Triple blow for Scottish wind plans

The controversy over Scotland’s onshore wind build-out intensified after the Highland Council planners shot down three high-profile projects totalling nearly 80 turbines in a two-day rout for developers.

The 34-turbine Glenmorie project backed by AES Corporation, the 27-turbine Dalnessie backed by SSE Renewables, and the 17-turbine Clach Liath backed by Italy’s Falck Renewables were all recommended for rejection by Highland Council planners, having collectively received hundreds of objections.

Ministers within Scotland’s central government will have the final say on the projects, once again setting in motion another collision between local opposition and ministers keen to keep the onshore wind pipeline humming.

Colin Nicol, director of onshore at SSE Renewables, called the Council decision “disappointing” …“given the recommendation by the planning officer to raise no objection to the project”.

“We look forward to the decision by Scottish Ministers in due course,” Nicol says.

SSE’s Dalnessie is slated to weigh in at 81MW.

But Maxine Smith, a local Highland councillor within First Minister Alex Salmond’s Scottish National Party, says the projects were turned down due to their potential contribution to the “cumulative” visual effect of wind farms in the area, rather than any project-specific problems.

Smith notes that there are 41 wind farms in operational or being built in the Highlands region and another 48 in the planning or scoping stage. “I think it could be said that the Highlands are more than doing their bit for renewables,” she says.

The Mountaineering Council of Scotland (MCofS), an inveterate objector to onshore wind farms in Scotland, claims the trio of rejections is evidence that developers are submitting applications in a scattershot manner.

“There are real concerns that planning departments, with limited resources, are being seriously overstretched by inappropriate wind farm applications by large energy companies,” says MCofS chief officer David Gibson.

“Scotland needs a national renewables spatial planning policy to decide what can be built where,” Gibson adds.