Two new wind-farm developments could take place in Caithness in a multi-million-pound investment by ScottishPower Renewables.
The company confirmed yesterday that it is considering sites at Halsary – close to the existing wind turbines at the Causewaymire – and at Westerdale, near Halkirk, although it stressed that any development is likely to be six to seven years away.
At present, the locations – both approximately 10 miles south of Thurso – have been identified as having potential as wind-farm sites.
ScottishPower Renewables said that a scoping report is currently being distributed to stakeholders giving more detail on the proposals and describing the methodology and benefits of the possible developments.
It added that its site-selection process is designed to identify wind-farm sites according to the principles of sustainable development and said that any location must be environmentally acceptable, be economically and technically viable, and make a meaningful contribution to the UK’s renewable energy targets.
The company is to appoint a team of independent specialist consultants to advise on environmental issues, assist in developing the layout of any proposed wind farms and provide environmental information to allow the production of an extensive environmental statement.
ScottishPower Renewables project director David Walker said: “The UK has extremely strong renewables targets and the sites at Halsary and Westerdale could make considerable contributions to these targets and the country’s long-term energy goals.
“We pride ourselves in developing renewable energy responsibly and take into consideration the views of all our consultees, and work with them to ensure our projects are developed in harmony with the local environment.
“Keeping the local communities informed is also a key aim of all our projects and we will be holding numerous public information days throughout this process to ensure that everyone has the opportunity to have their questions answered.”
However, the company’s plans did not go down well with Stuart Mills, who lives at Wester House, Westerdale, and is a former chairman of Caithness Windfarm Information Forum. He said he has had no communication from ScottishPower Renewables and claimed there is no backing for the proposal in the community.
“From discussions I have had with other people here, there is no support for additional wind farms in this area. We have enough already on our doorstep,” he said.
Meanwhile, CWIF spokesman Stuart Young yesterday attended the public local inquiry in Stornoway on the Eisken wind-farm project. The inquiry, which is expected to last until the end of the week, will be assessing whether the power from the scheme is of sufficient national importance to justify siting a wind farm in a National Scenic Area.
Mr Young, who lives in Dunnet, was giving evidence on behalf of the John Muir Trust on the importance of the correct viewing distance for visualisation of wind farms. “The image size used by the developer has a viewing distance of 250mm, and as a result of my written evidence the developer has already conceded that it does not conform to best practice,” Mr Young said.
“I will be demonstrating that an image of this size is unlikely to be viewed correctly and that ordinary people as well as planners, councillors and Scottish ministers are not trained to use visualisations.
“That information on a small image can be underestimated, whereas a larger image can be readily understood without special knowledge or training.
“It is interesting to note that the developer has produced new size visualisations for the inquiry – viewing distance 450mm – which now conform to best practice but it is too late to inform the general public and decision-makers.”
The John Muir Trust is represented at the inquiry by its policy officer, Helen McDade. She is originally from Thurso and is the daughter of Donald Dyer, who was for many years a Caithness county councillor.
21 May 2008