Renewable Energy

Highland Renewable Energy Strategy | Renewable EnergyNorth Highland Onshore Vision  
Pentland Firth | Highland Heat Mapping Project

Highland Renewable Energy Strategy

The Highland Renewable Energy Strategy and Planning Guidelines (HRES) was formally approved at the Council meeting held on 4 May 2006 as Supplementary Planning Guidance to the policies of the Highland Structure Plan. The main thrust of the document is to identify the capacity in the Highlands for a range of renewable energy targets and provide locational guidance and support economic development. Further information is available from the link below:

For on-shore wind energy, a major component of HRES was the identification on maps of ‘prospective development zones’ for wind farms and the inclusion of Council policy and strategy statements for those. The policy framework included a ‘sequential approach’. This no longer complies with national planning policy, which has changed. The Council therefore in May 2008 began preparing new policies and guidance for onshore wind energy. This takes the form of policies for renewable energy which are incorporated in the Highland wide Local Development Plan and Supplementary Guidance on onshore wind energy.

The new policy and guidance supersedes parts of HRES relating to on-shore wind energy. It is important though to note that HRES and the Renewable Energy Resource Assessment on which it is based continue to provide an overarching strategy and much useful information to those involved in renewable energy development including onshore wind.

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Renewable Energy

Large scale hydro electric schemes were constructed in Highland after the Second World War and these are now being added to by wind farms and smaller scale hydro projects.  There is also considerable interest in offshore wind, wave and tidal energy development. These have been stimulated by central government policy to respond to climate change.
The Council is the planning authority for offshore wind, wave and tidal energy schemes of up to 1 megawatt as well as onshore wind energy schemes and hydroelectric generating stations of up to 50 megawatts.  Above these capacities, consent is sought from Scottish Ministers under the Electricity Act, 1989. However, the Council is a statutory consultee of the Scottish Government.

The Scottish Government has a database of renewable energy projects at various stages.

Scottish Natural Heritage produce windfarm footprint maps based on their database of windfarm proposals, for the whole of Scotland.

You can view a map of current wind farm activity in Highland by clicking the link below:

Below, you can also view a list of applications received or issued, for wind turbines detailed in the above map.  Please be aware this includes cases withdrawn, pending consideration, pending decision, decided by others (Scottish Government, Cairngorms), Screening, Scoping, PAN, etc.

You can view a map of hydro-electric power activity in Highland by clicking the link below:

Visualisation Standards

Visualisation standards have been produced to enable the Council to verify that photomontages submitted in support of planning applications and contained within Environmental Statements are accurate and clearly understood depictions of proposals so that the public and decision makers can make informed opinions and decisions. While these standards have been produced with wind energy development in mind, the principles contained could apply to all submissions where panoramic photomontages are submitted.

After a period of more than three years, it was felt appropriate to put the experiences gained to use and review and update the original Standards.  This latest evolution replaces the previous version dated January 2010 and should be used for any new application submitted from June 2013.

The Highland wide Local Development Plan – Proposed Plan states that Major Developments and developments that are subject of Environmental Impact Assessment will be expected to follow a robust project environmental management process, following the approach set out in the Council’s Guidance Note “Construction Environmental Management Process for Large Scale Projects” or a similar approach. The Guidance Note in question has recently been produced with the assistance of SNH, SEPA and SSE. It will be relevant to many onshore wind energy developments as well as a range of other types of development proposal. The Guidance Note is available here:

The Implications for visualisation standards for wind energy developments; University of Stirling May 2012.

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Pentland Firth

The Council’s renewable energy strategy (HRES 2006) recognised the potential of the area’s marine renewable resources, but acknowledged that at that time, the industry needed to develop the necessary technology to fully exploit its potential.  Targets were set to reflect this, 400MW of installed capacity by 2020.  However, as a reflection of the speed of technological change, that target now seems conservative.  The amount of installed capacity estimated to be generated by 2020 from the world’s fist commercial scale leasing round for wave and tidal energy in the Pentland Firth, is now expected to be closer to 1000MW.

Along with its partners the Highland Council is working to ensure that Caithness and Sutherland maximises the economic opportunities that the development of a marine renewables industry can bring.  The area has a lot to offer:

  • A skilled workforce experienced in the Oil and Gas and Nuclear energy industries
  • A top quality higher and further education sector working to ensure that we can provide the necessary technical and professional skills required by the marine renewables industry
  • A well developed engineering and energy supply chain capable of supporting marine renewables developments
  • A port and maritime infrastructure with all the necessary skills, expertise and local knowledge to support marine renewables developments
  • A “joined up” public sector looking to work closely with potential inward investors to Caithness and North Sutherland and to lobby Government to ensure the necessary grid infrastructure is in place to allow the growth of the marine renewables industry.

Scotland’s National Planning Framework 2 identifies the Pentland Firth as an area for co-ordinated action to harness its potential for marine renewable energy, work being taken forward as the Pentland Firth Tidal Energy Project.

The Marine Spatial Plan Framework and Regional Locational Guidance may be accessed on the external Scottish Government website by following the link below.

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North Highland Onshore Vision - Growth Strategy for the Marine Renewables Sector

The marine renewables sector – covering wave, tidal and offshore wind energy – is expected to expand significantly in the Caithness and North Sutherland area over the next 20 years.  The Highland Council wants to maximise the potential economic benefits and employment opportunities that this could bring to the area.  This is reflected as a key priority for the Caithness & North Sutherland Regeneration Partnership, of which the Highland Council is a key partner.
As part of the North Highland Onshore Vision, The Highland Council agreed a 10 point Action Plan in May 2011.  This focused on the land use planning of onshore support services for the marine renewables sector in North Highland.  The Action Plan is revised and updated annually and the latest version was approved in November 2013.  This can be viewed below:

Action Plan - Nov 2013 (485kb pdf)

A ‘call for sites’ exercise was undertaken between September and October 2012. This focused on identifying potential employment land to support marine renewable developments in the Caithness and North Sutherland areas. Details of the sites which were suggested to us can be found below.  It should be noted, however, that these sites do not necessarily have the Council’s support but simply show all the sites which were suggested to us during the call for sites process.  If you wish to receive further information on any of the sites please contact the Development Plans team using the contact details below. The site suggestions will be assessed by the Council as part of the preparation of the Caithness and Sutherland Local Development Plan (CaSPlan).
Site Reports (pdf 9mb)

In April 2012 the Scottish Government established an enterprise area at Scrabster on the Low Carbon/ Renewables theme. A planning protocol has been prepared with the Scottish Government, underlining the Council’s commitment to a streamlined approach to planning in this area.  This can be viewed via the following link:

Enterprise Areas

Although carried out as part of the CaSPlan, the whole-town Charrettes which were carried out in February 2013 for Wick and Thurso will be used to inform the preparation of the design and masterplanning of Thurso West and Scrabster, and Wick Harbour and Lower Pulteneytown.   Further information on the Charrettes and CaSPlan can be found via the following link:
Caithness and Sutherland Local Development Plan

If you require any further information contact the Development Plans team at or on 01349 886606.

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The Highland wide Local Development Plan

The Highland wide Local Development Plan contains general policies and outlines the views of the Council.  As well as a spatial strategy and vision for the Highlands, it provides policy guidance for marine energy developers and is designed to assist with the delivery of economic development.

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Pre-Application Advice Service for Major Developments

The award winning Pre-Application Advice Service for Major Developments  provides an opportunity for developers to discuss their proposals with representatives of all the statutory consultees involved in the planning process and provides developers with an ‘advice pack’.