A WIND farm overlooking the famous Cuillins mountains on Skye is, unlike many such developments in the Highlands and Islands, being backed by the local community.
Crofters have welcomed Highland Council’s decision to grant consent for the 14-turbine Glen Ullinish Wind Farm.
The development is to be located between Ose and Struan at Allt Dughaill on the Isle of Skye.
The Scottish Government, as the owners of the land, are supporting the partnership approach being taken between Kilmac Construction and local crofters.
The consented development will be able to produce 42MW, the equivalent of generating enough electricity to supply 23,000 homes per year.
While numerous renewable energy projects are objected to on the basis they “damage the wild land”, the Glen Ullinish development is almost unanimously supported in the area – with only one objection lodged.
After engaging with the five local community councils over three years, an agreement was reached which will see a community investment fund of £250,000 per year, to be distributed among the closest communities – Struan, Dunvegan, Minginish, Portree and Skeabost.
A yearly payment will also be allocated to the whole of the Isle of Skye and Highland Council. This amounts to £6.25m over the lifetime of the project, and would allow the communities themselves to decide how best to realise the opportunities provided by the wind farm.
Angus Munro, a crofter and chairman of the Ebost grazings committee, said: “We are delighted that, following years of hard work on the project, Glen Ullinish has now been consented by the Highland Council.
“Glen Ullinish represents a massive opportunity for our community and the wider local area. We are glad that our elected members have listened to the local community and supported us in growing our local economy.”
Crofter Murdo MacPhie, who was one of the driving forces behind the proposal, added: “It was easy to persuade people.
“We already have two wind farms in the area and after a couple of years you don’t really see them. I do not mind turbines. The main thing was that Skye should benefit from this as much as possible.”
Kilmac, one of Scotland’s leading civil engineering and renewable energy contractors, will deliver and construct the development.
They claim they are intent on opening a new office in Inverness to embrace the growing business opportunities in the Highlands.
The total capital construction costs of the development are estimated at more than £55m, with around £5m likely to go to local contractors.
Derek Ross, director of Kilmac Construction said: “We are glad that the council has recognised the potential economic and social benefits to the local communities and the local economy that the project will bring.
“We will now be able to grow our business from our headquarters in Perth into the Highland region.
“Glen Ullinish could now provide a minimum of ten jobs for local people in Skye during the construction period, two full-time jobs in the area through the operational and maintenance phases, as well as the provision of local training and apprenticeship schemes.”
Angela Wilson, operations manager at Energy North, said: “We support the Glen Ullinish proposal as the wind farm offers a potential economic boost to the Highlands, and Kilmac Construction’s willingness to work with local communities and companies to enhance local economy is a fantastic opportunity for the region.
“Kilmac Construction is committed to ensure that these contracts are placed with as many local companies as possible, thus providing long-term support to existing employment within the area, as well as providing new opportunities for companies to expand.”