Protesters up the ante against the mega-sized turbines earmarked for Watten – will be tallest in UK
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Almost 50 protesters turned up at Watten's village hall on Sunday morning to make a very vocal protest about plans for 220m high turbines to be sited in the area – the tallest in the UK.
EDF Renewables UK has submitted a planning application for Watten Wind Farm which will comprise of seven wind turbines with tip heights of up to 220m and generating more than 47MW.
Calvin Wilson from Watten Wind Farm Opposition Group (WWFOG) said: "These turbines are going to stand almost double the height of the highest ones in the county at Halsary.
"If you put that into context, the Rumster mast – which is a huge landmark in the county – stands at 230m. So these things are 10m shy of that. They are enormous and you will even be able to see them from Orkney."
Calvin says there is a "sensitive way" for taking such projects ahead and that there is "no need" for the turbines to be such heights. He thinks that with Caithness being "a very flat county" the structures will dominate the landscape. "I think Caithness as a whole has enough turbines. There's no real benefit for us. There's a community fund that's incredibly difficult to access. The Watten Wind Farm fund is sitting with over half-a-million [pounds] in its account but nobody can access it due to the amount of constraints involved." He added that the infrastructure for the export of power from the turbines is not in place either.
Jenni and Paul Brook, live along the Camster road, and were also at Sunday morning's protest. "The way the light comes across we'll get the flicker shadow – which is like a strobe effect that can bring on migraines or epilepsy," said Paul. His wife pointed how the turbines can have an adverse effect upon wildlife in the area as well. They both talked about the area earmarked for the project being a site of special scientific interest (SSSI) area and potentially a UNESCO World Heritage site as it borders on the Flow Country. "We bought a property two years ago that has three wind farms within view and that doesn't affect us. However, these ones will have a detrimental personal impact."
Group members pointed out that "large amounts of methane" will be released into the atmosphere from the peatlands when the site is constructed and say they are awaiting information from the recent FAAM aircraft flights over the Flow Country which were collecting data on "atmospheric methane concentrations".
Kathrin Haltiner who lives in Westerdale said: "Caithness could already now produce more electricity and could export more electricity but grid restrictions further south prevent this. There is no sign that these restrictions will be resolved soon. Instead SSE plans to extend the grid up here because up here they get away with it. All this will only lead to even more constraint payments which already now are a terrible drain on tax revenues."
Bib Harrold owns property close to the site of the wind farm and strongly objects to the plan. "It is unacceptably close to our property and the Residential Visual Amenity Assessment has placed it second in the list of 'major significant' visual effects due to the proximity."
Bib said that EDF did not consider her properties at West Watten when undertaking the analysis of homes affected as the company "marked them as uninhabited". She challenged this and EDF amended its data.
"Developments of this height should not be constructed near residential populations especially in a peatland and forestry area. It also puts the area at greater risk of wildfires should a turbine catch fire.
"It is in too close proximity to the Sheilton Peatlands – part of the Flow Country which is nominated for World Heritage status. Highland Council's chair of the economy and infrastructure committee, Cllr Ken Gowans, aims to provide vitally important protection for the Caithness and Sutherland Flow Country, with no site in Scotland previously nominated for wholly natural World Heritage criteria."
The opposition group produced information leaflets about the project and together with objection letters these were posted around all properties which could be adversely affected by the wind farm. WWFOG believe that if the EDF application is successful then more of these huge turbines will be built.
Developers say the wind farm would have a total generating capacity of up to 47.6MW along with a 20MW battery storage system. Lying approximately 3km to the south-west of the village, it would generate enough electricity to power up to 29,300 homes, claims EDF.
Project development manager, Sarah Dooley, said: “Throughout the process of developing this wind farm we have met with local people on a number of occasions to listen to their thoughts and concerns.
“We held a final round of public exhibitions recently to show local people the finalised design for the project. We wanted to make sure they had the full information on the application before they responded.
“If consented, this project will be a key milestone in accelerating a net-zero future and tackling climate change.”
WWFOG has a Facebook page at: www.facebook.com/groups/688292142711171 – an objection form template can be downloaded from the files section of the page. The closing date to lodge objections is October 13.