Recent reports are that a YouGov survey for Scottish Renewables has found that 71% of Scots are in favour of continued development of wind energy as part of Scotland's energy mix. This is understood to be a 7% increase over the past two years, during which time onshore wind capacity has increased by 20%. So, are Scots just getting more used to windfarms?
The survey did indicate that younger Scots and those in the central belt are more in favour of wind power than older Scots and those in southern Scotland and the Highlands and Islands. This arguably shows that those who are more directly affected by the development of windfarms, i.e. rural communities, remain less enthusiastic than those who are more geographically remote from them.
Wind power in areas which have particular sensitivities to be considered, such as the impact on National Scenic Areas, local history or tourism, will always divide public opinion. For example, we have also recently seen news of a petition signed by a sizeable number of people protesting against a proposed windfarm in Ayrshire, which they argue will negatively impact on local tourist attractions such as Culzean Castle and the Electric Brae.
The keys to boosting support from rural communities might include developers, planners and planning authorities not only putting very careful thought into the siting of wind energy developments but also engaging with local communities and considering whether any form of community benefit should be built into the project.
Communities themselves should also consider whether they wouldn't rather beat developers to it and install their own wind development in their area on their own terms, particularly with the community energy proposals in the Infrastructure Bill. Turcan Connell has considerable experience in acting for such communities, for example advising on the appropriate structure for community bodies, the terms of deals done with commercial developers and the documentation required to secure the property rights to carry out the project.
In the meantime, the statistics are undoubtedly positive for the renewables industry and will no doubt contribute to its continued growth as Government 2020 energy targets loom ever closer.