One of Scotland's leading renewable energy firms has called for a major overhaul of the country's planning system and warns that without it the Government's renewable targets will not be met.
UrbanWind, based in Glasgow, warns that long delays in the planning process are blocking vital investment in renewable technology – which has the potential to create 40,000 jobs in Scotland.
The company says that wind turbine manufacturers are also being deterred by the lengthy planning process that exists in the UK at present.
Red tape that delays the connection of onshore wind turbine projects to the national grid is also a major concern, along with the high cost of grid connections.
UrbanWind issued its warning following the publication of an Audit Scotland report looking at how the country is progressing in meeting ambitious government renewable energy targets.
The Scottish Government wants Scotland to be a world leader in renewable energy and for renewable sources to meet 30 per cent of its total energy consumption by 2020.
Audit Scotland's report warned that achieving that goal came down to private sector investment.
It added: "Renewable energy projects are moving more slowly than anticipated owing to factors, such as the current economic climate and changes in UK energy policy."
However, Paul McCullagh, chief executive of UrbanWind, challenged this. He said: "Looking specifically at the small and medium wind energy sector, there is undoubtedly strong investor support and a definite appetite from companies, like UrbanWind, to make a significant contribution towards achieving these targets.
"However, the two biggest obstacles we currently face are unrelated to the economy, or UK energy policy, as suggested by Audit Scotland.
"They are, in fact, the legislative process involved in gaining planning approvals and securing an economic connection to the national grid.
"There is a willingness on the part of the various distribution network operators to engage with developers to try to achieve economic grid connections.
"We are content that, with some additional investment from the Scottish Government, current issues around grid connections could be alleviated to help achieve the scale of sites required for deployment to meet the Scottish Government's targets.
"Currently, however, we are seeing planning decisions taking no less than eight months to determine and in some cases extending out to over a year.
"If the Scottish Government is to have any hope of achieving the targets then this situation has to be addressed, whether through additional resource to planning departments or a complete overhaul of the planning process, to allow determination of turbine applications to be made within the statutory time limits, which are certainly not being met currently.
"This is consistent with other voices we are hearing in the industry, as the single biggest source of frustration for investors and developers. It is simply hampering the growth of wind energy and seriously jeopardising any chances the government has of reaching its targets.
"On a similar vein, we are hearing significant concerns from turbine manufacturers as to where we sit globally in the legislative process for planning and the significantly longer timescales for deployment in the UK as compared to other countries. This is something that they are not experiencing in other markets, where wind energy is growing strongly."
He highlighted the fear that turbine manufacturers may decide to forego the UK market for other countries, which would have the potential to drive up costs here and further slow down deployment.
Paul MCullagh added: "Everyone should understand that regardless of how we produce energy, we need to ensure that, with the decommissioning of traditional fossil-fuel-fired power stations, the lights do not go out.
"Nimbyism, I'm afraid, just won't cut it. We understand that there is concern over onshore wind energy from some quarters. However, it should be pointed out that onshore wind is a key part of the solution to the problem of meeting the UK's legally-binding EU emissions targets and Scottish Government aspirations – as well as keeping the lights on!
"Turbines are generally built to last for 25 years. After that period, they can be taken down and recycled. Technology will have moved on by then in any case. They should, therefore, be considered differently by planning authorities, more akin to temporary structures and as a means to an end."
UrbanWind is a leading provider of renewable energy technology. Its highly experienced and knowledgeable team has undertaken more than 500 successful turbine installations across the UK.