A “terrifying” wind farm proposal of up to 85 turbines on a precious Moray landscape must be defeated at all costs, it has been claimed.
Wind farm developer Infinergy is behind the proposed development which would be almost three times bigger than the largest wind farm currently operating in Moray.
The proposed site at Dorenell Farm on the Glenfiddich Estate, owned by London financier Christopher Moran, is seven kilometres south of Dufftown.
Infinergy has revealed a likely £10 million community fund over the 25-year lifespan of the wind farm.
Two public exhibitions will be staged next week to outline the proposal – at Carbrach Primary School on Wednesday (4.30-9pm) and at Mortlach Memorial Hall, Dufftown, on Thursday (2-8pm).
“Infinergy is committed to ensuring that the environment is fully considered in all projects undertaken. The priority is always to avoid, reduce or mitigate identified environmental impacts,” said a spokesman.
“The site was selected after a lengthy process to identify potential wind farm sites across the UK, taking into account landscape sensitivities as well as planning, environmental and technical criteria.”
However, local Speyside-Glenlivet councillor Fiona Murdoch, an opponent of wind farms, has urged the community to fight a strong campaign to repel the plan.
She claims the wind farm would wreak a devastating environmental impact on an unspoilt piece of countryside and damage efforts to promote walking tourism in the area.
“You can feel the history of the area the moment you walk out there. The minute it is filled with giant turbines it will be completely ruined. The sheer size of the project is terrifying.
“I hope we can protest loudly enough to stop it but a lot will depend on the policy of the new SNP Government,” she added.
The development is so large it will be determined by the Government, and Moray Council will be among the statutory consultees.
By speaking out publicly, Councillor Murdoch will rule herself out of any local vote on the issue; however, she believes that is a price worth paying for alerting people now to the threat she believes it poses.
“You are going to be able to see it for miles on that hill. It is a completely inappropriate development for this area. You wouldn’t stick a nuclear power station on that hill, so why stick a monumental wind farm there which is every bit as devastating to the environment.”
Councillor Murdoch labelled claims by developers that such wind farms are environmentally friendly as outrageous, given the construction of major access roads and concrete bases required for the developments.
“It is so enormous I think everybody should be concerned, particularly about the environmental impact of pouring so much concrete into the hillside. Both the Livet and the Fiddich start in those hills and this could have a huge impact on our countryside and distilling industry.”
Councillor Murdoch said that with the wind farms already operational and given consent locally, Moray was contributing more than its fair share to the national grid. She is not against small-scale wind energy generation by local towns and villages but not on this large industrial scale.
The largest operational wind farm in Moray currently has 28 turbines while there is a proposal to increase the number of turbines in the area’s other working wind farm from 22 to 35 turbines.
“These wind farms don’t do anything for anybody except the wind farm companies that get handouts to do it, and the landowers who get paid,” she added.
Another leading wind farm opponent said it was inconceivable that this application will ever get off the ground.
“There will almost certainly be worldwide condemnation of this proposed desecration of one of Scotland’s last remaining assets,” said Bob Graham, from Orton, who was behind the Stop Windfarms In Moray group a number of years ago.
He said this was another example of a landowner trying to “get his snout in the wind farm trough”.
“He is hoping to erect at least 60 turbines which would be between 400-500 feet in height only eight miles south of Dufftown, right plumb in the middle of Moray’s area of great landscape value. The site is also only a few miles north of the Cairngorm National Park.
“If this wind farm is given the green flag it would cost us, the consumers, about £17 million a year in subsidies as well as destroying another of Scotland’s few remaining wild places,” claimed Mr Graham.
The Infinergy spokesman said the exhibitions will provide the opportunity for local residents to ask experts questions about the wind farm proposal.”
Newsletters have been sent to around 1,200 homes and more information on the proposed development is available online at http://www.dorenellwindfarm.co.uk or freephone 0800 316 8134.
Helena Sierakowska, chair of the recently established Cabrach Community Association, said there were mixed views on the proposal at this stage.
“In principle, most people I have spoken to are very supportive of wind power but a few of us do have some reservations about the site.
“It is a pristine piece of Scottish countryside which has been untouched for hundreds of years. The Cabrach is a very unspoilt piece of Moray and, to me, it should be incorporated in the Cairngorm National Park,” she added.
However, Mrs Sierakowska is also acutely aware of the need for regeneration of the local area, particularly following the decision to mothball the school.
“If it (wind farm) would contribute some funding into the community that would be good as there is a lot we need to do up here. We want to provide a sustainable community with more housing, a working village hall and a school.”
Infinergy will outline plans for between 60-85 turbines which could generate up to 200 megawatts of electricity, the equivalent of supplying 100,000 homes.
The application is so big it requires approval of the Scottish Government, and Moray Council, Scottish Natural Heritage and other local organisations will simply be statutory consultees. Infinergy is likely to submit a formal planning application in February next year.
“The Scottish Government supports the development of renewable energy as a means of tackling global warming. It has set ambitious targets of generating 18% from renewable sources by 2010 and 40% by 2020,” added the spokesman.
The turbines will have a maximum height of 125 metres to the blade tip and careful design, say Infinergy, has aimed to limit the wind farms visibility.
A considerable number of construction jobs will be supported during the 18 month construction period and around £50 million in civil and other contracts will be available for tender, say the company.
“Once operational, three full-time operational jobs will be created on site, together with further opportunities for companies supplying goods and services to maintain the turbines. Local labour will be used wherever possible and local companies will be encouraged to tender for works.”
Latest statistics show that there are now 152 operational wind farms across the UK, with a cumulative 1,865 turbines.
Of those, 46 are in Scotland and another 13 are under construction in Scotland, 44 have been given consent and another 98 are in the planning stage.
Moray has two operational wind farms at Cairn Uish, near Rothes, and Paul’s Hill, Ballindalloch which between them have 50 50 turbines; however, there is a proposal to add another 14 turbines at Cairn Uish.
The £57 million Paul’s Hill development became the largest operational wind farm in Scotland when it was officially opened in May 2006.
Another 20-turbine wind farm at Drummuir, near Keith, has also won approval but its construction has been delayed by problems connecting it to the national grid.
There are a series of other wind farm developments in Moray at different stages in the planning process.
By Chris Saunderson
26 October 2007
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