Today one of our volunteers, went up to the Little Raith Wind Farm site with a Community Councillor, who is very familiar with the land as they have spent over 20 years roaming all over the area, and they are very knowledgeable on the local wildlife and habitats.
The purpose of the visit was to check out any changes to the land, as well as view what work is currently being carried out, now that cranes have appeared on the site.
Firstly, the area looks much better than our previous images have shown, however the Community Councillor noticed that the lay of the land has completely changed, with areas raised higher and various wooded areas completely cleared, including a wooded area which was used as a nesting ground for three Buzzards, which are a protected species.
The Buzzards have moved their nesting ground further towards the Little Raith farm, but still use the area where the turbines are to be located as their hunting and feeding ground. During the walk we witnessed a variety of wildlife including Deers, Herons, Ducks and Swans, and once the turbines are operational, we can expect the bird population to decline, with Buzzards a high risk for colliding with turbines.
Several scientific studies also suggest that other forms of wildlife will also decline as wild animals, such as deer, will vacate the area due to the low frequency noise pollution and vibration created by the turbines.
During the walk, we were careful to avoid crossing into the construction site, until we were assured by a local farmer it would be okay, so long as we observe any protocols put in place, and if asked to leave, we would do so. Fortunately, no heavy construction work was being carried out, other than the raising of support structures in preparation for the first turbine going up, which we were told would be on Monday.
We noticed footpath closure signs by Fife Council, however the dates listed were only valid up to the 4th June 2012, and we were able to access the site and pass workers unchallenged. However we chose to observe all safety signs, protocols, and not interfere with any development works.
By Monday evening the developers expect to have the first tower standing, but this will be without the nacelle and turbine blades which will be added later. We are unsure if a turbine will be completed fully before moving onto the next, or if the developer will first raise all the towers, then add the nacelles and turbine blades. The Community Councillor has heard from other sources that all the turbines will be completed by the end of September, barring any unexpected delays.
One of the concerns noted by the Community Councillor, is that with the large amount of concrete poured into the land, this could affect the natural water table. Areas that were once marshes and bogs which hosted a wide variety of wildlife and insect life, can dry up, with new habitats, bogs and marshes forming elsewhere.
The Community Councillor noted that these areas will recover, but through time, possibly up to 15 years, before they are thriving again. It was also commented that the turbine located at the edge of the Black Woods would provide a high risk for the bat population that nest and feed in the area.
If the local bat population is decimated, then insects that damage crops will thrive, and will then require the farmer to increase their usage of pesticides to protect their crops.
At the open day for Little Raith, the developer did state that they are now conducting a Bat study, yet this is a little too late, and the Bat study is not being conducted at the Black Woods where most of the bat population are nesting.
Remaining with the open day, held by Kennedy Renewables, the developer (Stephen Klien) stated that they are financing a new survey into the Benzene issue of pollutants from the Mossmorran complex being distributed in higher concentrations locally, as stated by the University of Glasgow researchers, however Kennedy Renewables say that their research may even show that the turbines will decrease the pollutants. However, we have not had access to this report as yet as it is still in the early stages, and until we receive a copy of the report for review, the benzene issue is still an ongoing concern.
We asked the developer about the 2km setback guideline specified by Fife Council, and why they have breached this guideline, with the closest turbine located 1.3km to Cowdenbeath, and the closest turbine 1.6km to Lochgelly (all 9 turbines are within 2km of Lochgelly), and the developer merely stated that they could have built them within 350 metres to Lochgelly if they wanted, which felt as if they were trying to state that we should be grateful they are located where they are as it could have been much worse.
One thing that was funny about the open day, was one question that we asked, stopped the developer and the political lobbyists in their tracks, when we asked if any of them live near wind turbines. This managed to silence the room for a few seconds, before the representative from Invicta PA, sheepishly replied that they lived in the centre of a town, so no.
The developer was then asked if Kennedy Renewables will be expanding the site, and at present there are no plans to extend the site, however in the future it may be considered, whether that is one, two, four, or more extra turbines, only time will tell. Expansion should be limited though, considering a variety of wind developers are rushing to build wind farms in the local area, with another 5 turbines being planned around Mossmorran, several ongoing applications in Auchtertool, and applications appearing for the Bowhill and Cardenden area.
The bottom of Lochgelly, has so far avoided having any issues with the wind farms, but this will soon change, with developer Banks Renewables soon to submit planning applications for a development stretching from Kelty to Lochgelly, initially for 6 turbines, but reported in the press as 4 turbines, with another Community Councillor claiming they have seen the final plans for 14 turbines.
Kennedy Renewables are confident that the site will produce around 30-35% of their installed capacity, which was a surprise to hear, considering if they achieve this, it will be one of the only wind farms in Scotland to achieve this. The John Muir Trust did a 26 month study of wind farms in Scotland and discovered that wind generation was:
• below 20% of capacity more than half the time
• below 10% of capacity over one third of the time
• below 2.5% capacity for the equivalent of one day in twelve
• below 1.25% capacity for the equivalent of just under one day a month
Back to the trek, we first wandered all around the outskirts of the construction site, and the Community Councillor showed us hidden nature havens, where we spotted the deer, and our volunteer was shown signs of where the deer had been resting, also where the deer had been feeding, and that there are signs of a fawn in the area. We left these areas quickly so as not to disturb or cause shock to the fawn, and started our way up to the Rosie Pond.
A local farmer approached us, and gave us permission to carry on into the site, so long as we were careful and agreed to obey any instructions from the limited staff working on the site. Walking through the site, we noticed warning signs warning of no exposed flames due to the buried gas pipelines from Mossmorran.
We have always been concerned about the safety impacts on Mossmorran from the turbines, as insurance documents from Germany and Spain show that most wind turbine damage claims from a developer is due to the Nacelle catching fire, so the signs re-affirmed our fears.
The Community Councillor noted that the roadways are very densely packed, and seemed doubtful that these roads would ever be removed once the wind farm was decommissioned. Even if the roads do manage to get removed, the land will never be returned to it’s former state prior to development, due to the excavated dirt forming new hills and ridges.
Upon reaching where the crane is currently sitting, a blue steel structure was sitting which appears to be a mechanical arm for a much larger crane to lift the section of the turbines into place, which the contractor expects to be on Monday, so expect heavy convoys on the roads.
The contractors were not overly keen to engage with us in dialogue, but we did manage to have a small chat, it was kept light, non-political and friendly, as they are only doing a job, but they did mention that they were having some difficulty, as the ground was softer than what they are used to on other wind farm developments, so it was causing some delay. They also mentioned that pressure to complete the project meant they were being asked to raise the structures at a faster speed than what the crane is certified to handle.
The crane contractors have a right to be concerned, as there have been numerous reported wind farm crane accidents reported which has resulted in the destruction of their equipment, and in some cases death of workers.
As we left the site, we were treated to the rapid darkening of the sky, and looking towards where the crane is sitting, the clouds began to droop heavily, in what looked like the early formation of a tornado. As the skies became darker and heavier, the wind began to whip up, with the dreariness and bleakness giving an ominous and apocalyptic feel, at which point the Community Councillor joked, that the only thing missing from the scene is a person holding a placard that has the words; ‘The End Is Nigh!’.
[photos at source]
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