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Scotland wants more backyard wind energy

The Scottish Government has unveiled plans to facilitate the installation of residential wind turbines and air-source heat pumps.

Homeowners currently can install solar electric panels and ground-source (geothermal) heat pumps without planning consent, but wind turbines and air-source heat pumps require regulatory permission. A consultation session has been launched to propose conditions under which homeowners could avoid the need for a planning application for wind energy.

The proposals would remove barriers to wind turbines and air-source heat pumps while safeguarding the quality of the environment.

“We are determined to help people cut energy bills and play their part in reducing emissions,” says Climate Change Minister Stewart Stevenson. “By cutting red tape in the planning system we can make it easier for households to generate their own clean, green energy.”

“Encouraging greater use of microgeneration by homeowners can provide an important boost to Scotland's renewables sector, potentially generating additional jobs in this world class green industry,” he adds. “This is not a vision of unrestricted development but I believe our proposals strike the right balance in the best interests of Scotland.”

Proposed criteria for wind and air-source heat pumps

With the exception of conservation areas or World Heritage sites, the proposals would allow homeowners to install certain technologies through permitted development rights (without planning permission) in certain circumstances:

  • Wind turbines on building: Would be permitted if the height above roof ridge does not exceed 3 m (including blades) and subject to a maximum diameter of 2.2 m or swept area of 3.8 m2; subject to meeting noise requirements with one turbine permitted per dwelling;
  • Free-standing wind turbines of 3.5 m diameter or 9.6 m2 swept area: Permitted if height on mast (including wind turbine blades) does not exceed 11.1 m. and installed at a distance more than 100 m from neighbour's property; subject to meeting noise requirements with one wind turbine permitted per dwelling;
  • Wind turbines (free-standing) of up to 2.2 m diameter (3.8 m2 swept area): Permitted if height on mast (including wind turbine blades) does not exceed 11.1 m; installed at more than 11.1 m from neighbour's property; subject to meeting noise requirements with one wind turbine permitted per dwelling;
  • Anemometer masts for wind trials: Not to exceed 3 m above roof if building-mounted or 11.1 m free-standing; subject to a 12-month limit and then removal;
  • Air-source heat pumps: Permitted if not visible from road in a conservation area; subject to vibration attenuation installation and meeting noise requirements.

The 2009 Amendment Order does not contain permitted development rights (PDR) for micro wind turbines or air-source heat pumps since it evolved from the 2008 consultation that further work was needed to explore the feasibility of introducing PDR for these technologies. Research was commissioned last year by the Scottish Government with the independent research findings published in December.

Potential for micro wind

“Micro wind turbines and air source heat pumps have the potential to play a significant role in generating sustainable energy and contributing to Scotland's climate change targets,” says Mike Thornton of the Energy Saving Trust.

“Permitted development rights for these technologies are an important step in reducing the barriers for their uptake. The current consultation makes progress in areas such as micro wind for rural properties and we look forward to the Scottish Government continuing the process of expanding permitted development rights.”

The consultation period end on 30 April.

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