MINISTERS have given the green light to a controversial 19-turbine wind farm in the south of Scotland as new figures show that renewable energy has helped cut harmful CO2 emissions by 10 per cent.
Developers Community Windpower said the Aikengall IIa wind farm will generate £9.4 million in community benefit for areas near the development site and support the creation of about 100 jobs.
The wind farm will be located near Cocksburnpath in the Lammermuir hills between East Lothian and the Scottish Borders, close to the existing 16-turbine Aikengall I development.
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A Scottish Government planning reporter recommended granting consent following a public local inquiry after members of Scottish Borders Council's planning committee voted to object to the scheme on the grounds it would "unacceptably harm" the landscape.
East Lothian Council also opposed the scheme, claiming it was "unquestionably the wrong development in the wrong place".
Economy, Jobs and Fair Work Secretary Keith Brown granted consent on Wednesday.
He said: "Once operational, the Aikengall IIa wind farm will generate up to £9.4 million in community benefit while producing enough electricity to power almost 35,000 homes and bringing jobs and investment to local communities.
"Renewable energy sources generated more than 56% of gross electricity consumption in Scotland in 2015, helping support our world-leading ambitions to become a low-carbon economy.
"The growth of onshore wind in recent years has been a key factor in the expansion of renewable energy in Scotland: creating jobs, providing secure and low-carbon energy and delivering significant local benefits."
The wind farm will be able to generate up to 75.5MW of electricity, enough to power the equivalent of almost 35,000 homes.
In a statement, Community Windpower said it was "delighted" by the decision.
The statement added: "The decision to give consent to Aikengall IIa also allows us to continue our commitment to our 'Buy Scottish' policy, ensuring inward investment to the Scottish economy and supporting the creation of over 100 jobs."
The decision comes as new figures figures from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy show that Scotland is marching ahead with plans to meet emissions targets, with more than 13 million tonnes of CO2 displaced by clean power from technologies such as wind turbines, hydropower and solar in 2015.
Renewable energy employs 21,000 people in Scotland across sectors including onshore and offshore wind, biomass, solar, hydro and renewable heat.
The industry invested £910 million in Scotland’s economy in 2015, the most recent year for which figures are available.
Scottish Renewables Chief Executive Niall Stuart said: "These new figures show the ever-growing contribution of renewable energy to the fight against climate change.
"Due to policies at both Westminster and Holyrood renewables now provide the majority of Scotland’s electricity, but the sector’s future is far less certain."
He added: “Onshore wind has been behind much of the rise in renewable electricity capacity in the last ten years, but we expect both onshore wind and solar to be excluded from the next round of auctions for contracts for low carbon power.
“Both technologies could make a significant contribution to meeting our future climate change targets, keeping bills down for consumers and to driving industrial activity. For all those reasons we believe that both should be able to bid for contracts for clean power in future government auctions.
“We also have considerable headway to make in the decarbonisation of our heat and transport sectors, which together make up almost 80% of the energy we use in Scotland.”