Progress So far
As the proposed wind farm has a generating capacity of over 50 MW it falls under Section 36 of the Electricity Act 1989 and requires planning permission from the Scottish Government. An application for development consent has been submitted to the Scottish Govenment Energy Consents and Deployment Unit in January 2014.
The application is for the construction of 22 wind turbines with a ground to blade tip height of up to 125 meters and other ancillary development on land forming part of the Altnaharra Estate, Sutherland.
The Proposed Development would generate upto 72.6MW of electricity and Creag Riabhach Wind Farm is seeking deemed planning permission for the same development under Section 57(2) of the own and Country Planning (Scotland) Act 1997 (as amended by The Planning etc. (Scotland) Act 2006).
The Proposed Development is located south west of Altnaharra on the western slopes of Strath Vagastie, to the west of the River Vagastie and the A836 (Central grid refrence NC 52792 28639). The Proposed Development is formed of two site areas (the main site and the borow pit site), these are located, at their nearest point, 6.5km and 2.5km, respectively, south of Altnaharra.
In acordance with The Electricity Works (Environmental Impact Assesment) (Scotland) Regulations 2000 (as amended 2008) an Environmental Impact Assessment has been undertaken and the findings of the Environmental Statement are as follows:
There is a clear presumption in favour of the principle of renewable energy development as contained within the Scottish Governments planning policies, supported by guidance set out in the Roadmap for Renewable Energy in Scotland.
There is a need for additional wind farm development and Creag Riabhach would make a significant contribution to achieving the Scottish Government’s energy policies and associated targets.
The proposal complies with Highland Council policy for renewable developments and with Schedule 9 of the Electricity Act.
It is clear from the Environmenal Impact Assesment, that the balance of planning considerations weighs heavily in favour of the benefits which would arise from the proposal proceeding.
FINDINGS OF THE ENVIRONMENTAL STATEMENT
The findings of the Environmental Statement (ES) demonstrate that the proposal is acceptable in environmental terms and will not have significant adverse impacts, and such adverse impacts as have been identified can be appropriately addressed by way of mitigation.
Key issues are summarised below:
LANDSCAPE AND VISUAL - the natural topography of Creag Riabhach provides a natural development platform over the entire wind farm site. The applicant has demonstrated through careful siting, design iterations and mitigation a regard to the desirability of preserving the natural beauty of the study area, as far as reasonably possible for this scale of Development.
ECOLOGY AND ORNITHOLOGY - no significant negative effects are predicted on habitats, other non-avian ecology or bird species as a result of the Proposed Development. The Habitat Management Plan is predicted to result in positive effects for a number of habitats, species and birds of conservation concern.
TRANSPORT - the transport assessment has concluded that the low volumes of traffic generated, at a maximum of 53 vehicles per day per direction, during the construction phase and the implementation of the mitigation measures will result in no significant effects on the existing road network. Traffic generation for the months of the track construction between the borrow pit and the site will be mitigated by initial strengthening works and repair works as necessary at the end of the use of this phase of the works.
SOCIO-ECONOMICS & TOURISM - the significant residual effects identified in the socio- economic and tourism assessment include high beneficial long-term economic impact at the local level throughout the operation and maintenance phase of the development as a result of funding provided and initiatives supported by the Applicant. NOISE - the noise limits set out in ETSU-R-97, as referred to in PAN 1/2011, Planning and Noise, have been shown to be satisfied at all locations and under all wind speed and direction conditions.
AVIATION & TELECOMMUNICATIONS - no impact or significant effects are predicted for aviation and radar; telecommunication and television or the on-site utilities.
SHADOW FLICKER - turbine 13 will contribute to shadow flicker at Vagastie Cottage (owned by Altnaharra Estate) and will be fitted with a shadow impact module to shut the turbine down when necessary. Consequently, no impact from shadow flicker is predicted.
CULTURAL HERITAGE - no direct effects or significant effects on the visual setting of surrounding features are expected to arise, and no mitigation is proposed. No residual effects are expected to arise following eventual decommissioning.
SOIL & WATER - following the iterative design process, the application of good practice measures and subsequent adoption of the recommended mitigation measures, there are not considered to be any significant effects with regard to soil and water issues at the Proposed Development.
GRID CONNECTION – connection for the site would be via a 132kV overhead wooden pole line between the existing sub-station at Lairg and the sub-station to the south of the site.