Advice has gone out to communities in Dumfries and Galloway to accept wind farms as a certainty of the future and reap the benefits they bring.
A briefing, written by Scotland’s Rural College, reports that the region currently contributes around 8% of Scotland’s wind power with a predicted increase to 18% taking into consideration projects planned and under construction.
As the impact of large wind farms on local landscapes increases, new initiatives and targets supporting the community ownership of energy projects are introduced, community groups are being encouraged to initiate their own small scale, community-owned renewables projects.
But not all communities are equally equipped to take on their own energy projects and reap the benefits and need support from national and local government and developers to do so, says the briefing.
Author Ellie Brodie said: “The benefits of these large-scale wind projects include employment opportunities and funding for community projects through wind farm benefit funds.
“But there are key challenges around ensuring wind farm jobs go to local people and that communities get the most of out benefit funds and fully exploit opportunities to own and earn their own income from energy projects.”
Securing local economic benefits from wind farms has been challenging when contracts are awarded to companies outwith the region and local labour and services are not always used.
However, the briefing argues that there are several ways these supply chain issues are being addressed including the establishment of the Renewables Partnership Group to work with developers and local businesses on a directory of sectors, skills and suppliers needed in the construction and maintenance of onshore wind farms.
Skills gaps are also being tackled – for example D&G College has developed a Wind Turbine Technician course.
The briefing also focuses on how communities can benefit from wind generation projects through community benefit funds set up by developers. However, in some instances the benefit fund is too small an amount to support long-term, sustainable community development. Both the Scottish Government and Dumfries and Galloway Council have published guidance to help secure genuine community benefits from such funds.
The briefing, ‘National targets, local implications: Wind farm developments in Dumfries and Galloway’ can be downloaded at: http://www.crichtoninstitute.co.uk/index.php/publications