Chapter 4: Barriers to Deployment
In our draft OWPS, the Scottish Government described several technological or administrative barriers to the deployment of onshore wind projects, and sought comment on our current or proposed activity to overcome these.
Electricity Networks - deploying more onshore wind will require accompanying investment in the transmission and distribution networks. Network capacity and control will need to keep pace with development, enabling new projects to connect in a timely and cost-effective manner and to export power to where it is needed.
Civil Aviation Radar - wind developments can impact significantly on civil air traffic control primary radar systems because they appear as clutter on radar displays, potentially obscuring aircraft flying above them from view. This is a common factor in creating delay and cost to wind power developments.
Military Aviation Radar - wind developments can also impact significantly on military radar systems and the operations of the RAF. This is a common factor in creating delay and cost to wind developments of all scales above micro wind.
Eskdalemuir - this policy statement makes it clear that the Scottish Government would like to see the most efficient use of Scotland's wind energy generating potential. Eskdalemuir is an area where it is proposed it would be beneficial in practice to use a strategic initiative to maximise the generating output of an area.
55. Investment and innovation in the planning and operation of our networks will play a key role in supporting the deployment of onshore wind capacity.
56. Scotland has been at the forefront of network innovation, with Active Network Management schemes operated by the network companies now 'business as usual'. Smart technologies and innovative approaches to network management are enabling network and generation assets to be used more effectively. This is delivering significant benefits, as capacity and constraints on Scotland's networks are better managed - generators are offered faster and cheaper connections, and consumers avoid paying for costly grid reinforcements.
57. The evolution of Distribution Network Operators to Distribution System Operators is an important next step, and can play a huge role in unlocking the transition to a flexible, smart low carbon economy. This is likely to involve the network companies taking on additional roles and responsibilities. This transition needs to be managed in a way that ensures the best interests of consumers, and takes into account the needs of users of the electricity networks.
58. The Scottish Government views progress in this area as vital to ensure that we get the greatest benefit from the network infrastructure. We will continue to work with all energy stakeholders and the regulator to ensure future network arrangements meet the needs of Scotland's energy system and consumers. Alongside sufficient network capacity, network charging arrangements can have a huge influence on investment. At a minimum, developers need to be able to forecast network costs with a greater degree of certainty. Stability does however need to be balanced against the potential benefits of improving current arrangements.
59. Both Ofgem, and National Grid as System Operator, are pursuing comprehensive reviews of current charging arrangements. These will include connection and queue management arrangements, important issues for generators.
60. The Scottish Government will continue to play an active part in these reviews. We will engage with stakeholders to ensure that the potential impacts on Scotland's energy system are understood, and that Scotland's interests are well represented and reflected in decision-making processes.
61. The main mitigation method which has been deployed in numerous schemes over a number of years involves 'in-filling' from a radar which has no line of sight of the turbines in question.
62. While this is a proven mitigation (albeit not one that can be deployed for every development), the Scottish Government recognises that it can result in a significant financial burden, especially in cases where more than one in-fill feed is necessary. Since the financial environment facing wind energy development has changed radically, we believe that we need to reconsider this approach.
63. The Scottish Government remains committed to working with airports, radar operators and the wind industry in order to pursue and develop a more strategic approach to mitigating impacts of wind development on civil aviation radar.
64. Wind farms are no longer the new and unexpected feature that they once were, and are an established part of Scotland's landscape. Given this, we expect in the longer term, a move on the part of the air navigation industry towards self-management of this issue. This could be achieved through the deployment of wind farm tolerant radar, or other technical solutions.
65. In the shorter term, we will support any strategic use of radar, with a special focus across the central belt, where there is potential to maximise the application of mitigation and reduce costs.
66. The Scottish Government will also continue to work as part of the UK Government Chaired Aviation Management Board (AMB), and as part of the Renewable UK Aviation Working Group to make progress on this issue.
Military Aviation Radar
67. A mitigation solution exists for Air Defence Radar, which may be applicable to new developments. However, we recognise that the cost of securing an assessment of this potential mitigation may be prohibitive for smaller developments. The Scottish Government will continue to liaise with the radar operators and the MoD on this issue.
68. We are also working with the MoD and developers to investigate technologies which have the potential to mitigate impacts at Air Traffic Control (ATC) radar installations. However, the high cost of mitigating impacts of wind development on military ATC radar threatens to make proposed developments uneconomic.
69. The MoD's approach to financial risk means that developers may be required to provide levels of financial security which, for many developments, will be untenable. Discussions on this issue have been taking place for several years. The Scottish Government is determined to unlock these affected projects in the early part of 2018.
70. The UK is bound, by the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty, not to compromise the detection capabilities of the Eskdalemuir Seismology Array, the operation of which can be affected by the seismic vibrations resulting from wind turbines.
71. In 2014, the Eskdalemuir Working Group commissioned and published a physics-based report on the seismic vibration produced by wind turbines. Among other matters, this research demonstrated the increasing severity of the impact of turbines on the array, the closer to the array they are situated. The working group considered that increasing the non-development zone from 10 km to 15 km could lead to a greater volume of projects being able to be deployed in the area - a proposal which our draft OWPS endorsed.
72. We acknowledge that the planning process for onshore wind farms is multi-faceted, and that Eskdalemuir constitutes only one aspect of many in this area. Our goal remains to unlock as much of Scotland's renewable potential as possible, encouraging carefully designed development in the right places. Having considered this issue more fully, we accept that the effect of increasing the non-development zone risks limiting prematurely development in an area where it may otherwise be appropriate. We no longer propose, as a result, extending the zone to 15 km.
73. The Ministry of Defence will continue to be consulted in relation to any development within 50 km of the array, and will object where they see fit to protect their asset. We would encourage developers to engage with the Ministry of Defence as early as possible when developing proposals in this area.