Am Bratach No. 301
November 2016

MP supports wind farm at Altnaharra

Local MP Paul Monaghan has given the thumbs up to Creag Riabhach wind farm on Altnaharra Estate.

The long awaited decision by the Scottish Government to go ahead was warmly welcomed by the developers, councillors, community councils and others over a wide area, perhaps reflecting the widespread community benefit envisaged in the planning application which even included free electricity to local residents.

Dr Monaghan said: “I think that the Creag Riabhach wind farm is an excellent example of what the communities of Sutherland can achieve if they work together with developers to take forward economic initiatives that are both consistent with our sympathies towards this environment and supportive of economic development in very rural areas.”

The farm will have a generating capacity of 72.6MW, enough to power 36,000 homes, with estimated savings of 66,000 tonnes of CO2 per year. The proposed development is anticipated to provide in excess of £9 million in community benefit over twenty-five years. With the associated trust funds in local hands, as expected, private businesses of the area could benefit, said the MP.

One possible drawback of a 22-turbine wind farm sitting on open hillside is the visual intrusion it might bring. The quiet, single track road from Lairg to Altnaharra is a great favourite with cyclists who appreciate the wide open spaces, a feature of the landscape.

“I think the visual impact will be minimal,” said Paul Monaghan. “I have visited the site and only a very small number of turbines are visible from the road and even then only for a relatively short distance.

“The North Coast 500 is bringing fresh interest and tourism activity right across Ross-shire, Sutherland and Caithness, and all of that is very welcome. But we need to obviously balance that against other industries that contribute to our local economy, some of which are renewable energy schemes. So I think the North Coast 500 and renewable schemes, when they're done in a way that’s consistent with the communities’ wishes and aspirations and are environmentally sympathetic, can exist together.”

A disadvantage of electricity generated by wind is the difficulty of storing the electricity when the wind doesn’t blow. Dr Monaghan said there are some interesting experiments going on at the European Marine Energy Centre in Orkney, which involves using electricity to convert sea water into hydrogen and then storing the hydrogen for later burning, then converting back into electricity. “It’s still at the experimental stage,” he said, “but once the processes are refined, it could very well be viable”.

“We also have tidal power schemes in the Pentland Firth, and they are very consistent indeed because we know exactly what the tides are going to be doing, for thousands of years ahead.

“So we’ve got a very good understanding of what sort of power can be produced by them.

“And I am also working with the Japanese, looking at the possibilities of pumped sea water storage.” This is quite novel, he said, explaining that though there are a few pump storage schemes in Scotland they all rely on fresh water.

“So, again, there are a number of alternatives there, but if we had a little bit of each of them, what we would find is that we had a very consistent energy supply that was entirely green and entirely renewable.”



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