The Scottish Government does not view repowering as a new policy. Repowering can take several forms, but is simply an application for a new onshore wind development on a site where onshore wind represents the established land use or forms part of the planning history of the site.
Permutations in design have grown enormously in the past 20 years owing to changing the design of a project during the consent lifetime, or it may be that the developer wishes to have a new design at the end of the consent life. As repowering is often used as a 'catch-all' term for new proposals on established sites, it has come to include proposed development as diverse as blade extensions to existing turbines to complete site redesign. The established land use will be a material consideration in determination of any application for a repowering proposal. In each case, a new consent will need to be applied for, notwithstanding the steer now in Scottish Planning Policy  that areas identified for new proposals continue to be sited for use "in perpetuity".
New wind farms, including on repowered sites, need to continue to be sited and designed to ensure environmental impacts are minimised and to protect residential amenity.
This statement sets out the Scottish Government's clear support for the principle of repowering for its potential to make the best use of our land and energy resources and to deliver decarbonisation targets. Established sites will benefit from existing grid infrastructure and may provide an easier route to market for developers, and we recognise these commercial benefits. However, we are aware of calls from some developers that a repowering application should be treated differently from a new application. Some have called, for example, for streamlined planning and consenting processes. In turn this is causing concern in some quarters that impacts will not be given due weight in assessments or that affected communities may not have an opportunity to participate in the decision making process.
This draft onshore wind policy statement clarifies the Scottish Government's position that every repowering application should continue to be assessed on its own merits. Repowering can include a wide range of development proposals - and accordingly a range of potential environmental and other impacts which should be fully assessed, as with brand new developments.
The first tranche of 25-year planning permissions for onshore wind in Scotland are reaching expiry at a time of increasing pressure on land use, including cumulative pressures through onshore wind development. The potential to repower such sites represents an opportunity for Scotland to continue to work towards our renewable energy targets through maximising site and grid availability and enhancing cost competitiveness and thereby to maintain investment levels at a time of decreasing revenue support.
Repowering also offers an opportunity to pursue wider Scottish Government policy aims in the context of energy policy development. In particular, our aims to promote community and local energy through community stakes in commercial energy schemes could be incorporated into repowering policy as best practice. Additionally, the scope to encourage local content could be explored.
Increasing efficiency and reducing costs
Changes in the market are driving developers to design repowered sites to maximise efficiencies and increase returns. This is likely to ensure that only those sites with high wind resource are repowered. In chapter two, we set out plans to explore a role in the section 36 consents guidance for the efficiency of wind farms (including for repowered sites) in order to ensure the development or continued use of the sites with the best energy resource.
We recognise that advances in technology offer an opportunity to maximise the efficiency (and value) of individual sites but there is also the scope to build on our distinct approach to energy policy and maximise value for Scotland in terms of economic, social and environmental benefits.
Wider economic and social benefits
Repowering offers an opportunity to further pursue additional Scottish Government policy aims - in particular shared ownership with communities and the encouragement of local involvement.
Our policies on shared ownership and community benefits were not in place when many of the early wind farms were consented.
Repowering offers an opportunity to promote these policy aims. Support is available through our Community and Renewable Energy Scheme ( CARES) to help communities take advantage of offers from commercial developers, and the new CARES contract which will be in place from April 2017 places more focus on supporting developers to engage with communities to ensure that this does not impose undue costs or burdens on commercial schemes.
The role of Scottish Natural Heritage and new guidance
Scottish Natural Heritage ( SNH) rightly has an interest in repowering as the body with responsibility for caring for the natural heritage, enabling people to enjoy it, helping people to understand and appreciate it, and supporting those who manage it.
Through its ambition that natural assets are managed in a way that generates wealth for all, SNH will support the implementation of the energy strategy, including this draft Onshore Wind Policy Statement. It has learned from previous practice in energy generation and transmission, and developing guidance on natural heritage issues to be considered for repowering applications. This will include advice on landscape and visual effects, visualisations, bird surveys and wider ecological assessments and will set out a proportionate approach to these.
SNH advice can support a plan-led approach to energy development and the consideration of individual proposals through its role as a statutory consultee on Environmental Impact Assessments. It provides this advice in the context of the ongoing Planning Review and the requirements of the Scottish Regulators' Strategic Code of Practice. This includes the aim of supporting sustainable economic growth. In the context of the repowering of onshore wind farms, SNH wants to work with the energy industry to identify solutions that reduce the costs and impacts, and thereby help maximise the potential of Scotland's natural environment.
Plan-led approach to repowering
A plan-led approach to repowering is discussed in the following section. It seeks views on scenarios to develop the next generation of wind power in Scotland in a more strategic way.
3.1 Do you agree with the Scottish Government's proposed approach to repowering?
3.2 Are there any further means by which repowering proposals might be facilitated?
Email: Debbie Kessell