Forests opened for windfarm development

SCOTLAND - Scotland is looking to make the most of its forested land by opening the gates to wind energy companies to install up to 500 megawatts MW worth of windfarms in the coming years.

The scheme is being spearheaded by the Forestry Commission Scotland FCS, which has allocated five lots of land to different energy companies, which will investigate them for the construction of windfarms of more than 5 MW. With a proposed target of 500 MW, the new windfarms could generate enough power for approximately 270,000 homes. The winning companies are ScottishPower Renewables, which is part of Iberdrola S.A. PNE Wind AG and the UK arm of energy giant E.ON AG, which has secured two of the five lots. In addition, projects of less than 5 MW across all lots will be handled by ScottishPower Renewables.

The Forestry Commission will be hoping to sway the communities involved in supporting the windfarm drive by offering them an annual payment of 5,900 euros US $8,100 per megawatt, twice the national average for wind-generated energy. If the goal of 500 MW is installed, local communities stand to gain 3 million euros US $4.1 million per year.

"Generating energy from clean sources is a key part of the Scottish Government's strategy in tackling climate change," said Roseanna Cunningham, Scotland's Environment and Climate Change Minister. "Forestry Commission Scotland is to contribute in this area by entering into new partnerships with energy companies. National forest land covers nearly a tenth of the country and has great potential for wind energy development. All these projects will, of course, be handled in an environmentally sensitive manner and will need to go through the proper planning processes. Any felling to make way for windfarm developments will be offset by compensatory planting."

Over the next eight months, developers will work up a list of suitable wind sites in their allotted locations. If agreed to by the commission, they will progress the proposals through the planning process.

The lots allocated are:

• Lot 1 — Southwest Scotland, covering Dumfries & Galloway and Arran — ScottishPower Renewables UK Limited

• Lot 2 — Central Scotland, covering Stirlingshire, Cowal, the Trossachs and Tayside — PNE Wind UK

• Lots 3 and 5 — West and Northwest Scotland, covering West Argyll, Lochaber, Invernesshire, and the Northern Highlands — E.ON Climate & Renewables UK Developments Limited

• Lot 4 — Northeast, covering the Grampian area — Fred Olsen Renewables.

"These companies are investing in wind power because it works, and this year renewables will meet around a third of Scotland's electricity needs," said Niall Stuart, Chief Executive of Scottish Renewables. "This announcement will ensure that we harness greater economic, employment and environmental benefit from the Forestry Commission's significant estate. The successful bidders already employ hundreds of people in Scotland, and now will be spending hundreds of millions of pounds with local companies to design, build and operate their developments."


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