The Scottish government has awarded consent to a new onshore wind project being developed by the Swedish company Vattenfall.
The plans for the South Kyle windfarm in East Ayrshire and Galloway feature 50 turbines with a combined capacity of 170MW.
Vattenfall said the approval will accelerate talks with local communities about buying a stake in the project. The firm is offering them the right to purchase up to a five per cent share in the development, as well as a community benefit fund of £5,000 per megawatt for each year the wind farm is in operation.
Vattenfall head of development for onshore wind in the UK, Guy Mortimer, said: “This decision is good news for Scotland’s climate change targets and for local people and businesses. The benefits of this project can be significant and wide ranging.
“Of course, there is a long way to go before Vattenfall is able to construct and operate this windfarm, but if constructed, this will be a windfarm that we hope local people and businesses will take pride in.”
He continued: “The Scottish government’s consent decision for this scheme is reassuringly robust. The windfarm proposal was scrutinised and carefully considered through a detailed public local inquiry in late 2015.”
The planning application for the project was submitted in 2013. Vattenfall said it will “consider the consent decision in detail” before outlining a forward schedule.
It remains unclear how the development will be paid for, as there are currently no plans to offer new subsidies for onshore wind through the contracts for difference (CfD) mechanism. A second auction round is due to allocate £290 million of annual funding over the summer, but the process has been closed to “mature” technologies, including onshore wind.
In its manifesto for the recent general election, the Conservative party said it does not believe that new onshore wind is “right for England”. Having previously pledged to “halt the spread of onshore windfarms” across the whole of the UK, the new line from the party fueled hopes that subsidies might be offered to projects north of the border.
However, these hopes were promptly dashed when the Scottish Conservatives declared in their manifesto that onshore wind is not “right for Scotland” either.
Commenting on the lack of support, a spokesman for Vattenfall told Utility Week: “Like the rest of the industry, Vattenfall looks forward to the day when onshore wind can operate independent of subsidy.
“However, we do believe that a further CfD auction round that includes onshore wind is in the interests of the British consumer and in the interests of driving down greenhouse gas emissions in Scotland. If that auction were to take place it is clear to us that the clearing price would show onshore wind to be the lowest cost generator in the UK, and remarkably cheap.”
He said without a guaranteed price for its electricity, the South Kyle wind farm would face much greater commercial risks and this would be “factored into any financial decision that would need to be taken”.