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Spittal Hill wind farm could provide £27m boost to local area

5th December 2013

A planning application outlining proposals for the revised Spittal Hill wind farm, located between 2 and 3 km north east of the village of Spittal in Caithness has been submitted to Highland Council, and is awaiting assignment of a case reference number. Comprising of 7 turbines, with a total installed capacity of up to 21MW, the proposals have been submitted by Spittal Hill Windfarm Ltd, owned by Statkraft and a group of Highland based shareholders.

The proposals have been significantly revised from a previous larger scheme of 30-turbines which had a total installed capacity of 75MW, and takes into consideration comments made by the Reporter in his decision on the previous proposal when he acknowledged that the Spittal site is capable of accommodating some turbines. This is in agreement with SNH which commented that “…five to seven smaller turbines would fit the character of small farms and crofts and mixed agriculture and settlement landscape character types”

The project, with an estimated capital investment of £27 million, could generate enough clean green electricity to meet the annual average household needs of around 15,337 homes. It could also offset around 38,423 tonnes of harmful carbon dioxide emissions each year, reducing the overall carbon footprint in Scotland and contribute to tackling climate change.

The site benefits from an exceptional wind resource, with average wind speeds in the region of 9.0 metres per second, and the proposed turbines would have a height to blade tip of 100 metres, the same as the nearby Causeymire Wind Farm.

If consented, Spittal Hill wind farm would bring with it a community benefit fund of up to £105,000 annually or £2,625,000 over the anticipated 25 year operational life of the project. The fund would be split between the communities of Watten and Halkirk, as it is they who would be most affected by the proposals. As was the case with sister development Baillie Wind Farm, the local community would decide how these funds are managed and spent.

As with Baillie Wind Farm, if approved Spittal Wind Farm would see local firms participating in the construction of the wind farm, as well as supporting its operation and maintenance, bringing with it local employment and apprenticeship skills training with an anticipated 30 people employed during the construction period.

Throughout its consultation with the community, Spittal Hill Windfarm Ltd has sought ideas on how the fund could be spent locally, and has convened a Spittal Liaison Group (SLG) in order to formalise the local priorities that have been identified into specific projects. Such priorities include: increased skills and education opportunities for local people, support for local small businesses and an improved digital infrastructure.

On top of the community benefit fund, Spittal Hill Windfarm Ltd has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with North Highland College UHI, to put in place and deliver £40,000 of one–off funding on a range of programmes which will tackle youth unemployment in the area should the project gain planning consent, highlighting the developers commitment to boost the local economy, and create employment opportunities for local people.

Spittal Hill Windfarm Ltd Director Tom Pottinger said of the proposals:

“We have worked very hard to ensure that our revised proposals have taken on board the comments made on our last application, including dramatically reducing the number of turbines, relocating them so that they are now 2km from Spittal village and reducing their maximum height to 100m.

“SNH also acknowledged that our site was capable of accommodating some turbines, with the Reporter himself noting that this merited further consideration.”

“Spittal Hill wind farm would provide an excellent opportunity to deliver tangible long-term economic, social and environmental benefits to the local area, and not just through its construction and maintenance. The Spittal Skills fund would give young people in the local area an excellent opportunity to develop their skills, making them more work ready and more likely to be able to find sustainable employment.”

“As was the case with Baillie Wind Farm, where crane hire, aggregate supply and civil engineering contracts were all awarded to firms within the Highlands or Caithness, if plans are approved local firms will be actively encouraged to participate in the construction of the wind farm and its operation and maintenance. The local company involvement in the Baillie project totals more than 15 businesses, with many of the contracts have being well in to six figures. We would expect that during the construction period alone, Spittal Hill could generate up to 30 jobs.”

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