Adversarial debates around any particular wind farm proposal are now almost inevitable, and the policy area of wind farms in Scotland has become polarised and founded on competing myths.
Scotland already has half of Britain's installed wind capacity, as well as more than half of its most beautiful scenery. The basic problem of locating wind farms in scenic areas is exacerbated because efficient energy production and transmission requires very large turbines, spaced across a relatively concentrated location.
If wind farms deter significant numbers of tourists, they threaten not just the local tourism industry but a key element in the economic sustainability of the local community.
It was decided around 2007 that a definitive study was required to dispel some of the myths about windfarms and replace these with fact.
Consequently, in 2007, the Moffat Centre collaborated with Dr Geoff Riddington, Caledonian Business School, Glasgow Caledonian University and GridEconomics Ltd; David McArthur, Caledonian Business School, Glasgow Caledonian University; Prof. Hervey Gibson and Kevin Millar, Cogent Strategies International Ltd, to undertake the definitive study of the economic impact of windfarms on the Scottish economy. Fundamentally, the research sought to provide knowledge of:
• The potential number of regions and people that would be affected
• The reactions of those affected to these schemes
• The economic impact of those reactions
More generally the objective of this research was to:
• Assist in the development of policy, particularly in those areas where tourism is an important part of the local economy
• Provide practical guidance on assessing the economic impact of wind farm developments and related infrastructure on tourism
• Identify how this assessment can be taken into account when considering sites for new developments
The methodology involved a comprehensive literature review of past studies throughout the world; a national visitor intercept survey at four destinations throughout Scotland where windfarms are present; an internet survey of potential visitors to Scotland; GIS and econometric modelling of the impact on local and national visitor economies based on results from the visitor surveys.
The report found that whilst it is clear there is an impact from windfarms, this impact is very small. It might however be further reduced if a Tourist Impact Statement was made a part of the planning process. This statement would require an analysis of:
• Tourist flows on roads that are located in the Zones of Visual Influence of the wind farm
• Numbers of bed spaces within the same Zones of Visual Influence.
The report, available on the Scottish Government website, is regarded as the definitive study on the likely economic impact of windfarm developments on tourism destinations throughout Scotland.