There was an unexpected rustle of support for the Allt Duine wind farm at a public consultation at Kincraig Community Hall despite concerns over road safety and the longevity of the turbines.
Just under half of those attending the gathering on Monday evening held by applicants RWE npower renewables said they supported the application for the 31 turbines near the village.
A total of 25 of the 55 people present backed the project – which will span the estates of Balavil, Dunachton, Alvie and Dalraddy – while 14 were against, 10 were still undecided and the remainder did not vote.
The development in the Monadhliath Mountains which will comprise turbines as high as 125 metres would generate between 62MGW and 72MGW of power – enough electricity to power 43,000 homes per year.
The proposals did meet with some angry opposition in some quarters from those concerned about the effect 53 daily trips made by cement lorries along the A9 to the site during construction would have on those living nearby, other road users and tourism.
Kingussie Community Council Secretary Val Emmett told the meeting: “In one day there will be 53 concrete lorries trundling up and down that bit of A9 and going up through Leault Farm and then on to the site.
“Presumably most of the concrete pouring will be in the favourable months because you are not going to do this during the winter…
“So we are actually talking about those concrete lorry movements being in the tourist time of the year.
“This is when we see a lot of traffic moving up along the A9 to Kingussie, Kincraig and around Aviemore – and they are going to have concrete lorries interrupting that.”
RWE representative Jennifer Gascoigne said they did not intend to use routes through residential areas and would stick to the A9 Inverness-Perth road as much as possible.
“I appreciate that this would seem like a large number – and it is a large number,” Ms Gascogine said.
“But it’s worth remembering that the traffic impact assessment, which was undertaken as part of the environmental impact assessment, measures during those months that you are talking about.
“We have been advised by our traffic and transport engineers that they think there is capacity in the road for that.”
Project manager for construction Morgan Houtmeyer said the heavy traffic would not last long: “It’s for a very conservative period.
“It’s only for the concrete (pouring) and we have put the figure in as a worst estimate.”
It is expected that the site will be accessed directly from the A9 via the turn-off by Leault Farm, a spokeswoman for the firm said after the meeting.
Another point of contention was the life span of the wind farm. RWE npower renewables said that it would be in place for at least 25 years before the turbines would need to be taken down and the concrete dug up.
In the meantime a bond to pay for the cost of removing wind farm would be set up and is intended to provide insurance should the energy company go into administration.
However, not all residents were convinced this was enough to safeguard the long-term future of the site which is eight kilometres north-east of Kincraig.
Kingussie community councillor Joe Taylor said: “If you can forecast the cost of something in 25 years’ time you should be the Chancellor of the Exchequer.
“Who would have said 25-years-ago that petrol would cost £6-per-gallon? It’s too long term.”
Ms Gascogine responded: “We have lodged the application for 25 years, and that is what we would hope to get consent for.
“At the end of that 25 years we would have a number of options available to us; we could approach the landowners and try to extend our lease arrangements with them depending on how the infrastructure was holding out.
“We could rebuild something else but that would require another planning application and consent.
“Or we could decide to extend the development so that it doesn’t necessarily have to be the end of it.”
The site is eight kilometres north-east of Kingussie and nine kilometres west of Aviemore, and is within the Highland Council’s preferred area of development for renewable energy.
Prior to the meeting the Mountaineering Council of Scotland (MCofS) described the proposed wind farm as a “step too far”.
They have called on political parties in May’s Scottish Parliamentary election to show a commitment to Scotland’s world famous landscapes by speaking out against wind farm proposals in “dwindling areas of wildness”.
They claim the proposed Allt Duine wind farm is a prime example of a renewable energy project that will cause “irrevocable damage” to a “cherished wild landscape” and ruin views in the Monadhliath Mountains.
They point out the development will be visible from many mountains within a 35 kilometre radius and the turbine site is just 400 metres from the boundary of the Cairngorms National Park.
If all the proposed wind farms in this area are developed there would be 11 separate wind farms visible from Cairn Gorm, they have said.
MCofS President Chris Townsend said: “Scotland’s mountains are a precious wild land resource that once lost is gone forever. Like the John Muir Trust and other organisations, the MCofS believes that wind farms in the wrong location destroy wild landscapes. Allt Duine is one such wind farm and should not be built.”
RWE npower renewables is the UK subsidiary of RWE Innogy, and already operates 19 hydro-electric power projects and 23 wind farms in the UK, including the country’s first major offshore wind farm.
Scottish Government officials said yesterday (Tuesday) the application had so far received 16 letters of objection and 18 letters of support.
Ministers aim to take decisions on such applications within nine months of receipt of the application. The public consultation on the proposal ends next Wednesday (April 13).
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