The extension to the Kilbraur wind farm, located in Strath Brora, Sutherland, adjacent to Kilbraur Hill and Ben Horn (approximately 10km northwest of Golspie) is now reaching completion. Ken Hardie, Project Manager for Falck Renewables Wind Ltd., who are carrying out the scheme, commented that the time targets specified have been met.
The original project in 2008 consisted of nineteen 2.5MW wind turbines. The turbines are N90 Nordex turbines: they are 70m in height, with 45m blades or a 90m diameter. In 2009, planning permission was granted for an extension to the wind farm to add an additional 8 turbines. These turbines are identical in performance to the original, apart from the detail that the new turbines have an 80m tower instead of 70m.
Erection of the new turbines began in March of this year, after civil works which began in October 2010. The project has created around 30 construction jobs and final commissioning is in progress. It is expected to be fully operational in September 2011.
The construction of the 20MW extension to the existing site brings the Kilbraur project up to a total installed capacity of 67MWM, which will produce approximately 200GWh per year, cutting annual carbon dioxide emissions by approximately 86,000 tons per year. The wind farm generates clean, green electricity to thousands of homes and helps to reduce reliance on the existing less sustainable energy resources.
Scottish Government targets have been recently revised, to meet 100% of electricity demand from renewable sources by 2020. Speaking at the Sutherland Summit in Lairg in 2009, former Energy Minister Jim Mather said: “Renewable energy is driving Scotland’s economic recovery.”
Falck Renewables had to consider the environmental impacts of the extension to the wind farm, as the Sutherland coast is an environmentally sensitive area. The project had to comply with Schedule 9 of the 1989 Electricity Act, which imposes upon the developer the responsibility to “have a regard to the desirability of preserving the natural beauty of the countryside, of conserving flora, fauna and geological and physiological features of special interest and of protecting sites, buildings and objects of architectural, historic or archaeological interest.”
In order to meet the requirements of the Schedule, the project had to be compatible with service provision and demonstrate sensitive siting and high quality design that is in keeping with the local character and historical natural environment by making use of appropriate materials.
Ken Hardie said: “As part of our initial preparation for the project back in 2005, we prepared environmental impact assessments, which identified the environmental issues on site that needed to be mitigated against. The planning associated with each phase of development incorporated a number of conditions to ensure environmental protection. Additionally a wide ranging habitat management plan has been adopted by Falck, which will run for the life of the wind farm with the aim of improving the habitat quality through management practices.”
Ornithological concerns were voiced at the conception stage of the project but detailed observations of breeding and flight activity as part of the EIA process suggested minimal impacts on the native moorland species. Monitoring of raptor and diver breeding activity is ongoing as part of the habitat management plan objectives. The Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003 (LRA) needed to be complied with during construction as Access Rights applied to the site. On site, there was a regularly updated site plan showing alternative routes for walkers. The Council Archaeology Unit also requested mitigation on micro-siting of turbines and watching briefs to safeguard local archaeology; an archaeological clerk of works was employed accordingly.
The wind farm is owned by Kilbraur Wind Energy Limited (KWEL), which is a subsidiary of Falck Renewables Wind Ltd. The project was developed with RDC Scotland in association with West Coast Energy Limited. Royal Bank of Scotland plc (RBS) provided a loan to fund the project alongside Falck’s equity.
Mr Piero Manzoni, CEO of Falck Renewables, stated: “The Kilbraur project is consistent with our business plan, focusing on high wind speed locations and, where possible, to steadily increase the installed capacity of existing projects.”