‘Tourism boom despite turbines’ says Highland community councillor

More turbines are planned for Lochluichart.

Warnings that a windfarm would “ruin tourism” have come to nothing, according to the leader of a Highland community council considering its response to a proposed second extension of the scheme.

Dorset-based Infinergy hopes to add eight turbines to the existing 23 on the Lochluichart Estate, near Garve.

The windfarm, owned and operated by Eneco Wind UK Ltd between Lochluichart and Loch Glascarnoch, began with 17 towers. An extension soon followed.

A scoping report for adding “up to eight” turbines has been submitted to Highland Council, indicating a maximum height of “approximately 410ft (125m).”

It makes clear, however, that in the wake of an end to subsidies paid by electricity customers, the industry is changing and considering “turbines with greater tip heights and rotor diameters than those already installed at Lochluichart and (nearby) Corriemoillie, if it can be demonstrated there is capacity for the environment to absorb turbines of this scale.”

Garve Community Council chairman Kenny MacLean, 36, who was born at Achnasheen and has spent his life in the area, said: “We were told the windfarm would ‘ruin tourism’ and yet the NorthCoast500 runs through our community and it’s not stopped the traffic. We’ve not seen hotels go out of business. If anything, we’ve gained business. You can’t see them because they’re up in the hills.”

Highland anti windfarm campaigner Lyndsey Ward said plenty of evidence had surfaced on hillwalkers’ blogs and social media that windfarms were “ruining their experience to the point that they’re increasingly choosing less abused environments to take their holidays.”

A spokeswoman for Infinergy said dates would be arranged for further public consultation.

Official data shows that Lochluichart Windfarm’s operators have so far had £1.3million in so-called constraint payments – compensation to switch turbines off to help balance the national grid.