Norwegian energy firm Statkraft is asking the public for its views on plans to build a wind farm close to Loch Ness.
The company, Europe’s largest generator of renewable energy, wants to install 26 of the machines in Balmacaan Forest – some up to 200m high – 10 kilometres south-west of Drumnadrochit.
They are among a possible 90 turbines being mooted by developers at three separate sites, which campaigners say would “carpet” the area between Loch Ness and Glen Affric.
The proposed Loch Liath wind farm is north-east of the existing 32-turbine Bhlaraidh wind farm and north of the proposed 18-turbine Bhlaraidh extension.
Statkraft has launched a website about the proposed development, saying although Covid-19 means it cannot meet the public to discuss the proposal, it still wants to know what people think about it.
It states: “We have a history of engaging with the community, and have confidence that we can still do that despite face-to-face meetings not being possible at this time.
“We welcome the opportunity to speak with local residents and community groups by phone or video call at an appropriate time to outline our proposals in more detail, introduce some of the team and receive any early feedback.”
Plans have also been unveiled by German firm Vento Ludens to build a 46-turbine Fiodhag wind farm at Tomich in an area overlooking Glen Affric, which opponents fear will damage tourism.
Prominent anti-wind farm campaigner Lyndsey Ward said proposals for more turbines in the area were coming in “thick and fast”.
She speculated that one reason could be the subsidies wind farm operators can claim when turbines have to be switched off for various reasons, including weather conditions or lack of capacity on the grid.
“It is very lucrative,” she said.
“I think the proposals should be opposed because of the constraints payments which have to be paid for these turbines to do nothing.”
She said the costs were subsequently passed on to the customer via their bills and that often, turbines stood idle when weather conditions were not suitable for them to operate.
“It is absolutely ridiculous when the wind is not blowing,” she said. “You have all these turbines sitting there not producing energy.”
David Fraser, chairman of Glen Urquhart Community Council, said his organisation would be scrutinising all the projects closely.
The community council has already objected to plans to site a wind monitoring mast for the proposed Fiodhag wind farm as it is in an area of deep peat, and is awaiting details of the scoping exercise for the environmental impact assessment for the Loch Liath project.
“Given we have three potential adjacent wind farms, it is very important that any scoping study is as wide-ranging as possible so we get as much information for any planning application in the future,” he said.
Statkraft says the proposals are at an early stage, and the purpose of the scoping request is to receive feedback from consultees as site investigations continue.
The website states: “Recent discussions have taken place with the Energy Consents Unit, who confirmed capacity to take forward the application, and we are following Scottish Government advice throughout all of our work in relation to the Covid-19 pandemic.
“We understand that there are more important matters due to the current health emergency but we are continuing, where possible, our daily working activity and continuing our investment plans for Scotland.”
It adds the proposals may reduce in scale as environmental studies progress, and feedback is received from statutory consultees.
The company says although the project is being developed on a subsidy-free basis, it is committed to delivering community benefit funding at the rate recommended by the Scottish Government of £5000 per MW installed.
Information about the Fiodhag wind farm is online while avirtual exhibition for the Bhlaraidh extension will be staged by SSE from February 24-26.
To find out more about the Loch Liath plan, go to Projects.statkraft.co.uk/lochliath.
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