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Caithness nears its wind power target… for 2050!  

Credit:  John O'Groat Journal, www.johnogroat-journal.co.uk 3 September 2010 ~~

Caithness has currently nearly as much wind power installed or in the pipeline as Highland councillors thought it should have in 2050.

According to a local lobby group, the figures illustrate how much the county has been targeted by turbine developers.

Local councillor Robert Coghill yesterday said Far North people have been let down by the planning system, with commercial greed in danger of devastating the landscape.

The Highland Renewable Energy Strategy (HRES) earmarked Caithness to have no more than 250 megawatts of onshore wind capacity by 2050.

Caithness Windfarm Information Forum (CWIF) points out that schemes already operational and those with consent total 244.25MW.

Approval is also pending for 17 turbines near Dunbeath with a potential output of 51MW.

There are also six other schemes totalling 170MW which have been tabled and a further five totalling 163MW proposed.

CWIF’s Stuart Young accepted that since the HRES was approved by the Highland Council in 2006, the Scottish Government has issued revised planning guidance on renewable energy schemes.

But he said the figures graphically illustrate what CWIF view as the very real danger of the county being overrun by wind farms.

He said: “At least the councillors tried to do something to try and restrain development.

“But the council’s strategy has been ditched by the Scottish Government and we’re living in an age where there are effectively no good reasons not to consent to a wind farm.”

Mr Young said in determining or recommending on applications, councillors still have an obligation to represent people in their ward.

He said: “They are the last line of defence and can’t just say that the Scottish Government say wind farms have to go ahead. They have to act on behalf of their electors.”

Mr Coghill was unsurprised that the HRES cap for onshore wind farm capacity in Caithness in 2050 is close to being reached.

“This reflects a real lack of planning,” said Mr Coghill, the vice-chairman of Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross planning committee.

“The agenda is being set by the rush by developers to cash in on the huge cash incentives which we’re all paying for in our electricity bills.”

Mr Coghill said that people have yet to see the full extent of the wind farms that have been approved or are in the pipeline.

Sixty-six of the 114 turbines which have been given the go-ahead have yet to go up and a further 90 are awaiting a decision.

He said: “We’ve yet to see the full cumulative impact of these huge structures on our very flat county.

“I’d say that the planning system has badly let people down on this – not just in Caithness but in other areas of Scotland.”

Mr Coghill said developers were making total returns on their investment within five or six years – something he said is exceptional.

“The route we’re on is absolute madness,” said Mr Coghill. “But it seems to be very difficult to stand up against these big companies, many of which are controlled from offshore.

“It’s criminal what is being down in landscapes like Caithness – it’s nothing short of greed while the community benefits being offered amount to little more than peanuts.”

David Cowie, a principal planner with the Highland Council, said the new planning guidelines outline a different approach to that advocated in HRES.

“Things have moved on since the HRES was published,” he said.

“The broad approach of the Scottish Government policy is not so much about setting out no-go areas for onshore wind but steering developers towards the less-constrained areas.

“It’s also clear that targets should no longer be regarded as caps on development.”

Mr Cowie said officials are in the process of revising their own policy to comply with the new national guidelines. A draft is due to go before councillors later this month.

Mr Cowie added: “I fully understand the range of concerns there are on this issue across various parts of the Highlands and especially in Caithness.”

Source:  John O'Groat Journal, www.johnogroat-journal.co.uk 3 September 2010

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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