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Plans submitted for Caithness onshore works as part of 125-turbine wind farm

By Alan Hendry

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The West of Orkney Windfarm 'will deliver significant social and economic benefits to the north of Scotland', according to the developers.
The West of Orkney Windfarm 'will deliver significant social and economic benefits to the north of Scotland', according to the developers.

Proposals for a wind farm consisting of up to 125 turbines off the north coast have taken another step forward with a planning application having been submitted for onshore works.

The developers of the West of Orkney Windfarm say the project represents a major economic opportunity for Scotland and the UK.

The onshore application to Highland Council provides detailed information on the proposed cable landfalls on the Caithness coast to the west of Thurso, the project’s substation at or near Spittal and the underground cables that will extend around 20km and connect to the substation.

The cables will be underground and the land is to be reinstated after installation.

Last year, the West of Orkney Windfarm secured the development rights to an area of seabed from Crown Estate Scotland in the ScotWind leasing process to develop an offshore wind farm some 30km west of Orkney Mainland and 25km off the north coast of Sutherland.

The proposed turbines have a maximum blade tip height of 360m.

Development manager Jack Farnham said: “The West of Orkney Windfarm is a multi-billion-pound project which will deliver significant social and economic benefits to the north of Scotland.

“The onshore connection is a vital component of the project and will enable us to export clean electricity sufficient to power around two million homes. The cables to our substation will all be underground and, once installed, the land will be reinstated.

“We’ve worked hard to consider all environmental and social constraints when seeking to locate the landfalls, underground cables and substation. We’ve taken on board local communities’ feedback through a series of public events.

"The substation will be carefully screened by landscaping and native planting. Once operational, the substation will only be lit when necessary.

"We’re committed to reducing the volume of traffic on local roads and will continue to work closely with the council and local communities through the development process.

“Over the last two years we’ve organised 33 public events, meeting over 2400 residents across Caithness, Sutherland and Orkney, in order to allow local people to actively participate and engage with the project’s design.

“Our application includes a comprehensive Environmental Impact Assessment report, managed through Xodus Group’s Stromness office, and includes thorough assessments of the environmental impact and proposes measures to avoid, reduce, monitor and manage potential challenges, where necessary.

“We believe this application underscores our commitment to delivering a project to the very highest environmental standards.”

The West of Orkney Windfarm will have up to 125 turbines on fixed foundations and an expected capacity of around two gigawatts, with first power expected in 2029. It is being developed by a joint venture comprising Corio Generation, TotalEnergies and Renewable Infrastructure Development Group.

In October the project reached a milestone by submitting comprehensive offshore consent applications to Scottish ministers. It is the first ScotWind project to have applied for offshore consent, doing so only 20 months after being awarded the site.

Mr Farnham said: “Securing both offshore and onshore consents in a reasonable timescale are critical milestones in unlocking the significant inward investment this ambitious project will generate.

“The onshore application will be available to view at Thurso Library, the Ulbster Arms Hotel and Bettyhill Hotel and on our website and I would encourage as many people as possible to view and comment on our proposal.”

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