The Forestry Commission Scotland has given energy companies permission to research the potential for wind projects as part of a scheme to promote renewables on its national forest land.
ScottishPower Renewables, PNE Wind, E.ON and Fred.Olsen Renewables were given the rights to research large scale wind projects, that could produce over 5MW, in five locations. E.ON claimed the rights for two lots of forest land.
Smaller scale schemes, of 5MW and below, are to be developed by ScottishPower Renewables.
Local communities will have the chance to invest in the scheme’s wind energy projects and could be in line to receive payments of £5,000 per MW installed per annum.
If the full 500MW potential for the scheme is realised, it could result in a £2.5million annual windfall.
Roseanna Cunningham, Scotland’s Environment and Climate Change Minister said: “Generating energy from clean sources is a key part of the Scottish Government’s strategy in tackling climate change. 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 wind farm developments will be offset by compensatory planting.”
Environmental campaigners are also behind the move. Juliet Swann at Friends of the Earth Scotland said: “Given that some FCS land has thin soil and high winds – conditions which are not ideal for trees, but typically great for wind turbines – it makes sense to look at other suitable uses, such as renewable energy. This initiative should add to the diversity of use, and increase returns for the public, as long as it is developed taking proper account of complementary forestry, public access and biodiversity interests.”