Wind turbines as tall as the London Eye are set to blight one of Scotland’s best-known areas of natural beauty. Plans have been lodged by a major energy company for two massive wind farms on hills at either side of Loch Ness.
But the proposals have led to concerns that they will ‘industrialise’ an area which annually draws crowds of tourists keen to catch a glimpse of the mythical monster.
Scottish and Southern Energy (SSE) Renewables plans to invest up to £600million in the two separate developments on shooting estates on either side of the loch.
The largest of the two proposed wind farms, at Stronelairg to the east of the Glendoe hydro scheme at Fort Augustus, Invernesss-shire, would have 83 turbines, while the second, at Bhlaraidh, north-west of Invermoriston, would have 36 turbines. The turbines would stand up to 446ft high – around the same height as the London Eye.
Jim Crawford, independent councillor for Inverness South, said: ‘Loch Ness is a world icon. Everybody knows about Loch Ness, it is madness to do this. I am very much against anything that industrialises Loch Ness.’
The plans were revealed to members of the public at an exhibition at Fort Augustus last night. Both schemes have been reduced in scale from the original plans following a public outcry but there remains concerns they will blight the landscape.
Wind farm protester Stuart Young said: ‘People in the Glen Affric mountains will be looking at one wind farm through the other.
‘In a very popular and important mountaineering section of Scotland there is going to be a big influence between the two wind farms.’
If the plans are approved the wind farms would become the biggest in the North of Scotland. Planning applications are expected to be submitted to the Scottish Government this summer for both projects, which SSE claims could power more than 300,000 homes and create 100 jobs.
An SSE Renewables spokesman said: ‘We are committed to engaging with and informing the public and interested stakeholders of the final design for these projects prior to the submission of the planning application in the summer of this year.
‘Both proposals have been designed to avoid being seen through the main tourist routes and the attractions of the Great Glen and the loch.
‘SSE Renewables undertook exhibitions previously at the scoping stage of the projects in March 2011 and both proposals have significantly reduced in size as we have taken note of feedback we received.’
Concerns have been growing about wind farms and their impact on the Scottish countryside.
MSPs were warned this week by global financial giant Citigroup that Alex Salmond’s green energy targets – which rely on a massive growth in wind farm development – are unlikely to be met because investment will never pick up to the extent required.
Peter Atherton, head of European utility research at Citigroup, said it was ‘unlikely’ the First Minister’s target of the equivalent of 100 per cent of Scotland’s electricity coming from renewables by 2020 would be achieved.
He added: ‘According to Scottish Renewables, £750million was invested last year. We calculated that the Scottish target would cost £46billion, so you’re talking about upping from £750million to £6-£7billion a year in a very short period of time.
‘Is that really feasible? Well, maybe if virtually all the UK investment goes into projects based in Scotland but I think that’s pretty unlikely.’
He also dismissed the idea of investors spending money on renewables, saying they were ‘extraordinarily expensive and not a great investment’.
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