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‘Wind farms are asset stripping this special place’: Fears latest Cabrach wind farm plans are threatening viability of community

Developers argue the Dorenell extension would deliver the largest community fund of its type in the UK.

Jonathan Christie in green jacket with hills in background.
Jonathan Christie, chief executive of the Cabrach Trust, says the area has now reached saturation point for turbines. Image: Kath Flannery/DC Thomson

Developers have confirmed a massive new wind farm proposed for the Cabrach could have more than 70 new turbines.

Residents in the rural area fear their homes and landscape are already being overrun by increasing numbers of developments.

Locals have spoken out amidst worries the local heritage and stunning scenery could be lost forever.

Now it has been revealed the Dorenell extension project could have up to 74 turbines in the Cabrach as well as a battery energy storage scheme.

Developers Galileo have pledged to create an annual £2.7 million community fund if the wind farm gains approval as well as support free electricity schemes and affordable housing for residents.

Consultation events are due to begin as soon as next week with campaigners saying the short period of time has left them “voiceless”.

‘Unrelenting drive to asset strip Cabrach’

If approved, the Dorenell wind farm extension would nearly double the number of currently operational turbines in the area.

There are 77 already generating power with another 54 that already have planning approval.

Residents have told the Press and Journal about their worries their homes could become encircled by developments.

Turbines in the distance on hill.
Turbines already have a significant impact on the Cabrach landscape. Image: Kami Thomson/DC Thomson

The Cabrach Trust has been outspoken about its concerns the area is at risk of moving beyond saturation point for wind farms – suggesting it could put the future viability of the community at risk.

Chief executive Jonathan Christie said: “The announcement of the public consultation on Dorenell extension wind farm further signals the unrelenting drive by some to asset strip this historic, special place.

“This is, potentially, wind farm number three for the Cabrach & Glenfiddich Estate in an area that Moray Council themselves have stated has no landscape capacity for additional turbines.

“That less than two weeks public notice be given for consultation activity further exacerbates the Cabrach community’s sense of voicelessness.”

Map of turbines in the Cabrach.
Where turbines already are in the Cabrach before the final Dorenell extension plans are submitted. Image: DC Thomson Design

Patti Nelson, chair of the Cabrach Community Association, added: “The Cabrach faces an unfair, imbalanced situation which is genuinely threatening the ability of individuals and families to live in the area.

“And now absentee landowners look to grossly profit, at the material expense of the local community.

“The parallel to a modern-day Highland Clearance is not unfounded. This is happening on the Scottish Government’s watch.”

‘Dorenell extension community fund would be biggest in UK’

Dorenell extension developers Galileo say the turbines will generate enough electricity to meet the annual demand of 575,000 homes – a total roughly double the population of Aberdeen.

As well as the contribution to renewable energy targets, the firm says its biodiversity enhancement plan would restore 870 hectares of damaged and degraded peatland.

Battery storage has been included in the plans to add flexibility to the local and national electricity networks, which are under pressure in the area.

Wind turbines at a distance viewed over ruined farm building.
The Cabrach has been impacted by depopulation long before wind turbines were built. Image: Colin MacKenzie

Senior project manager Jason Morin said: “The project would support a community wealth fund of more than £100 million over its 40-year lifespan, which would be the biggest fund of its kind anywhere in the UK.

“We want to dedicate a significant part of this to provide free electricity to the households closest to the project, but we hope the scale of funding could also be transformational for community initiatives covering things like training, affordable housing and energy efficiency improvements for local homeowners.

“Analysis of our plans suggest that construction of the wind farm would create 1,200 ‘job years’ in the Moray Council area alone, with 50 ongoing full-time equivalent roles during operations across the council area.”

How to have your say on Dorenell extension plans

Public consultation events have been organised for residents to learn more and have their say about the Dorenell extension plans for the Cabrach.

All the events run from 2pm to 7pm on the following days:

  • Tuesday, May 28: Glenbuchat Hall, Strathdon
  • Wednesday, May 29: The Cabrach and Glenfiddich Estates, venue will be signposted from A941
  • Thursday, May 30: Mortlach Memorial Hall, Dufftown

Read more about wind farms in the Cabrach