RENEWABLES giant Vattenfall has underlined the appeal of investing in Scotland where it is working on plans for a big expansion of its windfarm portfolio.

The Swedish company is preparing to submit planning applications for four windfarms it wants to develop in Scotland and has already identified a range of other opportunities in the country. It reckons there is a very supportive environment for windfarm developers in Scotland.

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The company’s UK development director for onshore wind, Frank Elsworth, said Vattenfall has entered exclusivity agreements concerning sites on which it could develop five or more windfarms in Scotland, without saying where.

“We’re having this conversation in Scotland and this conversation can’t happen in the rest of the UK because they haven’t provided the opportunities,” he said.

Scotland is seen as having an “open door policy” and the kind of stable environment in terms of policy that encourages firms to develop windfarms in the country.

“England has primarily pushed everything offshore,” noted Mr Elsworth, adding: “It has introduced policy which is quite a barrier to development: The requirement for demonstrable local support of over fifty per cent and demonstrating that your windfarms are captured in local development plans, they’re quite significant hurdles.”

Wales has not made sites available in the way that they are in Scotland. The policy framework to support renewables has yet to be approved by the country’s parliament.

Vattenfall doesn’t have any wind farms in Northern Ireland, but would evaluate each opportunity on its own merits.

HeraldScotland: Frank Elsworth is Vattenfall's UK development director for onshore windFrank Elsworth is Vattenfall's UK development director for onshore wind

“The direction of travel you can see starting with the UK Government would improve things but that takes time” said Mr Elsworth.

He said Vattenfall’s plans for Scotland highlight the value of investment in windfarms amid the huge challenges posed by the coronavirus crisis.

The four projects for which it will seek approval this year will involve total investment of around £500 million, much of which will go to firms in the Scottish supply chain.

“Those projects alone will be contributing £4m a year in business rates directly to the local authorities,” said Mr Elsworth.

On the assumption that proposals for schemes that would generate 500 megawatts in total are approved, payments worth £2.5m a year would be made into funds established to benefit local communities.

“We’re in the middle of a massive recession and we’re looking for opportunities for investment and to get jobs and money into the economy, and the move to net zero, these tick a lot of those boxes,” said Mr Elsworth.

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While there have been complaints that renewables projects have failed to provide the benefits expected for firms in Scotland, he defended Vattenfall’s treatment of the supply chain.

The projects for which the group will seek approval this year would entail around £150m work in areas such as construction and civil and electrical engineering and £250m spending on turbines.

“We’ve always used Scottish contractors, certainly for the civils, and, where we’ve been able to, we’ve used components manufactured in Scotland and in the UK,” said Mr Elsworth.

He added: “It’s important to us that we do that, but it isn’t always possible.”

Mr Elsworth said Vattenfall had worked hard with contractors to understand what needed to be done to ensure that as many locals as possible were able to get jobs that were associated with its windfarm developments. He noted that the jobs concerned could provide a valuable boost to employment in local areas.

Vattenfall has tried to source turbine towers in Scotland but has been unable to secure supplies.

The company has three operational windfarms in Scotland and seven that are in either the development or construction phase.

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In November Vattenfall announced plans to build a windfarm featuring around 26 turbines five miles south of Oban that it reckons would be capable of producing enough electricity to power around 117,500 UK homes. The Musdale development is expected to feature turbines with a blade tip height of up to 200 metres.

Musdale is one of the projects the company will seek planning approval for this year, along with two in Dumfries and Galloway and one in Aberdeenshire.