Forestry Commission land to boost wind farm sites
Energy companies have been given the go ahead to explore Forestry Commission land for renewable energy projects.
The scheme, which has qualified support from Friends of the Earth and WWF Scotland, could see about 200 additional wind turbines being erected.
Those behind the plan said communities directly affected by any development would also be given the chance to invest in local schemes.
The Forestry Commission Scotland (FCS) estate covers about 10% of the country.
In south west Scotland, Scottish Power Renewables (UK) will work with the commission to develop land in Dumfries and Galloway and Arran.
PNE Wind UK has been chosen as the preferred developer for schemes in Stirlingshire, Cowal, the Trossachs and Tayside.
In Argyll, Lochaber, Invernesshire and the Northern Highlands, E.ON Climate and Renewables UK Developments Ltd will look to develop renewable schemes, while Fred Olsen Renewables will oversee any developments in Grampian.
Juliet Swann, from Friends of the Earth Scotland, said: "Forestry Commission lands should be looked after for the public benefit in a way that increases their value to society and the environment.
"Given that some Forestry Commission Scotland and has thin soil and high winds - conditions which are not ideal for trees, but typically great for wind turbines - it makes sense to look at other suitable uses, such as renewable energy.
"This initiative should add to the diversity of use, and increase returns for the public, as long as it is developed taking proper account of complementary forestry, public access and biodiversity interests."
Environment and Climate Change Minister Roseanna Cunningham said all prospective projects would be carried out in an environmentally sensitive way and would have to observe local planning rules.
She added: "I am particularly pleased that communities have the potential to benefit from these projects.
"Communities in the vicinity will receive a leading edge annual payment which can be re-invested into the development.
"In addition, these same communities can add their own funds to get a greater stake in the schemes."
Developers will now spend eight months working up a list of suitable wind sites in their allotted locations.
As a result of the agreement, it is estimated that about 500MW of additional wind capacity could be installed on the national forest land in Scotland.