Plans to regenerate a former Fife opencast site are not living up to the initial vision of a renewable energy park, say opponents.
Yesterday, councillors on Central Area Planning Committee approved plans for a small-scale gas peaking plant, which would prop up the National Grid at peak times, at Westfield Opencast Coal Site east of Ballingry.
The plant, which would include a 30ft tall stack and be powered by 10 gas engines, has been deemed necessary because renewable sources cannot cope with electricity demand at morning and evening peak times.
Green MSP Mark Ruskell, conservation charity RSPB and local residents say the proposal flies in the face of efforts to reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions.
Council planners have said revenue from feeding the grid would help fund green energy developments across the wider Westfield development site.
The gas peaking plant takes up just 1% of the site, which was granted planning permission in principle in 2016 in the hope it would “assist in achieving renewable energy generation and zero waste targets at both council and national level” according to the report to the committee at the time.
An energy recovery facility, which would see domestic waste burned to generate energy, was approved for Westfield last month.
Mr Ruskell, Green MSP for Mid Scotland and Fife, said: “With rubbish incinerators and now gas burners, developments at Westfield are now moving well away from the original masterplan’s vision of a renewable energy park.
“Gas turbines have a short term role in balancing energy demand with renewables, which in the future will be made redundant by smart electricity grids and energy storage technology.
“This application does not present a long term positive future for Westfield.”
The RSPB objected to the proposal, stating it was not in line the Scottish Government’s renewable energy targets.
“While it is unlikely that a single, small-scale gas plant would threaten the national 2030 decarbonisation target, a new generation of small-scale gas power plants may undermine the target,” said senior conservation officer Claire Smith.
Local couple Kenneth and Trish Donaldson have previously spoken out against the Westfield plans.
Mr Donaldson, 69, who attended the meeting in Glenrothes, said: “This was thrown in after the planning application in principle was agreed.
“It’s only there to make money. They’re trying to cut CO2 but they are talking about pumping more CO2 into the atmosphere.”
He added: “There were 31 objections but they don’t pay any attention to the community.”