Renewable energy is an increasingly important part of Scotland’s economic, social and environmental success. The pace of renewable developments has increased rapidly in recent years and windfarms are now familiar sights in many parts of the country. Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) supports the development of onshore windfarms and recognises the many benefits they bring. However, their cumulative impacts on the natural heritage need to be carefully considered to ensure that these are acceptable.
The increasing development of on-shore windfarms has led to concerns about cumulative impacts in some locations as was illustrated in the debate in the Scottish Parliament on 1 December 2011. During the debate Fergus Ewing, Minister for Energy Enterprise and Tourism observed: “The Scottish planning system is committed to delivery of increased renewable energy capacity. It also seeks to safeguard communities and the environment… The main issue has perhaps been cumulative impact, which is already a key consideration in decision making. In determinations, planning authorities and the Scottish Government will continue to draw on planning policy and advice from SNH. ”
Scottish Planning Policy (SPP) highlights that cumulative impacts may present an eventual limit to the extent of onshore wind development and the increased need to consider cumulative impacts in the decision making process (SPP para 189). This guidance therefore seeks to identify methodologies which can be used to assess cumulative impacts.
The guidance is aimed at public bodies, developers and consultants involved in onshore wind energy development. It sets out methods to be used to assess cumulative impacts on landscapes and birds. It is not possible to provide generic advice on the significance of cumulative effects, which need to be assessed on a case by case basis against other guidance.
Although the guidance concentrates on the particular issue of assessing the cumulative effects of more than one windfarm development, the methods may also be helpful when considering the cumulative impact of other forms of development. Impacts on other natural heritage interests, such as habitats and protected species require to be addressed on a case by case basis as it is not possible to provide meaningful generic guidance.
Cumulative impacts are just one of many issues that have to be considered in order to make good development happen in the right places. We have produced guidance on a range of other issues to be considered during the design and assessment of windfarms. Further guidance and information, for example Siting and Designing windfarms in the landscape.