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Online consultation to start on Limekiln wind farm changes

By Alan Hendry

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Infinergy says it is looking to fully revise the wind farm’s track design as well as increase the turbine sizes.
Infinergy says it is looking to fully revise the wind farm’s track design as well as increase the turbine sizes.

Consultation is due to get under way next week on changes to Limekiln wind farm on the edge of Reay.

Feedback will be sought online, as the developers are unable to arrange local community open days because of the pandemic.

Infinergy and Boralex have consent for 21 turbines at the site and have applied for an extension of five more. They want to increase the tip heights of the 21-turbine scheme to align with the proposed extension, which would mean turbines of up to 149.9m across Limekiln as a whole.

Infinergy said in a statement: "It has been almost two years since Limekiln wind farm was consented and detailed construction planning commenced. In that period several things have happened, including a review of the transmission charging regime by Ofgem [the energy regulator] and the Section 11 refusal to temporarily close the core path by Highland Council.

"In order to deal with these issues, Infinergy is now looking to fully revise the wind farm’s track design as well as increase the turbine sizes in line with the turbines proposed for Limekiln wind farm extension. To do this, the planning process requires the submission of an application to vary the existing consent called a ‘Section 36C application’.

"This requires a revised Environmental Impact Assessment, which will be put out to consultation in due course.

"Under normal circumstances, Infinergy would host community open days locally to ensure the local community is fully consulted on the plans. However, the pandemic has meant that all of this type of consultation has had to move online."

A virtual consultation page will be included on the Limekiln website and will be live from May 11 until June 4. There will be a feedback form and a number of live "chat" sessions for virtual visitors to discuss the proposal with the team at www.limekilnwindfarm.co.uk on May 18/19 and again on June 1 and 2, from 2-4pm and 6-8pm each day.

Opponents of the Limekiln scheme say they fear being "encircled by turbines" because of the number of wind energy developments in the area.

In November, the bid to close off access to the 7.8km core path was rejected unanimously by Highland Council's economy and infrastructure committee. Wick councillor Nicola Sinclair called it an "astonishing" request said it would be an extraordinary length of time to remove public access to a local forest.

The application for an order to exempt access rights during the construction of the wind farm was made to the council under Section 11 of the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003.

In February this year, Infinergy managing director Esbjörn Wilmar said: “Having started construction on site with tree-felling and enabling works, it has become clear through dialogue with the local community that our proposed solution to the closure of the core paths on site during the construction works was not supported by local people, local politicians or Highland Council.

"An alteration to the track design looks to be the best solution which will allow us the keep the core path open during construction activities."

On the transmission charging regime, he said at that time: “The proposed change in the way grid charges are applied to existing and new transmission connected projects in the UK will mean that projects furthest from where most of the electricity demand is in the south of the country will see a sharp increase in grid charges due.

"Projects in the far north of Scotland especially will see a severe negative impact. While we are looking to improve the track design, we are also looking to increase the energy yield from the wind farm by increasing tip heights in line with our Limekiln extension project and applying state-of-the-art turbine technology."

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