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Wind farm vision for Bonchester site rises to 20 turbines

In November last year, Hamilton-based Banks Renewables gave a presentation to Hawick Community Council about its proposals for a 14-turbine wind farm at Birneyknowe.

The meeting heard that the plans were at a “very early stage” and would involve the possible erection of 14 turbines on a 842-hectare site four miles from the town and less than two from Bonchester Bridge.

But this week the company announced that, if it is successful in getting planning consent from Scottish Borders Council for an 80-metre-high testing mast at the site, the data collected will “shape designs for a wind farm of up to 20 turbines”.

Such a development would, claims Banks, generate up to 68MW, enough to meet the electricity needs of 38,000 homes. At that scale of generation, its appropriateness in that location would be determined, not by SBC, whose views would merely be consultative, but by the Scottish Government.

“Annually, [such a development] could remove around 76,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere that would be released producing that amount of energy by non-renewable means,” said Phil Duke, the company’s development director.

He was commenting after comfirming his firm had this week formally submitted its planning application for the test mast to SBC.

“The wind mast is a slender and unobtrusive structure, but the information it collects will help us build up the most detailed possible picture of wind speeds at this location and is thus an essential part of the overall process.

“Out philosophy of development with care is fundamental to what we do and we have already had constructive discussions with two local community councils [Hawick and Hobkirk] and, moving forward, we will be looking to hear from as many local people as possible.”

Mr Dyke said the feedback from these early meetings had highlighted a lack of employment and training opportunities as a major issue locally, which could see his firm setting up or backing dedicated education and training schemes.

“We are hopeful the wind mast will be approved and move us a stetp closer to working in partnership with the community around Birneyknowe to deliver a wind farm which benefits the environment as well as local people and business,” said Mr Dyke.

“Such a wind farm would provide a significant boost for the Borders economy through the local supply chairn and create jobs during the construction process. Local companies will be encouraged to tender for the contracts.”