A large-scale renewable energy development in the Monadhliath is ‘on its radar’, one of Scotland’s leading outdoor groups has said.
SSEN Transmission is currently consulting on its Melgarve Cluster Project and held two virtually exhibitions earlier this week after public displays in Laggan and Fort Augustus were cancelled on Covid safety grounds.
The project is intended to connect three wind farms in the Monadhliath to the National Grid via the substation at Melgarve.
The proposed work would see around 5.5 kilometres of underground cable is proposed to be constructed to connect the proposed Glenshero wind farm to the Melgarve substation around 11 miles west of Laggan.
There will be 11 kilometres of overhead line required to link Cloiche wind farm which has also yet to be determined by Scottish Ministers.
Some 16 kilometres of overhead line will be required to connect the approved Dell wind farm.
As proposals stand and if all wind farms are approved then the current 2.8 hectare Melgarve substation site would also be increased by around one-quarter.
SSEN Transmission has said it does not anticipate the extension would make the development any more visible, however, further detailed design, and landscape and visual assessments will be undertaken in due course to confirm this.
Several outdoor groups approached by the Strathy said they have yet to respond to the proposals as the deadline is not until later this month
They also pointed out that an announcement is awaited from Scottish Ministers on the Glenshero and Coich wind farms. The Dell wind farm has been approved.
Davie Black, access and conservation officer with Mountaineering Scotland, said: “We have not reached a considered opinion on this yet but we think that it demonstrates a major problem with the way that onshore wind farms are dealt with in the planning system.
“Instead of one major civil engineering project being planned and assessed, it’s all bits and pieces looked at separately. And the visual impact of all these separate parts combined is larger than each individually.
“We need the Scottish Government to properly plan the national need for electricity generation and transmission , instead of this ad hoc process.”
A John Muir Trust spokeswoman said: “Cloiche and Glenshero reintroduce turbines in to the still wild landscape that were removed from the final approved Stronelairg decisions.
“These planning applications are an example of the iterative creep of expanding development across wild areas.
“The trust foresaw that once the first development proceeded (Stronelairg), more would very likely follow. This has turned out to be true. And it’s not just more turbines, but the additional infrastructure too…
“Presumably, in this case, SSENT is having to advance plans for the grid connection despite not yet knowing whether all the proposed wind farms will be built –unless they know something we don’t…
“The consultation information booklet doesn’t make it clear that the decisions for Cloiche and Glenshero are still pending.”
The spokesperson added: “We’ll keep the proposed Melgarve cluster development under review, and if the Glenshero and Cloiche wind farms are approved, we’ll probably look again at these proposals.”
The public consultation runs until January 28 and more details can be found here .
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