The UK’s only “dark sky” park which gives astronomers a crystal clear view of space is being threatend by wind turbines with lights on, scientists are warning.
The Galloway Forest Dark Sky Park was officially opened last year by the First Minister.
But the exceptionally dark skies that made it possible are now being threatened by a glut of applications from developers, according to the Astronomer Royal for Scotland, the John Muir Trust and the Scottish Wild Land Group.
They have written an open letter to the Scottish Government asking it to update planning policy to rule out the construction of wind farms in the vicinity of the park in south-west Scotland.
Prof John Brown, Astronomer Royal for Scotland, said installing any large structure that required illumination would be like “putting a factory in Glen Coe or electricity pylons along the Cuillin ridge”.
He added: “Our First Minister was instrumental in helping to secure funding for the observatory and he opened it with much passion and aplomb in October last, praising Scotland for leading the world with this fine public and educational facility.
“But Mr Salmond is also an ardent advocate of wind farms and so faces a dilemma.
“I for one would call upon him now to prove his sincere interest in our wild lands and skies by ensuring wind farms and other dark sky contaminants are excluded from the entire Galloway Forest Dark Sky Park.
“This would lay down a benchmark for future decisions on all similar wild land sites where wind farms are wholly inappropriate.”
Mark Gibson, chairman of the board of trustees of the Scottish Dark Sky Observatory said there were currently nine proposals for wind farms at various stages of planning within sight of the park’s observatory.
These include plans from energy companies such as E.ON and RWE npower renewables.
Mr Gibson added that while some planning applications had been rejected, there were fears that if even just one were approved it could open the door for further development.
Ministry of Defence and Aviation Authority safety requirements mean that all wind turbines must be illuminated by infra-red light and in some cases must also have visible light illumination.
Turbines near the park could fall into the latter category, which would affect both the ability of astronomers to use sensitive equipment, and the current visibility of stars, galaxies and comets.
The park is home to the only publicly accessible, research-grade observatory within a dark sky park. The observatory estimates that it will attract 100,000 visitors each year within five years of being established.
Meanwhile, wind farm companies have also been accused of tying up increasing numbers of police officers in escort duties while giant turbines are moved around Scotland’s roads.
The Scottish Conservatives said firms were making millions through taxpayer subsidies for renewable energy while being charged just pounds41.50 an hour per police officer and patrol car to accompany large loads.
Murdo Fraser, the Tory energy spokesman, adding: “Not only are wind farm firms getting heavily subsidised to construct these turbines, they’re basically benefiting from cheap policing too.
“That is unacceptable, particularly given the huge amounts of money these firms make from renewables ventures.”
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