The two tallest wind turbines in Scotland, more than three times the height of Edinburgh’s Scott Monument, could soon be floating four miles off the north coast, if ministers approve the development.
But residents in one fragile Highland community fear the giant yellow structures, could make the already difficult task of holding on to their population and attracting new people, even harder by damaging views of Orkney.
Hexicon AB, a Swedish design and engineering house developing floating multi-turbine platforms, submitted an application to the Scottish Government in October seeking a licence to construct and operate its Dounreay Trì Floating Wind Demonstration Project. The two turbines would be on a single floating platform located approximately four miles off the former nuclear plant in the waters of the Pentland Firth.
The company is considering three different turbines. The tallest would reach nearly 660ft (201m) to blade tip, which would dwarf the highest (459ft) at UK’s largest windfarm, Whitelee near Glasgow. The two offshore turbines (651ft) at the Beatrice oil field, 16.5 miles off the east coast of Caithness would also be smaller.
During construction it would create nearly 200 jobs spread between Nigg on the Cromarty Firth and Caithness.
The final decision will be taken by ministers, but yesterday Highland Council, a statutory consultee, debated whether to raise an objection.
The developers had indicated to the council that they currently thought a small version of the turbine would be more appropriate, but at almost 604ft, still three times the Scott Monument. Councillors were told that they had to work on the basis of “the worst case scenario” which would be 660ft. However the meeting decided against raising an objection, disappointing some in the far north.
As this has raised serious issues for one Sutherland community, Melvich, which has around 300 residents on the north coast near the mouth of the River Halladale.
The local community council said the developers of the existing wind farm in the area, SSE’s Strathy North, as well as the proposed Strathy South wind farm had shown “a good level of consideration for the impact these turbines would have on the views of those who both live and visit the area.”
However in contrast the developers of Dounreay Trì had shown no such consideration, the community council submission said, and continued:
“The appeal for a number of residents who have moved to our area are the uninterrupted views across to Orkney. Should this proposal be approved the turbines, being of such a significant height, will have a substantial impact on these views. We expect this would put off any individuals who were considering moving to Melvich and (nearby) Portskerra in the future.”
The community council said that it had been noted that wind farms could have a huge impact on the house prices in the areas to which they are visible. In a village like Melvich, that could prove very damaging, the submission argues and concludes “We would ask that sensitivity to the above concerns of our village be taken into consideration when making a decision on this proposal.”
Local mother Tina Wrighton, told the Herald the clear feeling was these two giant turbines could only damage local interests: “As it is we are currently under threat of losing both our local school and care home in the future. So any drop in local house prices would make the fight even harder to maintain a viable community, ” she said.
But conservationists welcomed the project’s progress. WWF Scotland director Lang Banks said
“This proposal still has a few planning process steps to go through. However, successfully developing floating turbines could enable Scotland and other nations to secure even more clean power from offshore wind in the future.”
Meanwhile Lindsay Roberts, Senior Policy Manager at industry body Scottish Renewables, said “Projects like this one are part of a new chapter for our renewable energy industry.”