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Scots voice few concerns over solar farm sites

MOST people are relaxed about living close to a solar farm, a survey has revealed, as planners consider an application to build one of the country's largest solar energy parks.

More than one-third of people in Scotland would be happy to live near one of the projects, with half of those surveyed saying they had no strong opinion about them.

The poll of more than 1,000 people comes as a planning appliction is prepared for Scotland's first and largest sun-powered energy farm, capable of supplying the electricity needs of 2,500 homes.

Aberdeen-based BWE Partnership wants to transform four crop fields at New Mains of Guynd Farm, near Arbroath, Angus, into a site that is capable of producing 9.5 megawatts of energy.

Today's poll, commissioned by Edinburgh-based public affairs consultancy Orbit Communications, also found only 10 per cent of Scots would be unhappy being near one of the projects.

WWF Scotland director Lang Banks said the findings show massive public support for solar energy, with many households already having solar panels on their roofs.

He said: "More solar panels would help drive down emissions even further.

"Scotland may seem an unlikely place for solar, but if you look at solar maps Scotland receives about 80 per cent of the solar energy of Germany - the current world leader in solar. So there's absolutely no reason we couldn't be deploying significantly more solar if we put our minds to it.

"Alongside energy saving measures and other renewable energy technologies, solar power is well placed to help enable Scotland meet its climate-change targets."

The solar industry faces uncertainty following recently announced plans by the UK Government to slash incentives for the development of commercial solar-power farms.

The Coalition Government wants farms with a generating capacity of five megawatts or more to no longer get direct payments under the Renewables Obligation Order.

Instead they will have to compete with other forms of renewable electricity generation for a capped pot of funds.

The plans are currently out to consultation until 7 July. If introduced the new system would come into force from April next year.

More than 40 per cent of electricity used north of the Border currently comes from renewable sources, including solar power, wind turbines and tidal energy, with the target to be 100 per cent reliant on such energy sources by 2020.

Orbit director Alex Bruce said the poll demonstrated a broad base of public acceptance for the development of solar farms in Scotland.

"Industry experts have already demonstrated the huge potential for future development of the solar industry in Scotland and the major contribution this could make towards cutting carbon emissions and energy costs and meeting the very ambitious renewables targets," he said.

"Large-scale development offers the greatest potential to make a significant contribution to meeting these goals.

"So it's a real source of concern that many solar farm proposals could be rendered non-viable by the dramatic change of tack being taken by the UK Government.

"Essentially, there is now a real prospect of strangling the Scottish solar industry at birth."

The poll results follow the recent publication of an action plan for development of the solar industry in Scotland, prepared on behalf of the Scottish Institute for Solar Energy Research and the Scottish Solar Energy Group.

The document highlights the huge potential for expansion of solar energy generation capacity and calls for key stakeholders to work together to develop a vision for the industry's future.

Contextual targeting label: 
Environment

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