This guidance provides advice on the siting and design of wind farms in Scotland’s landscapes. It also includes advice on assessing the landscape and visual effects of wind farms, as this is an iterative process with design. The guidance draws on two decades of experience of planning for wind farms by SNH, planning authorities and landscape assessors. Design is a material consideration in the planning process and good siting and design helps to produce development which is appropriate for a landscape whilst delivering renewable energy. It should also maximise the capacity for further development by reducing negative cumulative effects.
In 2001 we published ‘Guidelines on the Environmental Impacts of Wind farms and Small Scale Hydroelectric Schemes’, which included guidance on the siting and design of wind farms. Our understanding of the effects of wind farm siting and design has developed significantly since then and new issues, such as the cumulative impacts of multiple developments, have emerged.
This version - version 3 - reflects Scottish Planning Policy, published in 2014. References to new guidance and research are also included. However, the basic siting and design principles are the same as version 1 as these remain relevant and have proven to be valuable in determining applications. Knowledge, understanding and technologies in this area continue to evolve and it is expected that this guidance will need to be reviewed and updated as a result 1.
Version 1 contained two parts, with Part 2 focussing on strategic planning. Part 2 has been removed and replaced by new guidance on Spatial Planning for onshore wind farms – natural heritage considerations, published in June 2015.
This version also includes a new annex on siting and design for turbines of between 15 and 50m. This replaces previous SNH guidance published in 2012.
Wind farms are increasingly being located in areas of commercial forestry and woodland. This version takes on board comments from the Forestry Commission Scotland (FCS) about their recent experience of responding to applications in forested areas. Applicants should seek advice from FCS as early as possible in the process and refer to the Control of woodland removal policy.
This is guidance on landscape and visual issues. It does not refer to wider technical design considerations (such as wind speed, access to grid) or to other natural heritage issues (such as impacts on birds, other wildlife and habitats) which are also of importance. A range of other considerations such as noise, archaeology, access and transport are also relevant to the design of wind farms and guidance on these topics is available elsewhere.
This document should be used alongside our guidance on Assessing the Cumulative Impact of Onshore Wind Energy Developments (2012), and Visual Representation of Wind farms (2017). For offshore wind farms reference should be made to Offshore Renewables – guidance on assessing the impact on coastal landscape and seascape (2012).
Developers and those involved in wind farm design should also refer to the Spatial Frameworks being developed by planning authorities in response to Scottish Planning Policy (SPP). When considering an individual application the adopted development plan, relevant supplementary guidance, wind energy capacity studies and SPP provide the framework within which the application should be considered.
The views expressed in this document are drawn from the experience of SNH staff who have advised on wind farm applications across Scotland in many different landscape settings and at many different scales of development. They have also been informed by a public consultation exercise and a workshop held at Battleby in March 2009. The first version was published in December 2009. Since then it has been referred to extensively at Public Local Inquiries. Experience gained at Inquiry and decisions by Scottish Government Reporters have also influenced this revision.