Page last updated at 15:57 GMT, Wednesday, 6 January 2010

The power, glory and controversy

By David Miller
BBC Scotland Environment Correspondent

Wind turbine
New renewable projects will cause further controversy

First Minister Alex Salmond believes Scotland has hit the energy jackpot for the second time.

First came North Sea oil. Now, it's Scotland's abundance of wind and water which could prove to be our economic saviour.

The big question is: How can Scotland cash in on its good fortune?

Wind farms have become a common feature of the Scottish landscape. Indeed, many would argue they are all too common. The power companies themselves admit they are finding it harder and harder to identify suitable sites for new onshore wind farms.

Increasingly, the renewable energy industry is turning its attention to offshore wind farms, as well as technology which can harness the power of the tides and the waves.

But there's a catch.

Scotland's renewable energy resources are concentrated in the north of the country, while most Scots live in the south. That's why the new Beauly to Denny power line is so important.

Scots are intensely proud of their natural heritage and the Beauly to Denny scheme has been hugely controversial

The Scottish government, the electricity companies and the rest of the renewables industry believe the new line is vital if Scotland is to cash in that lottery jackpot and set an example for other countries to follow by achieving ambitious climate change targets.

The scheme's opponents are far from convinced. They believe the construction of the line will be a needless act of desecration and vandalism.

It is certainly true that the new, larger pylons will march through some of Scotland's most beautiful areas, including the Cairngorms National Park.

Scots are intensely proud of their natural heritage and the Beauly to Denny scheme has been hugely controversial.

Tough targets

Environmental organisations remain divided on the issue. More than 20,000 individuals and organisations made representations to the Scottish government.

The decision has been made. Construction is set to begin. But don't expect the controversy to end any time soon. The row about the route chosen for the new line will continue.

And there are other controversies ahead. Major renewable energy projects will have a major impact on our land and seascapes.

The environmental benefits of large-scale renewable power generation will always have to be judged against their own environmental impact.

Scotland has set itself tough climate change targets. The Scottish government will have many more tough decisions to make in the years ahead if those targets are to be met.

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