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Wind turbines to circle Loch Ness - 8 Apr 2010  

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THE prospect of Loch Ness being encircled by wind farms has drawn closer as it emerged a location to the south west of Drumnadrochit has now been earmarked as a potential site.

Airtricity, the renewable development division of Scottish and Southern Energy, has submitted a planning application to Highland Council for the erection of meteorological masts at Balmacaan, between Drumnadrochit and Invermoriston - an area which could also house Scotland's largest hydro-electric power station.

Over the next three years, data will be gathered and assessed for the site's suitability to house a wind farm while environmental investigations have been on-going for the past year and will continue for another two years.

The latest revelation comes amid growing concern about the proliferation of windfarms in the area.

Last week, controversial proposals for a 33-turbine wind farm at Dunmaglass were backed by the Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey planning applications committee which also approved a 20-turbine scheme at Corriegarth, Gorthleck, in January.

Plans have also been unveiled recently for 55 turbines at Moy - one of the largest wind farms in the Highlands - on a site next to the existing 40 turbine wind farm at Farr.

Pat Wells, convener of Stop Highland Wind Farms campaign, was dismayed to hear of the Balmacaan development.

"We are not far from having a circle of wind farms around Loch Ness," she said. "Loch Ness and Cannich and the Great Glen area is one of the major tourist attractions of the Highlands..

"The idea that tourists will flock to see turbines is ludicrous but that is what the Scottish minister Jim Mather suggested.

"This one at Balmacaan is yet another one which will add to the cumulative impact. I just wish people would realise the huge visual impact of these and also the damage to the natural environment and the increase in fuel poverty which every single wind farm adds." She maintained that electricity customers were subsidising wind farm developments. "It is an indirect tax yet Scotland has the worst fuel poverty of anywere in the UK," said Mrs Wells who also queried their reliability.

"There was virtually no electricity generated by wind from mid December until March in one of the coldest spells for over 30 years. If we had been relying on wind farm electricity, we would have had to light candles." Although Mrs Wells was not familiar with the Balmacaan site under consideration, she queried whether it would be built on peat. "If it is, damaged peat causes the release of carbon dioxide," she said. "The irony is all these areas are good for wildlife and for tourism and yet they are being destroyed." Concerns about the possibility of a wind farm at Balmacaan will be discussed by Glen Urquhart Community Council at its next meeting at the end of this month.

Chairman David Fraser said the community council was aware of the application for the meterological masts but had not put in a response.

However, he expected local residents would want to know answers to various questions.

A spokesman for SSE said the investigations were at an early stage.

The wind farm is just one renewable energy project currently being explored by SSE in the Highlands.

In November, it announced plans for Scotland's largest hydro electric power station also at Balmacaan. The company is looking to build a pumped storage scheme capable of producing up to 600 megawatts of electricity.

The Glen Urquhart Community Council will meet at Craigmonie Centre, Glen Urquhart High School, on 26th April at 7.30pm.



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Source: Inverness Courier