A community group has criticised the plans for a Helensburgh community wind farm as the developer revealed further details of its proposals’ of a benefit fund.
As revealed in last week’s Advertiser, Helensburgh Renewables has submitted a planning application to Argyll and Bute Council for five 800kW wind turbines, standing 86.5 metres high to the blade tip, to be built on the land to the south east of Tom Na H Airidh, and north of Drum-fad Wood.
Helensburgh Renewables – an offshoot of Helensburgh Community Development Trust – is working with Green Cat Renewables, and landowner Luss Estates, to build and operate the five-turbine wind farm.
A community group of nine residents, which formed to evaluate the wind farm application, has criticised the proposals based on planning, finance, and alteration to the ‘character’ of the Burgh.
A spokesman for the TEG-H committee said the height of the turbines – which the developers say are ‘medium-seized’ – has been described as ‘excessive’ by the group.
TEG-H cited the report Landscape Wind Energy Capacity Study, commissioned by Argyll and Bute Council, stating: “This said that for ‘open ridgeland’ there is scope for turbines of less than 20m, and, in some circumstances, even up to 50m. But there are warnings against them rising above the ridge or being seen from the National Park.”
He added: “It would affect a sweep of areas and, unlike most rural wind farms, would be visible in the daily lives of a large population.”
In terms of finance, the group highlighted this would not be a planning matter but would be of importance for those in the town.
The spokesman added: “TEG-H has analysed the developers’ so-called ‘community benefit’. The findings are that it depends on assumptions about unknowns such as wind, income, and operating costs. It might be very little unless a legal guarantee is given. It is likely to be meagre relative to probable economic and visual harm.”
He added: “There is more information to be gathered and residents have, at the earliest, until mid-September to draw conclusions and make representations.”
Providing details of the project finance, the developers said the project will cost £6.7 million in total, mostly funded through bank loans. Gavin Catto, of partner Green Cat Renewables, told the Advertiser: “Banks, investment funds and even pension funds are keen to invest in wind farms, because these have proved to be reliable cash generators. Of course, that is only after they have been approved for planning.”
In terms of wind, planning permission has already been granted for a meteorological mast at the site, which will measure wind speed over next winter. In the meantime however HCWF has been able to extrapolate from the measurements made at Cove.
Mr Catto said Helensburgh Renewables estimate is an average wind speed of 6.7 m/s, which would give these turbines a capacity factor of 32 per cent.
On the finance issue , Ian Fraser, of Helensburgh Renewables (HR), added that the community ownership from one-third of the scheme will lead to a £100,000 a year boost for the town from 2016.
He said: “Helensburgh Community Development Trust would own one-third of the asset, and be entitled to one-third of the profits. On top of that, in a bad year we would take £40,000 minimum benefit plus one third of the profits over £120,000.
“And this involves no cash from the community.”
Developers will invite more than 7,760 residents in Helensburgh, Rhu, and Shandon to take part in a survey of the proposed wind farm.
The survey will be delivered by Royal Mail on Monday, August 11 and there will be seven drop off points to return completed surveys until August 25. The ballot papers will then be taken to Argyll Voluntary Action (AVA) who conduct the count and announce the result.
An exhibition will also be held on August 13 and 18 in the Tower.
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