A category for “very large” wind farms has been included in a new planning blueprint because Highland councillors are being regularly asked to consider bigger schemes, it has emerged.
Highland Council’s new onshore wind strategy, which will be used to guide future decision making about energy schemes, could be given the green light tomorrow (Wednesday March 14) in Inverness.
Among the features of the new guidance is a map of the Highlands which identifies potential areas for large wind farms and locations which are protected.
Categories for the size of developments have also been included and there are definitions of single or micro turbines, small, medium and large wind farms.
But a “very large” category has been added which would refer to schemes with 45 or more turbines and produces energy of a minimum of 100 megawatts.
The categories will help work out the capacity of areas in the Highlands which could accommodate certain schemes, it has been stated in a report to the council’s planning, environment and development committee.
Committee chairman Councillor Ian Ross said the new category had been created because of the size of the wind farms which were now being submitted.
“A large wind farm is considered to be over 20 megawatts,” he said. “But because of the applications we regularly encounter we have added an additional category of “very large” for wind farms over 100 megawatts.”
Councillor Ross said the existing Tomatin wind farm, near Inverness, produced 92 mega watts while an application from energy giant SSE for 77 turbines at Strathy South in Sutherland could deliver 177 megawatts.
Councillor Ross (East Sutherland and Edderton) stressed companies would not have wind farm plans automatically approved if they wanted to build at potentially suitable locations identified on the map and a number of factors would come under consideration.
“The council has a very positive approach to well planned and appropriately sited wind farms but it is also acutely aware of the sensitivities of our Highland environment and the need to strike an appropriate balance,” he said.
“We also believe the renewable sector can make a significant impact on the Highland economy.”
However, findings from a study into the visual and landscape impact of wind farms in the Monadhliadh Mountains and Caithness, have not been included in the new guidelines because not enough information was gathered to set out boundaries which could be defended.
The two areas were picked because of the amount of interest from wind farm developers.
*Meanwhile the council has agreed to provide risk assessments when planning applications for turbines at Highland schools are submitted in the future.
It comes after councillors last month voiced fears over the safety of the machinery and deferred a decision on plans for turbines at Inshes Primary School in Inverness and Nairn Academy.
City councillor Donnie Kerr said children’s safety was paramount and questioned whether fences would be built to deter youngsters from going near the turbines.
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