SSE Renewables welcomes decision on Bhlaraidh wind farm and reaffirms its commitment to the Highlands
SSE Renewables, the renewable energy development division of SSE, welcomes today’s unanimous decision by the Highland Council South planning committee to raise no objection, subject to conditions, to the proposed Bhlaraidh wind farm, located north-west of Invermoriston. The final decision on the proposal now rests with Scottish Ministers and is expected next year.
The proposed Bhlaraidh wind farm comprises 36 turbines with a total installed capacity of 108MW. Today’s decision marks a major step in the consent process for the project and follows an open and positive consultation between SSE, the local community and key stakeholders since plans were first proposed in March 2011. This consultation process has resulted in SSE making reductions to the number of turbines and careful re-design of the site.
In choosing the Bhlaraidh site, SSE has taken care to minimise impact to the environment, including the use of existing roads and tracks, and the wind farm has been designed to avoid being seen from the main tourist routes and iconic attractions of the Great Glen. All of the proposal lies within the Highland Council area of search for wind energy development and, as highlighted in the planning officer’s report, the development has been ‘designed to reduce landscape intrusion’.
SSE, known by many locally as Scottish Hydro, has a strong history in the Highlands and Islands, where it already employs around 2000 direct employees and contractors, and sees the north of Scotland as key to its future investment plans. Across its various businesses units, SSE’s investments in the next ten years could reach £5-10bn in the area.
As part of its responsible approach to delivering new renewable energy infrastructure projects in the Highlands, SSE has already made clear statement of intent in a number of areas:
- provide support for community projects - If consented, Bhlaraidh will provide around £13 million over 25 years for community projects, including skills and training initiatives*;
- actively promote new business opportunities to local companies and suppliers, including through its dedicated Highlands and Islands web portal;**
- create apprenticeships and skills opportunities for young people in the Highlands as evidenced by its recent strategic partnership with University of Highlands and Islands***;
- deliver transport management plans following full public consultation;
- deliver best practice in environmental management during construction; and
- maximise local job opportunities – if consented, Bhlaraidh wind farm would create significant local employment, including opportunities for young people.
Director of Onshore Renewables, Colin Nicol, said: “SSE is proud to have been part of the Highland community for generations and we want to make sure local people continue to benefit from the responsible development of the area’s natural energy resources.
“Should consent be received for Bhlaraidh from Scottish Ministers, we estimate that £74m could be secured by Scottish and Highland companies and significant local employment opportunities will be created. This contribution to the local economy cannot be under-valued and we are pleased to be investing in an area where we already have a strong connection.
“In the sensitive design of the wind farm, we’ve taken great care to minimise the impact on both the community and the main tourist routes and attractions of the Great Glen. I’m pleased that we’ve been able to demonstrate this to the Highland Council and show that we are a responsible developer with a clear and long-standing commitment to the region.
“SSE is absolutely committed to work closely with the local community and stakeholders to maximise economic and employment benefits for the local area.”
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* All new wind farms which begin construction after 1 January 2012 will receive a community investment fund of £5,000 per megawatt of installed capacity, which is made up of:
- £2,500 per megawatt for local community projects; and
- £2,500 per megawatt for a regional fund.
**As part of SSE’s commitment to local supply chain initiatives it recently launched a new website www.sseopen4business-highlands.com designed specifically to offer Highland businesses, service providers and local suppliers the opportunity to do business with Scotland’s leading renewable energy generator and developer;
*** In November, SSE and UHI signed a partnership agreement aimed at helping the Highlands and its people make the most of the opportunities arising from the Energy industry. Key areas for collaboration include creating the right training infrastructure and in promoting innovation and research. The partnership builds on the £3m that SSE has already committed to training and skills in the Highlands, evidenced recently by a pilot initiative with Inverness College which gives 28 young people the skills and opportunity to enter the energy industry.
More information on the proposal, including historical updates, visit the project website at www.sse.com/bhlaraidh