Project partners Buccleuch and 2020 Renewables have written to local people and organisations to provide an update on proposals to build a wind farm in the North Lowther hills between Sanquhar and Wanlockhead in Dumfries and Galloway.

The proposal is being developed by the North Lowther Energy Initiative Ltd (NLEI), a joint venture between Buccleuch and 2020 Renewables, and currently comprises 42 turbines, with a total installed capacity of up to 151 megawatts.

The partners have also stated that should the initiative proceed, it would create between 100 and 150 construction jobs and generate approximately £750,000 per year to be administered and spent locally.

In January, the project partners wrote to interested local groups and individuals to inform them they had submitted a scoping report to statutory and non-statutory consultees. This report is a formal stage of the planning process and seeks feedback on the scope of the scheme’s Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA).

A number of responses have been received, and these have been used to inform the partners’ ongoing and planned environmental work in the area, with expert surveys currently being carried out by:

– Ornithologists – undertaking more than two years of bird survey work;
– Ecologists – assessing the potential for protected species on site;
– Geotechnical experts – examining the depth of peat on the proposed site;
– Archaeologists – investigating historic and cultural heritage features in the area;
– Hydrologists – developing an understanding of the water environment at the site;
– Landscape architects – visiting sensitive viewpoints and preparing visualisations to understand the potential effects.

The findings of this work, along with feedback received from consultees, will feed into the design of the proposal that is taken forward, with changes being made to reduce or avoid effects where this can be achieved.

Commenting on the proposal, John Glen, Chief Executive Officer of Buccleuch, said:

“We are awaiting a final scoping response from the Scottish Government, which is expected soon and will pull together all responses received and recommend what additional elements should be included within the EIA.

“We will then continue with our monitoring and assessment work – incorporating any new recommendations – and aim to produce a final environmental statement around the end of this year. Following this, we plan to submit a planning application to Scottish Ministers in late 2016.

“We will continue to make modifications to the site’s design and layout throughout the year and welcome new ideas and input throughout the process. The project team will host a further public consultation event in the autumn in Wanlockhead, which will give people the chance to ask questions and provide suggestions on how the scheme can be improved.

“The proposal is still being developed, but if successful, the scheme has the potential to deliver widespread benefit on a social, economic and environmental scale.

“Should it progress, the development would be capable of generating up to 151 MW of electricity and would create substantial community benefit as well as 100-150 jobs over the construction period, with opportunities to support long-term operational jobs on completion.

“The project would also see the provision of a landscape or regional scale habitat management plan in addition to the wind farm development.

“There would also be substantial community benefit available should the proposal proceed.  Community benefit is usually paid at a rate of £5000 per megawatt per annum, so for the current proposal this would equate to more than £750,000 per year to be spent locally. We are keen that these funds are administered locally and we would like to explore further with community groups and the local authority how best that can be achieved.

“We continue to welcome input to our project proposals and would encourage anyone who is interested to visit the website to find out more, sign up for further news and to make their views known,” Glen concludes.