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SNH warning over new wind farms

WIND-FARM developers are mainly avoiding sites that would have a significant impact on fragile landscapes and wildlife, according to a report by Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH). But the environmental agency yesterday warned that the aim of avoiding potential conflicts between renewable-energy developments and heritage-sensitive sites will become more difficult to achieve in the drive to reach the Scottish Executive's target of producing 40 per cent of the country's energy needs from renewable sources by 2020.

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Wind-farm applications in areas of 'medium sensitivity' have risen markedly. Picture: Andrew Milligan/ PA

The SNH report on renewable trends reveals the agency has supported in principle 75 per cent of the 144 onshore wind-farm applications lodged in the past five years.

Almost 60 per cent of the wind farms have been in areas classified as being of the "lowest natural heritage sensitivity", and only 6 per cent have been proposed for sites of the "greatest natural heritage sensitivity", including land protected for internationally and nationally important wildlife and habitats and areas of outstanding landscape value.

But the report highlights concerns that the number of applications in areas of "medium sensitivity" has risen from 33 per cent two years ago to 42 per cent this year.

And the authors warn: "The increase in the proportion of sites in this category illustrates the growing difficulty of reconciling wind-energy development with natural-heritage interests - and the importance of working hard to do so.

"There is less capacity entering the system compared with previous years. It is not clear whether this is due to a backlog within the consents system, leading to caution... more [truncated due to possible copyright]  

 

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Wind-farm applications in areas of 'medium sensitivity' have risen markedly. Picture: Andrew Milligan/ PA 

The SNH report on renewable trends reveals the agency has supported in principle 75 per cent of the 144 onshore wind-farm applications lodged in the past five years.

Almost 60 per cent of the wind farms have been in areas classified as being of the "lowest natural heritage sensitivity", and only 6 per cent have been proposed for sites of the "greatest natural heritage sensitivity", including land protected for internationally and nationally important wildlife and habitats and areas of outstanding landscape value.

But the report highlights concerns that the number of applications in areas of "medium sensitivity" has risen from 33 per cent two years ago to 42 per cent this year.

And the authors warn: "The increase in the proportion of sites in this category illustrates the growing difficulty of reconciling wind-energy development with natural-heritage interests - and the importance of working hard to do so.

"There is less capacity entering the system compared with previous years. It is not clear whether this is due to a backlog within the consents system, leading to caution by developers in bringing forward new schemes, or a level of saturation being reached, leaving fewer sites available."

Bill Band, the national strategy manager at SNH, agreed that the task of keeping wind-energy developments in harmony with Scotland's natural heritage would get tougher over the next few years.

He said: "So far, it has not been too difficult to find sites for wind farms that limit their visual impact and present little risk to valued wildlife. Most developers have worked hard to do this.

"Inevitably, though, the supply of problem-free sites is diminishing. We also now have to face up to the tricky issue of the inter-relationships between wind farms, or cumulative impact as it is known. This situation presents all of us - developers, advisers and decision-makers - with a real challenge in keeping renewable-energy development on a truly sustainable course."

Maf Smith, the chief executive of Scottish Renewables, the country's leading renewable-energy organisation, said: "This shows that the wind industry is acting responsibly in how it develops wind farms in Scotland.

"The industry has clearly followed existing SNH guidelines to make sure that it chooses the good sites, and the fact that 73 per cent of the Scottish public support wind energy underlines the positive way in which our industry has developed.

"The fact that, by the end of next year, Scotland will have hit its 2010 target of 18 per cent proves that renewables are delivering on targets and generating clean, reliable electricity for consumers."

He added: "Both SNH and ourselves have called upon the Scottish Executive to beef up cumulative impact guidance, and industry has worked closely with SNH and local planning authorities in drawing up new tools to help take this into account in new proposals."


Source: http://news.scotsman.com/sc...

AUG 3 2006
https://www.windaction.org/posts/3786-snh-warning-over-new-wind-farms
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