A new 67-turbine wind farm near Fort Augustus, which will power the equivalent of up to 114,000 homes in the area and generate up to £30 million of benefits to the Highlands, has been approved by the Scottish government.
The proposed Stronelairg wind farm, which will be developed by SSE Renewables on the Garrogie Estate in the Highland Council area, will have a maximum generating capacity of around 242MW..
The wind farm will bring up to £15 million of benefits to the local community over the 25-year lifetime of the development with an additional £15 million to go to the Highland-wide Sustainable Development Fund. The construction phase is expected to create more than 100 jobs.
The original application was for 83 turbines with 16 turbines being refused consent, in order to mitigate landscape and visual impacts.
The project is to be built around SSE’s existing Glendoe hydro scheme, using existing access roads which run right through the wind farm site. The project is situated on a plateau set well back (around 14km) from Loch Ness and no turbines will be visible throughout the main tourist routes of the Great Glen, Loch Ness and Cairngorm National Park.
But an application to build a 21-turbine wind farm at Newfield, near Lockerbie, with a maximum generating capacity of 63MW has been refused on the grounds of unacceptable adverse visual, landscape and cumulative impacts.
Scottish Energy Minister Fergus Ewing explained: “We want to see the right developments in the right places. That is why I have refused permission for the proposed wind farm at Newfield, which would have brought unacceptable impacts on the landscape.”
“The Stronelairg wind farm will create jobs both in its construction, and during its lifetime. Once it is up and running, the wind farm will save thousands of tonnes of carbon dioxide each year, and will be able to produce enough electricity to power thousands of homes in the Highlands.
“As well as bringing benefits to the local community, the Stronelairg wind farm will also benefit the wider Highland region through the provision of a Sustainable Development Fund.
“Wind farms, like Stronelairg, play an important part in helping Scotland reach its target of the equivalent of 100% of electricity demand generated from renewables.
“We are already providing over a third of the UK’s renewable electricity generation and helping to keep the lights on across our islands at a time where there is an increasingly tight gap between electricity supply and demand.”
Dave Thompson, SNP MSP for Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch, commented: “This decision is fantastic news for the local area and the Highlands as a whole – and further confirmation of the potential for renewable energy not just to make our country greener – but also to create jobs and contribute to strengthening Scotland’s economy.
“That the local community – and the Highlands as a whole – are set to benefit by up to £30m is also particularly welcome.
“The Scottish Government recognises the importance of harnessing Scotland’s vast renewable energy potential and this decision is another step toward meeting the target to generate the equivalent of 100 per cent of electricity from renewable sources by 2020.
“Scotland has the potential to be the renewables powerhouse of Europe – and the sector already employs more than 11,000 people across the country and provides more than a third of the UK’s renewable electricity generation.”
Colin Nicol, Lead Director of Wholesale Generation Development, said: “SSE is delighted with the decision from Scottish Ministers on Stronelairg wind farm, it is a fantastic project which will bring real socio-economic benefits to the Great Glen area including job creation, skills training, business opportunities and substantial community funds.
“We are keen to ensure that local businesses are afforded as many opportunities as possible during construction, which is exactly what our Open4Business portal is designed to do.
“We estimate as much as £120 million could be secured by Highland and other Scottish companies, and that significant local employment opportunities will be created. In addition, SSE will be providing up to £30 million of community funds for 25 years from the construction start.”
Willie Cameron, Highland Tourism Ambassador and local business person from the Cobbs Group of Companies and Loch Ness Marketing, said: “I believe the site has been well-located and carefully designed and it will have zero effect on tourism as a result”.