A new wind farm on the Dava Moor could lead to a whopping £19 million being given to local community projects over the course of its lifetime.
However, the cash windfall promised by developers has been described as “bribery” by a seasoned anti-wind farm campaigner.
The site for the proposed development is close to the existing Tom nan Clach wind farm, which sits between the communities of Glenferness, Grantown and Tomatin.
Representatives from Fred Olsen Renewables (FORL) discussed the proposals at a recent meeting of Cawdor and West Nairnshire Community Council (CWNCC).
Along with eight other community councils in the surrounding area, it could benefit from a projected annual income of £560,000 if the wind farm goes ahead.
Tom nan Clach was approved by the Scottish Government in 2013, despite Highland Council rejecting the plan following a vigorous campaign by protesters from Dava and the Strathdearn Against Windfarm Developments (SAWD) group. It was completed in 2019.
SAWD convener Pat Wells said she was not sure if they would be protesting against the latest development, which will be determined by the government rather than local planners because of its generating capacity.
The proposed new wind farm on Lethen Estate would generate up to 112MW of electricity against Tom nan Clach’s 39.1MW, with 20 turbines each 185 metres high, compared tothe latter’s 13 turbines, which are 125 metres.
Mrs Wells said: “Frankly, this is the first I have heard of it, but it’s not surprising. We failed to stop Tom nan Clach, but we won our battle to stop a wind farm at Glenkirk.
“Unfortunately, rural communities are being bribed by community funds. You wonder what they will do with all these millions.
“Wind farms are anything but green energy – they damage the ecology and landscape which has been there for millions of years. They also adversely affect wildlife and community spirit – communities that are awash with cash no longer need to hold the bring and buy sales, concerts and coffee mornings which brought people together and were part of rural life.”
At the February meeting of the CWNCC, it was revealed that local communities could be in line for a total windfall of £19 million over the lifetime of the project.
The annual community benefits would be shared between community council areas within a 10km radius of the site including Cawdor and West Nairnshire, East Nairnshire, Strathdearn, and others in Badenoch and Strathspey.
Cawdor and West Nairnshire already receives £60,000 a year from the Tom nan Clach project wind farm.
Julie Aitken, senior project manager for FORL, said they were at the very start of their consultations with the local community.
She told the community council the company would work with them to ensure that Lethen wind farm could be “an asset to the local area, supporting the local economy and helping to meet local needs.”
She added: “We are not only experts in developing successful projects, we are good neighbours.”
The proposed site has been chosen because of its location, with good separation from settlements, wind speed and access to the national grid.
It would be visible from the B9007 near Lochindorb and the Dava Way and the power generated would be connected to the national grid by overhead lines.
FORL is planning a first round of public exhibitions in April, with an anticipated determination date of mid-2022.
Further information can be found here.