A beauty spot that overlooks Loch Ness and Glen Urquhart could soon become the site of one of Europe’s biggest wind farms, it was revealed yesterday.
Plans were unveiled for up to 130 turbines on moorland at Balmacaan, north of Invermoriston, as well as a neighbouring scheme for 25 turbines opposite an existing wind farm at Glenmoriston.
The proposals, by Scottish and Southern Energy Renewables (SSER) and RidgeWind, would make the area one of the most densely covered wind farm areas in Europe with more than 200 turbines producing green energy.
First reactions from country lovers, however, as well as environmentalists was one of dismay, with one going as far as to say that all wind farms should be placed offshore to preserve Scotland’s wild open spaces.
Denise Davis, who is leading a campaign against a neighbouring wind farm – between Drumnadrochit and Kiltarlity – says that the planned developments would amount to one that is even bigger than Europe’s largest wind farm, at Whitelee, on moorland south of Glasgow.
Ms Davis said: “If you were to tally up the numbers of turbines which may end up there, I think people would be shocked.
“If all these structures are permitted, it is just going to be massive.”
Plans by SSER at Balmacaan – the moorland which gave its name to the loose-fitting men’s overcoat – may be scaled back by the time any planning application is submitted, however.
And RidgeWind has applied for permission to erect masts to test wind speeds on the Achlain and Ardlochy estates at Glenmoriston, where it intends to erect a 25-turbine wind farm. SSER is also consulting on plans for a hydroelectric power station at Balmacaan.
There has been a growing number of developments in the Loch Ness area, with a 40-turbine wind farm at Farr operational, and plans for a 33-turbine wind farm at Dunmaglass, Strathnairn, approved.
A 26-turbine scheme at Glenkirk, on the Balnespick Estate, near Tomatin, is due to be considered by the Scottish Government at a three-week public hearing, starting next month, while plans for a 20- turbine wind farm on the Moy Estate have been submitted.
Pat Wells, convenor of the Stop Highland Windfarm campaign, said: “I think it is another depressing example of wind farm developers and compliant land owners exploiting the precious natural environment as well as current government policy which amounts to a licence to print money.”
Dave Morris, director of the Ramblers Association Scotland, believes all wind farms should be off-shore. He said: “We are extremely concerned about the proposed scale of on-shore wind farm development. Nature is the foundation for Scottish tourism but this is being squandered by energy firms.”
However, Willie Cameron, who is director of Loch Ness Marketing, which promotes tourism around Loch Ness, said: “Renewable energy is vital to the economy of the Highlands. It is a new industry and will generate a lot of money for this area and I think it will enhance tourism.”
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