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Concern over taller turbines

Source: 
Northern Times

Far North anti-wind farm campaigner Brenda Herrick has slammed a move to increase by 65m the height of turbines at the planned Strathy South development, a start on which has yet to be made.

Mrs Herrick said if consent was granted, it would have an enormous visual impact and turn a previously wild area, some 12km from Strathy, into an "industrial site".

SSE Renewables revealed this week it was seeking permission to raise the height of the 39 turbines from a previously agreed 135m to 200m. The measurement is to blade tip.

The wind energy industry is increasingly moving towards larger, but usually fewer, turbines which are considered more efficient.

Planning consent for the controversial wind farm, earmarked to go on a site 12k from Strathy village, was granted in 2018 following a public inquiry.

SSE already operates the 35-turbine Strathy North wind farm, 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 energy firm says the larger turbines will increase output from the development from 133MW to up to 208MW. A new £500,000 community benefit fund is being proposed.

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."

But Mrs Herrick said the proposed height increase was "huge" with no reduction in the number of turbines.

"The visual impact on previously wild land is enormous, turning it into an industrial site as can be seen from the artist’s impression," she said. "I cannot believe they (SSE Renewables) could even think about doing this – but I suppose we could see it coming.

"Normally when energy companies increase the height of turbines, they decrease the number, but this is not the case in this instance.

"I hope when the application goes in, the objections will also go in, although I feel local peole will support it."

Ms Herrick added: "SSE Renewables is promising over £500,000 per annum in community benefit which government rules state should not be mentioned in the planning process.

"It is bribery. The only justifiable economic benefit is local employment, and post-construction there will be very little."

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