THE Scottish Government has pledged to speed up application decisions on new onshore wind farms as part of a deal with the renewables sector.
Wellbeing Economy Secretary Neil Gray signed the deal on Thursday at the Scottish Renewables Onshore Wind Conference in Edinburgh.
The agreement will see decisions for new farms accelerated to a maximum of one year when there is no public inquiry required, and two years where one is held.
The Government claims this will cut decision times in half by streamlining the process and improving the format of applications.
Scotland is also set to become a world leader in the recycling and re-purposing of wind turbine blades, the Government said, with the creation of a specialist facility pledged for 2030.
After signing the deal, Gray said: “This deal is a practical example of Government and industry working closely together to reinforce our shared commitment to reaching net zero.
“As we embrace the possibilities, we acknowledge the challenges that lie ahead. Balancing the needs of energy production with proper environmental stewardship demands diligence and continuous innovation.
“This deal charts a course that safeguards our natural heritage while delivering clean, affordable energy to power our lives and industries.
“By benefiting communities we are ensuring the rewards of our onshore wind revolution are shared by all.
“This helps meet our Programme for Government commitments and create a green and growing economy with fairness at its heart.”
Greens minister Lorna Slater – who worked in the renewables industry before entering Government – said the deal will “see more wind farms, more communities benefiting, and more economic opportunity, while ensuring developments are in harmony with our environment”.
Energy firm SSE Renewables described the deal as "historic".
And Scottish Renewables chief executive Claire Mack described it as a “huge day”, adding: “A world leader in renewable energy, Scotland has an ambition for onshore wind to have 20GW of onshore wind by 2030 and the Onshore Wind Sector Deal will play a key role in helping us to hit this target.
“An incredible amount of hard work has gone into making this deal happen and it is a real benefit to the industry knowing that the time onshore wind farms take to go through planning will be halved to only 12 months.
“It is also encouraging to see onshore wind farm operators and the Scottish Government committed to creating a sustainable solution and a circular economy supply chain for the recycling of wind turbine component parts.
“We look forward to working closely with the Scottish Government to ensure the onshore wind sector deal is effectively implemented on the road to achieving Scotland’s net zero ambitions.”
The deal will also ensure companies engage with local communities early in the development of wind farms and offer “impactful community benefits”, as well as an industry pledge to create skilled jobs, including apprenticeships, in Scotland.