June 27, 2008

Power Firms Offer Farmers GBP M to Build a Wind Turbine on Their Land

By Jenny Haworth Environment Correspondent

POWER companies are targeting landowners with the promise of tens of thousands of pounds - and the chance to make millions more - in return for the right to build wind turbines on their land.

In the race to find new sites for wind farms, energy firms are writing to farmers and estate owners offering them at least GBP 10,500 a year for each turbine built on their land.

The developers are urging estate owners to sign deals giving them exclusive rights to build wind farms, with about GBP 1,000 usually offered as an incentive.

If planning permission is subsequently granted, farmers could pocket millions of pounds in rent payments.

Scottish Power Renewables has been offering farmers GBP 10,500 a year for each turbine for 25 years. This works out at GBP 2.6 million for any landowner who takes ten turbines.

One industry insider said: "It's competitive because there's only a limited amount of land that is suitable."

He said all developers were trying to sign agreements with farmers before the available land ran out.

Alasdair Laing, owner of Logie Estate in Morayshire, has been approached three times by separate companies and is considering signing an agreement with one of the firms.

He said: "The income from these things is extremely attractive. It will often be quite a difficult decision because there are controversial things about windmills, as well as good things.

"I question some of the bases of some of the arguments for wind farms. There is still very much an ongoing debate on just how green they are. But in terms of bringing money into what are otherwise fragile economies it is good news."

David Johnstone, owner of Annadale Estate at Lockerbie, has signed a deal with Renewable Energy Systems for four turbines to be built on his land. If planning permission is granted it will earn him tens of thousands of pounds a year.

He said: "It's a good business opportunity. Wind turbines are one of those things that people love or loathe and there doesn't seem to be any middle ground.

"I'm very supportive of renewable energy. We are looking at putting in biomass heating on the estate, as well as microrenewables and small-scale hydro."

Simon McMillan, spokesman for Scottish Power Renewables, said: "It's common practice and we are working with landowners right across Scotland."

He said to meet the government's renewable energy targets more wind farms would be needed: "The only realistic way we are going to hit the targets is by continuing to develop onshore wind, which currently is the most economically proven form of renewables.

"What we are offering landowners is the going market rate for these projects."

He said before the firm approached a landowner it looked at criteria such as wind conditions at the site and its proximity to the national grid.

A spokesman for the National Farmers' Union Scotland said: "We will support our members in their individual business decisions, whether that be in developing their land for renewables projects or whether that be setting up a farm shop."

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