A controversial wind farm development has been downsized by the company behind the proposal.
However, the bid to site 59 wind turbines at Dorenell Farm on the Glenfiddich Estate has still met with strong opposition.
Wind farm developers Infinergy had originally proposed erecting 71 turbines, each 126 metres tall, on the remote site at the Cabrach, 8km south of Dufftown.
Following local consultations last year they have submitted a revised application to the Scottish Government for approval.
Project manager Mark van Rij said: “We have listened to the views of local people and tried to incorporate their ideas.”
He said extensive studies and environmental surveys of the area had been carried out.
“A number of turbines have been repositioned away from sensitive hill tops in order to reduce the visibility of the wind farm from various locations and we believe we now have a scheme that meets the criteria set out in the guidelines from Scottish Natural Heritage,” he added.
The revised plan went on further public display in the Cabrach and Dufftown this week.
The company has distributed newsletters to 2,000 households surrounding the site.
The Scottish Government will seek the views of statutory consultees, including Moray Council, Scottish Natural Heritage and other organisations before reaching a decision.
The site was selected after a lengthy process to identify potential wind farm sites across the UK, added Mr van Rij, taking into account landscape sensitivities as well as planning, environmental and technical criteria.
The Scottish Government has set targets of generating 18% from renewable sources by 2010 and 50% by 2020.
Infinergy said the construction of the wind farm will be worth £65 million in contracts to Scottish firms, and up to three permanent jobs will be created at a regional office in the Cabrach to service the Dorenell and other Infinergy wind farms in Scotland.
Infinergy say they will also establish a community fund which will generate £8.8 million over the 25-year life of the wind farm.
However, critics of the plan insist it is wrong to tarnish an unspoilt area of scenic beauty with wind turbines.
Local councillor Fiona Murdoch condemned the plan when it was first revealed and remains a fierce opponent.
“It doesn’t matter if it was 1 or 71 turbines, it is still the wrong place to put a wind farm development on a blanket peat bog in unspoilt scenery,” she said.
Councillor Murdoch said it was already clear from other developments that regardless of the number of turbines developers start with, they are quite likely to try and increase the number of turbines in the future.
And she dismissed claims by Infinergy in its newsletter that wind farms encourage tourism.
“A recent study by VisitScotland showed that 92% of people visit Scotland for the scenery. If you take a beautiful wild place and cover it in wind turbines you remove the main reason why people want to come here in the first place.”
Councillor Murdoch said the two to three permanent jobs promised by Infinergy was far less than the number that could be created through tourism development in the area.
Andy Cameron, of the Save Our Scenic (SOS) Moray group, said it was not surprising that Infinergy has come in with a revised proposal.
“It could be this was the number they had in mind to begin with,” he added.
And while the removal of some turbines had reduced the visual impact from the Huntly direction, Mr Cameron said it had done nothing to lessen the impact from the Ben Rinnes and Tomintoul side of the development area.
“Fifty-nine is still an enormous number of turbines, although we are not opposed to wind farms per se. We don’t think they are the most efficient way of generating power, although we appreciate we have to find other ways of generating power.
“It is a question of siting, and in areas of outstanding beauty unfortunately the land is cheap and there are not many people to oppose them,” he added.
Meanwhile, a renewed call for a moratorium on wind farms has been made by a Moray academic who has researched the impact of mechanical vibrations on peat bogs.
Professor Dixie Dean, from Forres, said the impact of noise and vibrations from wind farms on environmentally-sensitive sites is potentially catastrophic.
Prof Dean has warned that water courses supplying whisky companies are also at risk from the collapse of moorlands and other environmentally important areas.
He has urged local MSPs to support a moratorium on wind farms until the Scottish Government’s chief scientific officer has completed a report on the perceived impact.
And the academic has submitted a petition with the Scottish Parliament urging the Government to implement a moratorium.
Prof Dean claimed he has failed to secure the interest of Moray MSP Richard Lochhead, who is Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and the Environment, or Moray MP Angus Robertson on the issue.
He said the approval of any more large scale wind farms should be blocked until his concerns are fully investigated by the Government.
By Chris Saunderson
16 May 2008