we are to decarbonise our energy supply, it is vital that the boundless energy resource in areas like the Outer Hebrides is accessed but that this is done in an environmentally responsible way. In this process, we need to address and resolve the challenges which currently hamper the implementation of wind generation, on and offshore, across Europe.
“We view GPWIND as a huge step forward in building a collective understanding of these challenges and the outputs of GPWIND will help us to develop and sustain good practice, enabling our area to become a power house for Europe while sustaining and developing fragile communities.”
David Gardner, Director of SSE Renewables (onshore) remarked:
“SSE Renewables is pleased to be a partner in the Good Practice Wind Project. All development projects should be constructed and operated in a responsible way and SSE Renewables is committed to this.
“Many other countries across Europe will benefit from Scotland demonstrating a leading role in delivering good practice in renewable energy development, but we can always learn to do better, and sharing good practice across the industry in this way is a very positive step.”
Aedan Smith, the Head of Planning and Development at RSPB Scotland commented:
“We are very pleased to have had the opportunity to work with the Scottish Government and other partners from across Europe on the GP Wind project. Given the challenge facing wildlife and people from climate change, we support the continued development of an environmentally sustainable wind energy industry as a proven way to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
“However, wind energy developments must be sited and designed to avoid damaging our best places for wildlife. The good practice guide and toolkit produced by the GP Wind project should help ensure this happens. We encourage all those involved in the development of wind energy to apply good practice in line with the guide.”
If these new guidelines are successful in speeding up the planning process for wind developments then communities up and down the country will reap the benefits.