£800m Coire Glas hydro-electric scheme receives council backing
A NEW £800 million hydro-electric scheme capable of powering one million homes has cleared a major hurdle after being given the backing of councillors.
• Highland Councillors gave their backing to the proposal to construct Scotland’s largest ever hydro-electric dam development, despite mass opposition
• Rejecting the proposal would have led to an expensive public inquiry lasting for years
• Plans include a dam, reservoir, underground power station and water tunnels in the hills above Loch Lochy
• Scottish Government expected to rubber stamp proposal due to pro-renewables stance
The controversial Coire Glas proposal by SSE at Glenfinnan, to the north of Loch Lochy in Lochaber, would be Scotland’s largest ever hydro-electric and dam development overlooking the Great Glen.
Despite massive opposition, Highland Councillors gave the scheme the green light.
If they had rejected the proposal it would have led to an expensive public inquiry running over years.
But the project now only needs ministerial approval which, given the pro-renewables stance by the Scottish Government, seems highly likely to be rubber-stamped.
The development would involve the construction of a dam, reservoir, underground power station and water tunnels in the hills above Loch Lochy.
Objectors warned it would ruin the scenic beauty of the area and damage tourism.
Conditions to be added to minimise impact on environment and residents
But Highland Council’s south planning applications committee, who considered the proposal on yesterday after a site visit the previous day, gave their approval.
However, there was opposition from local independent councillor Thomas MacLennan, who said: “Twelve HGV vehicles leaving the site very hour might not sound like much, but if you take a calculator to it will mean 90,000 vehicle movements, and 90,000 coming back to fill up. That’s just totally unacceptable.”
Officials had recommended that the council should not raise an objection to the development.
However, conditions are to be added in an effort to minimise the impact on the environment and people living near the site.
The massive development would involve a pump storage hydro scheme designed to “soak up” excess power generated by wind and wave farms, using it to pump water up to a reservoir.
That water is then released through tunnels to generate hydro electric power at times when consumers need it.
Those in favour of such schemes describe them as “green batteries”, but opponents argue they use more energy than they produce.
‘It will damage trade for local businesses’
Locals businesses also opposed the scheme, with Ian Smith, owner of nearby Letterfinlay Lodge Hotel, saying: “All our investment and marketing is based on our tranquil setting and view. This is on our front door and will damage trade.
“We have invested £1.5million since taking over in 2006, and had plans for a £2.3million marina and apartments project, but the banks are now delaying a decision because of this development.”
SSE Renewable welcomed the council decision, saying the opinion will now be taken into consideration by Scottish Ministers who have the final say.
Colin Nicol, SSE’s Director of Onshore Renewables, said: “The report presented to the committee recognises that the scheme would be of overall benefit to the Highlands. We believe it would also make a valuable contribution to meeting our future energy needs by allowing surplus energy to be stored and made available at times of high demand.”
The company says that construction would take five to six years and create about 150 jobs.
The scheme would be the largest hydro project to be built in Scotland and the first brand new pumped storage scheme to be developed in Great Britain since work began on the Dinorwig scheme in Wales in 1974.
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Sunday 19 May 2013
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