Scottish wind developers hand out £5m a year in community benefits
Voluntary community benefits paid by Scottish wind farm operators have reached £5m a year, according to a national register.
Trade association Scottish Renewables estimates that the amount of benefit will increase significantly as new schemes become operational.
Scottish Renewables senior policy manager Joss Blamire said it was hard for him to imagine another industry offering the same level of commitment to local communities.
"Community benefit isn't just a financial transaction, it can be provided through a variety of means. In some cases the relationship between developer and community goes even further into commercial joint ventures and even complete community ownership," he said
The Scottish Government Register of Community Benefit from Renewables was launched in September 2012 by First Minister Alex Salmond and provides a central base for developers to log details of the support they provide.
Blamire said that wind developers were providing communities with a varied range of investment, such as support for local museums, college bursaries and community transport schemes.
"These packages are totally voluntary and are not taken into consideration when local authorities are making decisions on an individual planning application," he said.
"Onshore wind developers have been working with local communities to offer community benefit as a means of sharing the value of their project over its lifetime while tailoring benefit to meet their needs," added Blamire.
WWF Scotland director Lang Banks said that if Scotland was to meet its 100% renewable ambition, it was vital that local communities were given the opportunity to benefit too.
"One benefit we'd like to see more of in Scotland is direct ownership of wind turbines by communities. Such schemes have helped drive the roll-out of renewables elsewhere in the world, so it's only right we do the same here," he said