Derek Bathgate of rural surveyors Davidson and Robertson outlines the opportunities around the Onshore Wind Sector Deal for Scotland.

Last month the Onshore Wind Sector Deal for Scotland between the Scottish Government and the onshore wind sector set out its ambitions for the next phase of onshore wind energy in Scotland.

Both parties realised the need for collaboration in the hope of achieving Scotland’s target of 20 gigawatts of installed onshore wind capacity by 2030.

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The Deal is a collective vision, to benefit Scotland’s communities, drive economic growth, create high-quality jobs, and reduce carbon emissions and the impacts on land use and the environment.

There are 6 elements to the Deal:

1. Land use and environment: The sector will work with the Government to strike a balance between the need for increased onshore wind capacity and the impact it can have on land use and the environment. Key actions are how peatland management and restoration can exist alongside wind development ambitions.

Onshore wind developers will pay landowners for implementing plans that enhance biodiversity, such as peatland management and restoration, compensatory planting (of trees), creation of species-rich habitats, etc. It is important to note they don't have to be on the land that hosts turbines and associated infrastructure. Davidson & Robertson’s Natural Capital and Forestry teams are already advising existing clients on such matters.

2. Community: Collaboration with local communities includes the ‘community package’ of engagement, community benefits, and shared ownership, to generate and circulate more local wealth. Community benefits include measures like energy efficiency improvement, solar PV panels, and installation of electric vehicle charging infrastructures.

3. Skills, supply chain, and the circular economy: The aim is to increase this sector's workforce skills through improved training and education and includes transitioning skilled professionals into renewables from sectors like oil and gas. It seeks to maximise ways to reuse materials and cut waste in the supply chains. This represents an opportunity for those who live and work in the countryside to upskill and benefit financially from getting into the supply chain and circular economy.

4. Planning: The aim is to cut the time it takes to determine planning applications for developments with a capacity of 50 megawatts or more, with more resources and streamlining the application process. The goal is to determine new site applications and repowering of existing operational sites within 12 months or 24 months if there is a public inquiry. Applications for life extension of operational wind farms will be determined within 5 months. If achieved, this will see more onshore wind farms built in a shorter period and present more opportunities for land owners and occupiers to directly benefit from developments.

5. Legislation and regulations: Through changes in the legal processes, parties look to support a more strategic method of delivering our electricity network investment, with a coordinated approach to transporting turbine components across the road network. This element lacks detail, and it will be interesting to see the tangible outcomes of this component and how it will impact land rights.

6. Technical: The main thrust is to align the delivery of onshore wind developments, whilst maintaining safe aviation operations. In particular, unlocking onshore wind restrictions within the consultation zone of the Eskdalemuir Seismic Array. It could be a game changer for landowners and occupiers in the south of Scotland who have had previous onshore wind development proposals refused. Those affected by Eskdalemuir may wish to reappraise previously denied development proposals.

For those living and working in the countryside, the supply chain and circular economy are good prospects. For land owners and occupiers and secure agricultural tenants, there is an opportunity to be paid for enriching biodiversity.