Renewable energy FAQs
Renewable energy is a necessary part of creating a cleaner and greener environment for Scotland. However, we receive lots of questions and concerns about renewable energy projects and policies. On this page we have listed and answered some of the most frequently asked questions:
What is Net Zero?
Net Zero is a balance. Despite clean technologies and greater awareness of our impact on the planet, cutting emissions completely is not feasible. Net Zero is a state of balance which means the same amount of emissions will be removed from the atmosphere, as are put in.
The Scottish Government has committed to achieving a Net Zero society by 2045. This is 5 years ahead of the rest of the UK. Renewable energy can help to achieve this by providing energy with lower emissions. We also help by planting more trees which remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
How many wind farms and hydro stations are on FLS land?
You can see the full extent of renewable developments on FLS land on our dashboard. This is updated twice a year. It includes operational sites as well as those in planning and construction.
Who owns and operates the sites and equipment?
Renewable energy sites on FLS-managed land are owned and operated by the developers. This may be energy providers or community organisations. We do not currently own or operate any renewable project.
Will net income from wind and hydro power be reinvested in forestry?
Income we receive from renewable sites goes into other programmes. This includes creating new woodland, visitor facilities and more.
How do wind farms and hydro schemes deliver climate change benefits if trees have to be cut down or peat is disturbed?
Decisions on woodland removal and peat disturbance are informed by an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA). The Scottish Government's Policy on Control of Woodland Removal determines if it is acceptable to remove trees permanently from the land we manage. This then sets the requirement, if any, for compensatory planting.
Wherever appropriate, we will seek to maintain woodland conditions around turbines. This is subject to the impact of tree growth on wildlife, turbine performance and energy yield. The Scottish Government have also published guidance on calculating net carbon impacts on peat. Each development provides these calculations as part of the EIA.
Routine management of forests continues around windfarm developments. This involves felling conifers, followed by replanting of both productive crops and broadleaves, with diversification of the forest to include more open areas.
Ultimately, it is up to the local planning authority, or Scottish Ministers for larger projects, to decide if the removal of trees is an acceptable price to be paid for clean energy.
Are FLS going to allow more renewable energy facilities to be created on public lands?
As a Scottish Government Agency, we are part of the ambition for Net Zero by 2045. As land manager, we fulfil our role in any prospective plans for new sites, alongside other agencies. This means that there will be more renewable energy installations on public land.
Who else has authority over renewable energy plans?
Please see our Wind and Hydro page to see the basic outline of how a renewable energy project is undertaken and the stakeholders involved.
Will developments on Scotland's national forests and land be subject to normal planning/consent procedures?
Yes. Developing renewable energy on Scotland's national forests and land will always be subject to planning rules and procedures. This is normally overseen by the relevant local authority, or by Scottish Ministers for large projects.
Is there a conflict of interest between FLS’s role as developer of renewable energy projects and its regulatory role?
It is important here to note our responsibility. As a land manager, we work with those who wish to develop sites for renewable energy. But we are not the forestry regulator in Scotland. We follow rules laid down by Scottish Forestry. Therefore, there is a clear separation of functions. Any developments on land we manage is subject to agreed policies, which include the Scottish Government’s Policy on the Control of Woodland Removal, and the guidance to our staff on implementing it. We aim for an exemplary approach when applying these policies to the land we manage.
Does Forestry and Land Scotland have the necessary expertise to develop renewable energy projects on its land?
We will continue to work closely with the private sector. The powers in the Climate Change (Scotland) Bill, allow us to form companies and establish joint ventures. We have staff to manage all aspects of renewable projects, but at this time, we operate purely as a land manager and hold no stakes in renewable energy installations.