Time for change – windy Argyll is a boon for renewables

Argyll's windy climate can be harnessed for community, and global, benefit

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The latest in a regular series of opinion columns by members of climate campaign group Time for Change Argyll and Bute

Onshore wind in Argyll and Bute

The recent rise in energy bills and drive to end our reliance on Russian oil and gas has meant that conversations about scaling up renewable energy in Scotland have become more urgent than ever.

At this crucial moment for energy policy it is vitally important that we take responsibility not just for our generation, but for future generations, by making sure that our governments invest in increasing the capacity of renewables rather than increasing the production of oil and gas.

Onshore wind farms are a key component of this, and Argyll is rich in capacity for this form of energy generation.

Renewables are a comparatively cheap, quickly deployable and environmentally sustainable method of creating energy, reducing our overall reliance on oil and gas, which is more vulnerable to price fluctuations and produces the emissions that are driving the climate crisis.

The Scottish Government has set out a requirement to see an additional eight to 12 GW of new onshore wind energy come forward by 2030.

Crucially, this forms part of a legally binding target of net zero carbon emissions by 2045.

There can be conflicts between national targets and the views of local residents and businesses in areas where the potential for renewables projects are greater.

However, given that there will continue to be interest in windy areas all over Scotland by renewable energy developers – and Kintyre in particular given it is one of the windiest areas in Western Europe – we need to be able to address these conflicts and find a balance.

Since 2017 wind turbines are no longer subsidised by the government, therefore increasing operational costs as well as improvements in technology mean that wind turbine heights have been increased to maximise the wind speeds available.

The need for more onshore wind is not in question, but these larger turbines mean that the siting, design and the overall balance of effects and benefits must be considered to avoid conflicts.

Onshore wind farms can bring significant community benefits. The value of community benefit remains equivalent to £5,000 per installed megawatt per annum for the lifetime of development.

For a wind farm of 13 turbines this would add up to more than £400,000 per year which can then be used by communities and local groups to improve our environmental protection.

In addition it can help in forming local collaborative initiatives that protect and create tourism-related jobs, improve services and public realm as well as the general quality of life for our residents.

It is clear that Argyll has amazing capacity for scaling up renewable energy, particularly onshore wind.

With the correct design and siting that takes into account local opinion and biodiversity concerns, we can all benefit from having more renewable energy generation in our local area.

Both the climate and technology are changing on a local, national and global scale, and we need to act in the benefit of future generations.