Site selection and feasibility
We’re very selective about the sites we choose to develop – and consider a number of factors in the process. These include the availability of land, environmental and human constraints, local policy, whether there’s a connection to the grid, and access to the area to build the wind turbines.
We perform a range of feasibility works to assess a site’s suitability against these considerations. Following this, we’ll decide whether or not to take a site forward to the scoping stage.
Scoping and consultation
During the scoping stage, we undertake early consultation with a range of stakeholders. We use their feedback to identify and inform the key issues we have to consider as we develop the site’s design. These stakeholders include statutory, non-statutory and community organisations, such as:
- Local planning authorities
- Community organisations (e.g. community councils)
- Local residents
- Environmental bodies (e.g. RSPB)
- Conservation bodies (e.g. Scottish Natural Heritage)
At this point we also produce a scoping report, which includes the first designs for the project. This is followed by a scoping response report, which includes comments from all the bodies we’ve consulted with. Both reports are publicly available for anyone to review.
Prior to submitting a planning application, we carry out public consultation and share details of the proposal in at least two public exhibitions in the local area near to the proposed site. Visitors to the exhibition are encouraged to share their views of the proposal, and these views are taken into account in the final site design.
Planning application and consenting
A planning application consists of two elements: a Planning Statement and an Environmental Statement.
What is a Planning Statement?
The Planning Statement sets out any relevant national and local policies that we need to consider in developing a site – and assesses how we plan to comply with these policies.
What is an Environmental Statement?
The Environmental Statement contains the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), which is the largest component of the planning application. The EIA tries to quantify and evaluate any potential environmental impacts a project may have – and to identify ways to eliminate, avoid, reduce or mitigate these. Some of the environmental issues we consider are:
- Landscape and visual impact
- Residential amenities
- Ecology and ornithology
- Cultural heritage
- Hydrology, hydrogeology and geology
- Social and economic effects
- Aviation and telecommunication links
- Access, traffic and transport
Once both statements and the planning application have been completed, we submit this to the determining authority. They review all documents – including the feedback we’ve had from stakeholders – and decide whether to approve or refuse permission for the proposed site.
The construction work is carried out in a number of phases. First, the access tracks are laid and foundations put in for the turbines. Next, the turbines are erected, and finally, the site is connected to the grid network through a connection at an existing or purpose-built substation.
Construction takes between 12-30 months, depending on the size of the development.
Operation and maintenance
We’re involved in the operation and maintenance of all our sites. We monitor each plant continuously from our service centre and carry out regular inspections and maintenance checks to ensure each wind farm is operating at peak efficiency throughout its lifecycle (around 25 years).
What happens when a wind farm is taken down?
The requirements for decommissioning a wind farm are laid out by the relevant authority in its planning permission. But typically land will be restored to its former state as far as practicable, and enhancement work may also be carried out.
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