SCOTLAND'S political appetite for renewable energy remains strong – and developers once again have on-shore wind farm acquisition in their sights.

In Scotland, over 70% of electricity generated now comes from renewable sources, and two thirds of that is derived from wind, so despite dropping out of the headlines, the technology seems to be here to stay.

Land advisers Davidson and Robertson reported 'numerous enquiries' over the past six months from several well-established renewable energy companies, all prospecting for sites to develop on-shore wind farms. This demand is specifically for sites in Scotland, not England, due to the stronger political support for renewable energy and on-shore wind here.

D and R director Derek Bathgate explained what these renewable energy companies are looking for and how landowners and occupiers could benefit from this opportunity.

"What is important to developers? Sites that have strong wind speeds; are not dotted with residential properties; lie outside high value environmental designations; are close to grid capacity, and have good road access," said Mr Bathgate.

"They are looking for land areas that are big enough to site at least five large wind turbines with tip heights at or above 100 metres, to achieve an installed capacity of at least 20 mega watts. Typically, such an area would be 400 acres or more.

"The renewables companies' other critical success criteria are grid capacity and access to the site. Grid capacity is determined by the statutory provider in the area, either Scottish Power or SSE north of the border. This has been a restricting factor for many areas with wind energy potential, however recent infrastructure works around the country has seen the capacity improving, with new pylon lines being erected or old lines being upgraded.

"Access to the potential site for development traffic is essential. Wind turbines are getting bigger, so the limiting factor of a site is being able to manoeuvre them into sites, e.g. getting the turbine blades around corners, or the construction cranes over bridges, etc. We are seeing more and more ingenious ways of getting such traffic to site, so these challenges can often be overcome.

"Payments are still attractive," he stressed. "Current market payments from developers to land owners and secure agricultural tenants for hosting on-shore wind farm assets are no longer at the dizzy heights of recent years, because new sites are operating in a subsidy-free market, but they remain very attractive and can provide a significant diversified income to a farm business. Payments are not just limited to annual rental for the wind turbines, nor to the land holding upon which the wind farm is built.

"In addition to annual rental for wind turbines, the land owner/occupier hosting the wind farm can also benefit from disturbance payments during the construction period; payment for rock and other aggregate won from site; rent from substations or anemometers and more.

"Neighbours and nearby properties can benefit financially by enabling the grid connection (accepting the power line across their land) or agreeing to sell or rent land to widen the road that enables a turbine to get around a corner, or for a bridge to be strengthened, or a new one to be constructed.

"There will be some reading this article who say, ‘we had a deal on the table, but it fell away when the subsidies stopped, and the developer walked away’," noted Mr Bathgate. "With the advances of technology – bigger turbines and more efficient machines – many sites that were written-off in the past, may now be financially viable for development."

D and R had seen the list of interested developers growing in the last six months, and landowners/occupiers who progressed discussions with developers that faltered when the subsidy regime came to an end, are being advised to get these sites back in front of the current list of developers prospecting for new sites.

"The key to a successful deal and maximising value is to engage agents and solicitors who understand these opportunities and the current market to negotiate Heads of Terms, Option and Lease agreements to your advantage," he added. "You should also include your accountant in reviewing business structures and tax planning, enabling you to keep as much of the income and capital that can materialise from such deals."