‘Richard Branson of Renewables’ is California-dreaming of new wind farm in Wigtown

Computer-generated image of the California Wind Parc as seen from Wigtown
Computer-generated image of the California Wind Parc as seen from Wigtown

Computer-generated image of the California Wind Parc as seen from Wigtown

Green renewable generator Ecotricity is proposing to build a new wind turbine parc near Wigtown in a joint venture with Skanska.

The proposed California Wind Park would be built on Stroans Hill, near the village of Carsluith and across the bay from Wigtown in Dumfries and Galloway.

The environmental assessments carried out so far have revealed that the site can accommodate up to 7 turbines at a maximum tip height of 110m. With a capacity of 21 MW, the site could generate enough green electricity to supply approximately 10,600 homes.

Last week, Skylark – the joint vehicle development company – held two public exhibitions about the California Wind Park – one in Carsluith Village Hall on Wednesday and one in Wigtown County Buildings, Main Hall on Thursday. These attracted around 200 local residents.

Once California is commissioned, Skylark said it will donate more than £100,000 per year into a community benefit fund.

A spokesman for Ecotricity said: “During the Environmental Impact Assessment process, we are working closely with Dumfries and Galloway Council, statutory bodies such as Historic Scotland, Scottish Natural Heritage, Scottish Environmental Protection Authority, and RSPB, local communities, and other stakeholder groups.

“At Ecotricity, we have been building wind farms for 19 years and only instal turbines in locations we are absolutely confident can accommodate them. Through our Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) work, we assess all possible impacts, from cultural heritage and landscape to wildlife, hydrology and tourism.

“Given the extensive assessments we have undertaken, we are very confident the site is an appropriate place for a wind park of this size. There is currently no evidence that wind farms have a negative effect upon tourism, and we are confident that, particularly given its relative distance, the prospective wind farm will not have any significantly negative impact on any sites of natural and cultural significance.”

Dale Vince, OBE, founder and director of Ecotricity, based in Stroud, Glos.- often described as the ‘Richard Branson of Renewables’ – said he believes his turbines will be built within the next two years, and pointed UK government figures that show more people support wind than support shale or nuclear energy.

He said: “I don’t think there is a conflict between tourism and windfarms. All the surveys ever undertaken by anyone on windfarms show consistently that 70% of the country supports them, even in their own backyard.

“There is a very vocal minority which creates a self-perpetuating myth that people don’t like them.

“I set up what is the world’s first green energy company because the biggest single impact on global warming was energy and electricity production and I wanted to change that, to make an impact.”

Vince added that the ‘concentration of energy companies was now all in Scotland after the reversal of environmental promises made for England.’

He said: “The Scottish government has a wonderful attitude and is already getting 50% of its electricity from wind, as well as exporting it. In England it’s only about 10%.

“In the current political climate, there has been a reversal of approval for about 50 windfarms, the green energy industry is in despair. Really the next election could be make or break for renewable energy in England.

“Wind energy is our new North Sea oil with the added advantage that we’re not held over a barrel over prices by the Saudis. It’s cheap, its abundant, and in 20 years’ time the whole of the country will be powered by wind and sun and sea and we’ll look back and think: ‘What was the problem?”

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