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Scotland approves 85MW Highlands wind farm

Nov. 7, 2012 at 12:06 AM   |   Comments

GLASGOW, Scotland, Nov. 7 (UPI) -- An 85-megawatt wind farm in the Scottish highlands has been approved despite the objections of hikers who say spectacular views of the moors will be ruined.

Scottish Energy Minister Fergus Ewing announced Monday planning approval had been granted to the Beinneun wind farm, near Fort Augustus in the Highlands, to be developed by RidgeWind Ltd., of Lyneham, England.

Ewing said the wind farm will put $48 million into the Highland economy during the two-year construction period, including $1.6 million for local communities, while providing 90 construction jobs with three permanent full-time positions.

"Once it is up and running, it will save thousands of tons of carbon dioxide each year, and it is expected that the savings made will 'pay off' the carbon footprint of constructing the site in less than two years," he said.

"The wind farm will also produce enough electricity to power the equivalent of 40,000 homes."

The new wind farm continues a push to tap the energy potential of the windswept northern Scottish moors and highlands, during which it has granted 30 onshore wind farm applications since 2007. Another 45 energy applications are pending, including 37 for onshore wind projects.

Many of the Scottish wind turbine projects have drawn the opposition of local residents who object to their visual impacts and their perceived effects on the tourism industry and issues of local control.

Their position was taken up last week by Conservative Party Energy Minister of State John Hayes, who told The Daily Mail last week "enough was enough" and "we can no longer have wind turbines imposed on communities."

The comments reflected a bitter divide between Tory leaders and British Energy Secretary Ed Davey, a Liberal Democratic government coalition partner, over the proliferation of wind farms in the Scottish, Welsh and English countryside, reports indicated.

The Beinneun wind farm, though in a remote area about 150 miles north of Glasgow, has likewise drawn opposition from lovers of the area's scenic beauty.

It is also near a special protection area for two rare breeding bird species, the black-throated diver and common scoter.

The Mountaineering Council of Scotland said the cumulative impact of Beinneun in combination with the neighboring 20-turbine Millennium wind farm "will overwhelm the landscape due to the increased number of turbines at the location."

The group disputed an environmental assessment that found the impact on the area's landscape to be negligible, noting the it contains a popular hill walking summit at Meall Dubh -- a "Corbett" of "significant interest to mountaineers from all over the U.K."

"Should the development be consented, the views from here would be dominated by turbines in an otherwise relatively wild area," the mountaineering group said. "Turbines would be included in the majority of the arcs of view from this summit."

Also affected would be views from a popular tourist route along the A87 motorway through the Highlands, it said.

However, Scottish Natural Heritage found that the Beinneun wind farm could be accommodated without "major problems" for wildlife or landscape.

"We support renewable energy as a key means of addressing the climate change threat," Steve North, SNH operations manager for South Highland, said in a December statement. "The challenge for us all is to balance the needs of the renewable energy sector with those of nature and people's enjoyment of the outdoors.

"The proposed wind farm at Beinneun would not have any major effect on local wildlife. We've also advised that removal of some turbines would avoid any impacts on views from the A87, an important tourist route."

© 2012 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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