September 13, 2006

Far North plan for huge windfarm is scaled down to protect birds

Plans to build a windfarm in the far north that would have been the biggest in Britain have been scaled down to protect birds.

In November 2002, North British Windpower (NBW) revealed proposals for a £75million development on the Skelpick Estate, near Bettyhill, in Sutherland, that would have been three times bigger than any windfarm operating in the UK at that time.

The company hoped to erect 50 turbines with a capacity of over 100megawatts – enough power to supply 84,000 households, or the equivalent to 90% of the homes in the Highland region.

But the Edinburgh-based energy company went back to the drawing board after it was discovered that some of the turbines were on the flight path of birds from the nearby Caithness and Sutherland Special Protection Area.

Managing director Andrew Shaw said yesterday they were now proposing 22 turbines, measuring about 410ft to tip of blade and producing just under 50MW of electricity. The development was now expected to cost about £40million.

He said: “We have been doing a fair amount of work on the birds that live in that area and potentially fly across the windfarm area, and we have redesigned the site so they won’t fly into turbines.

“The price of avoiding the birds is that the windfarm will be somewhat smaller, but it will still be viable and the planning application will now come within the remit of Highland Council.”

Planning consent for windfarms producing more than 50MW have to be dealt with by the Scottish Executive.

Mr Shaw added: “The site is well screened by the landform and, once the Beauly to Denny link has been established, it is well located for local connection. We can link into the big electricity lines that go south from Dounreay.”

The company’s revised plans will be revealed at a public exhibition at Bettyhill village hall from 10am-6pm on Tuesday.

Mr Shaw said: “The exhibition is to find out what people think about it now because time has moved on and the plans have changed, but the discussions we had before got a very positive response.

The company is now hoping to submit a planning application to Highland Council early next year and, if successful, it intends to encourage local firms to tender for the construction work.

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