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Community benefit from Melvich wind farm will be over £7m, says energy firm

By Alan Hendry

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How the Ackron project will look when viewed from the A836 at Melvich.
How the Ackron project will look when viewed from the A836 at Melvich.

Community benefit from a proposed wind farm near Melvich will amount to more than £7 million over the course of three decades, according to the renewable energy company behind the venture.

Statkraft's plans for the 12-turbine Ackron Wind Farm have been submitted to Highland Council, having been scaled down from an earlier proposal and moved further inland.

If approved, the wind farm will be located around two kilometres south-east of Melvich and the turbines will have a maximum height of 149.9 metres to blade tip. Statkraft estimates it will generate electricity equivalent to the demand of 45,800 homes each year, with up to 49.9MW installed capacity.

The project will generate funding of around £240,000 annually to benefit the community, equating to more than £7.2 million over the project’s 30-year operating period.

The company first proposed a 14-turbine scheme in June 2019, but removed two wind turbines after responses from the community and statutory bodies.

Project manager Maya Hernes said: “The project has evolved from the original design. After listening to feedback we now have a scheme which is further inland, away from coastal landscapes and the North Coast 500 route.

“We are grateful for the engagement and interest of the community – it has been incredibly helpful throughout the design process. We would like to thank everyone for their efforts which really played a part in shaping the final submission.”

Melvich Community Council is “fully supportive” of the wind farm, saying the community benefit fund will help the village and that Statkraft has shown flexibility by adjusting its plans following local feedback.

A computer-generated image showing the proposed Ackron site from a layby on the A836 between Melvich and Reay.
A computer-generated image showing the proposed Ackron site from a layby on the A836 between Melvich and Reay.

Statkraft is a member of Caithness Chamber of Commerce and says it intends to work with the trade body and other business groups to maximise opportunities for local suppliers.

Wind farm campaigner Brenda Herrick warned that Ackron will add to what has been called a "ring of steel" around Reay because of the number of turbines that have either been built or are proposed in the surrounding landscape.

Mrs Herrick, of Caithness Windfarm Information Forum, claimed it would be "another blot on the North Coast 500" tourist route.

She also predicted that Ackron would become the latest wind farm to be paid for reducing output under the system of constraint payments. These are made to energy firms when the national grid is unable to cope with the amount of power their sites are generating.

Mrs Herrick dismissed the statement about meeting the electricity demand of 45,800 homes as "meaningless", saying: "Where are these homes? Not local, and we know because of the increasing constraints payments that the transmission to where the electricity is needed is not in place.

"I would love to know how many 'homes powered' have been promised by developers over the years."

She added: "Legally, community benefit plays no part in the planning process so should not be mentioned in support comments. They omit to mention that it comes from our bills, like constraints.

"It will be another blot on the NC500 and a distraction for drivers unfamiliar with the route. Statkraft states it is further from the NC500 than originally planned, but 10-12 turbines will be visible from there as well as a long way south.

"It's close to the western border of Drum Hollistan so yet another addition to the ring of steel around Reay."

The full planning application documents can be viewed on the Ackron project website or on the Highland Council website.

Last month Statkraft announced that construction of its first Greener Grid Park would be in Keith. This £20 million project will facilitate increased usage of renewable energy on the grid network.

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