The power giant behind a planned north coast wind farm plan is seeking to substantially increase the size of its turbines.
SSE Renewables wants to raise the height of the 39 turbines on the multi-million Strathy South development by 65m – from 135m to 200m. The measurements are to blade tip height.
The energy firm says the larger turbines will lead to increased output from the development and a new £500,000 community benefit fund is being proposed
Planning consent for the controversial wind farm, earmarked to go on a site 12k from Strathy village, was granted in 2018 following a public enquiry.
SSE already operate the 35-turbine Strathy North wind farm, which was granted consent in 2011.
Environmental organisations including Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) were strongly against the Strathy South wind farm, part of which will be sited in the internationally important peatlands of the Flow Country.
Concern was expressed over its likely impact on birds such as hen harriers.
But many local residents were in favour and last year three community councils (Bettyhill, Strathnaver and Altnaharra; Strathy and Armadale and Melvich and Halladale), along with development group UpNorth, formed a group to look into taking up an invitation from SSE Renewables to buy shares in Strathy South.
SSE Renewables issued a statement on Wednesday to say it had submitted an application to Scottish Ministers to vary the existing planning consent for Strathy South.
The wind energy industry is increasingly moving towards larger turbines which are considered more efficient.
SSE’s statement read: “The application seeks to vary the tip height of the proposed 39 turbines from 135m to a maximum height of 200m and increase generating capacity at the site from 133mw to up to 208mw.
“When originally proposed, Strathy South received widespread public support from the local community.
“Now, the team behind the new revised plans for the project are proposing to build on that local support to deliver additional socio-economic benefits to the immediate Caithness and Sutherland region and wider Highlands.
“A new community benefit fund for Strathy South, estimated at over half a million pounds annually, will build on the existing Strathy North Community Fund which already contributes £170,000 each year to many worthwhile projects.
“When complete, SSE Renewables estimates the operation of the Strathy South Wind Farm can support over 50 indirect jobs each year in the Highlands including Caithness and Sutherland.”
Project Manager Jon Soal said: “Strathy South has received incredible levels of support from the local community over the years which has been fantastic and is hugely appreciated by the project team.
“If consented, we are confident that Strathy South can build on the success of the existing Strathy North site and bring benefits to local businesses and communities, both during construction and throughout its lifetime.”
In addition to turbine variations, the revised plans envisage changes to access tracks to avoid areas of deep peat where possible. Additional survey work has been carried out, including a further two years of breeding bird surveys.
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