Scottish ministers yesterday approved a 35-turbine wind farm in the Highlands that had attracted hundreds of local objections.
The 8.75 megawatt development on the Gordonbush estate, near Brora, Sutherland, will be capable of powering 37,000 homes. The government said it would be subject to conditions to minimise any disturbance to wildlife.
Alex Salmond, the First Minister, said the approval was a milestone in the drive to harness Scotland’s massive potential for clean, low-carbon energy.
He said: “We already have the comparative advantage of a vast array of potentially cheap, renewable energy sources. And we have existing skills and resources to become the green energy capital of Europe, through investing in onshore and offshore wind, tidal, wave, biomass, and clean coal including carbon capture technology.”
Jim Mather, the energy minister, said the wind farm would come close to part of the Caithness and Sutherland Peatlands Special Protection Area, but would be a good example of a “sensitively scaled and sited wind farm operating in harmony with the environment”.
He added: “As long as we rigorously assess and safeguard potential impacts on wildlife, there is no reason that wind farms cannot exist alongside wildlife.”
Conditions attached to the approval include a legal agreement to stipulate the use of the site in relation to community benefit, crofting interests and transport and access requirements.
Developers Scottish and Southern Energy must agree a habitats management plan to minimise impact on birds before work s
tarts. An ornithological steering group will be set up to monitor breeding birds and research on the golden plover population must be done.
SSE applied for permission for the wind farm in June 2003. It was approved by Highland Council despite over 450 objections regarding visual impact, and concerns about the implications of turbines on protected eagles and golden plover known to nest nearby.
Objectors also raised fears about a potential peat slide and the impact on tourism.
Earlier this year the Conservative Euro MP Struan Stevenson called on ministers to issue a moratorium on all proposed wind farms to be built on peatlands, including Gordonbush.
The John Muir Trust conservation body also objected, saying the wind farm would be a visual intrusion on the landscape.
But Rob Gibson, a Highlands and Islands SNP MSP, said the wind farm could be a model for other areas.
By John Ross
10 April 2008
|Wind Watch relies entirely
on User Funding