A Sutherland resident is urging her neighbours not to accept “the tainted silver coin” when it comes to a proposed windfarm on Loch Shin.
Chahna Sudevan lives in Overscaig and will see the nine turbine Sallachy windfarm from her house.
She says she is disturbed by the lack of effective consultation on the proposal under Covid-19 restrictions, and urges fellow residents to raise their objections with Highland Council before the cut off point of Sunday May 23.
German developer WKN has modified its long-standing proposals for the windfarm on the Sallachy estate from 22 to nine turbines, with an output of just under 50Mw, and it’s this proposal which is out for consultation.
Scottish ministers previously rejected the 22 turbine proposal as having an unacceptable impact on the Reay-Cassley designated wild land area.
But Mrs Sudevan fears the smaller development, which can be decided by Highland Council without recourse to Scottish ministers, could set a precedent for many more small-scale wind farms along Loch Shin.
She said: “Loch Shin is the longest loch in Scotland at 17 miles. Plenty mileage for more and more wind turbines to flank its shores for wind farm corporates.”
A spokeswoman for WKN said Sallachy estate, which owns the lochside, has no such intentions.
She also disputed claims of lack of consultation over the project, saying there had been teleconferences and door to door leafleting in the IV24 and IV27 post codes, with a ‘massive response’ and largely positive feedback.
Mrs Sudevan also voiced concerns about the visual impact on the area having a detrimental effect on tourism, and a detrimental effect on the peatland on which it will be constructed.
“The proposed site is precious peatland, a mix of Class 1 and Class 2 – Class 1 peatland is considered nationally important and worthy of protection under current Scottish planning policy.
“It is environmentally not appropriate to develop peatland when this is a natural carbon store and if restored and protected, can actually help in the fight against climate change.”
WKN says it is developing a design which minimises the impact of the proposed development on sensitive environment and species.
Sallachy is unique in being offered as a shared ownership opportunity with the local community, with a memorandum of understanding now signed between WKN and the six local communities of Lairg, Creich, Argday, Durness, Scourie and Kinlochbervie, Kyle of Sutherland Development Trust and Lairg and District Community Initiatives.
The community will be able collectively to invest up to 10% in the wind farm, with returns as yet unspecified and dependent on the final determination of the project.
David Watson, Kyle of Sutherland Development Trust Manager and Neil Macdonald of North West Communities said they are working with WKN to ensure that this project will deliver real benefits to the local communities.
Kaye Hurrion, Lairg and District Community Initiatives, said: “As the host community, we have been engaged with the developers on the wind farm and have gathered the opinion of local residents.
“We have long been in discussions around the benefits the development could bring to Lairg and have supported exploring shared ownership of the wind farm further.
“The economic benefits investing in the site could bring to the village could make a real difference.”
From Sallachy estate, Iain Thomson said the investment will allow them to create and maintain jobs in Central Sutherland.
Meanwhile Oliver Patent, WKN’s head of UK development said the company is “acutely aware of the necessity for sensitive and sustainable development, which will involve and benefit the local communities surrounding the site.
“Successful renewable energy projects will be those which treat communities as active and positive partners, of which we intend to do at Sallachy Wind Farm.”
But Mrs Sudevan remains unimpressed.
She said: “Interestingly, even WKN’s own countrymen have had enough of these ‘fossil-fuel extenders’ and construction of new windparks in Germany has dropped by up to 80% since 2019.
“Like diesel, which was touted at inception as a wonder fuel, the cracks in wind turbines green credentials are beginning to appear rapidly in Germany and around the world.
“The Scottish Highlands must not accept the tainted silver coin for a contaminated blade.”