An energy giant has scaled down plans for the biggest onshore windfarm in the Highlands after a backlash from communities.
SSE Renewables’ revised proposals for the scheme at Stronelairg, in the hills above Loch Ness, will be revealed at a public exhibition this week.
The firm originally suggested putting 140 turbines at the site – but has reduced that to 83. The windfarm will be to the east of the Glendoe hydro scheme at Fort Augustus.
The proposals will go on showthis week, alongside a second set of plans for a 36turbine windfarm on the opposite side of the loch.
The Bhlaraidh windfarm – proposed for land to the north of Invermoriston – was formerly known as the Balmacaan project and originally featured 138 turbines.
SSE said it intended to submit planning applications for both developments this summer.
Yesterday, a company spokeswoman said neither windfarm would be visible from the loch.
She added that both had been scaled down after investigations were carried out last year and following a public consultation and environmental studies.
A source at Highland Council said the firm’s decision was most likely based on local opposition to the size of the original projects.
Members of the public were concerned about how visible they would be from Loch Ness-side communities.
The Mountaineering Council of Scotland also raised concerns about the impact of the developments on the country’s mountain heritage.
Last night, a spokesman for the mountaineering council said he could not comment on whether his organisation’s position had changed as he had not seen the new proposals.
The SSE spokeswoman said: “The key thing is that both have been designed to avoid being visible from Loch Ness.”
More information about the turbines, including the proposed layout of both schemes, proposed access routes and photomontages of how the turbines may look, will be available at this week’s exhibitions.
Last night, anti-windfarm campaigner Stuart Young, of Caithness Windfarm Information Forum, said the Stronelairg development would be the largest in the north.
“While they won’t be visible from Loch Ness, other people go up there for other reasons,” he said. “These will be visible from all the hills around.
“The question is: Who will buy the electricity? It is not for us in the Highlands or even anyone in Scotland.”
Kenneth Knott, chairman of Fort Augustus Community Council, said his members’ main concern was the additional heavy traffic that would be using the A82 if the project went ahead. He said: “Reducing the number of turbines will reduce the amount of traffic, but will still cause problems when added to the extra traffic being generated by other major projects in the area.
“Huge queues of HGVS with their heavy loads are bound to have an impact.”
The exhibition for the Bhlaraidh windfarm will take place at Balnain Village Hall on Wednesday from 4.30-8pm.
A joint exhibition on both developments will take place at Kilchuimen Academy at Fort Augustus from 4-7.30pm on Thursday.
The Stronelairg windfarm will be the sole focus of a third exhibition at Gorthleck Public Hall on Friday from 3-7.30pm.
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