It is time to address misconceptions about the economic impact in Scotland of onshore wind and the jobs it can sustain, the chief executive of Scottish Power Renewables has told the National Economic Forum.

Lindsay McQuade, who this year replaced Keith Anderson as head of Scottish Power Renewables from her role as director of policy and innovation, was speaking at the 20th National Economic Forum in Dumfries yesterday, attended by the First Minister.

Scottish Power, part of utility group Iberdrola, has recently invested in 474MW of onshore wind generation - enough to power more than 280,000 homes - across eight sites in Scotland.

The eight wind farms, built in 2016 and 2017, are at: Glenapp, Black Law, Dersalloch, Kilgallioch, Hare Hill and Ewe Hill.

On the topic of driving forward the rural economy, Ms McQuade said: “There are a lot of misconceptions about the economic impact of onshore wind. It’s not a story that’s well understood or often talked about. We decided to do something about that with regard to this set of eight projects.”

She said Scottish Power Renewables has calculated the real benefits of the eight wind farms, in particular to Scottish rural economies. It has estimated that from a capital investment of £650 million, it can expect a lifetime investment of £1.6 billion covering an operating life of 25 years.

Of the total £1.6bn investment, she said that more than £800m is in Scotland, with around £250m in the south west region.

Ms McQuade told the National Economic Forum, attended by representatives from government, business, trade unions and the third sector, that “the results were impressive and best of all they were ‘real’, with the investment having been made and the windfarms generating”.

Its study of the economic impact of the wind farms over their life span also found that they contributed a total GVA of £1.3bn and added £814m to UK earnings, with £194m of that to local earnings.

Ms McQuade added that Scottish Power Renewables has also entered voluntary community benefit agreements which will distribute £59m over 25 years to a number of projects. She said such investment should not be “underestimated in terms of attracting people to make these communities their home, and to raise their family and go about life”.

She said: “Renewables is a thriving industry and has the ability to create and sustain jobs the length and breadth of the country – onshore wind in particular presents a big opportunity to Scotland in terms of jobs and investment at a national and local level. It’s also extremely cost effective.”