A HUGE wind farm featuring 67 turbines built high above Loch Ness has been given the green light by the Scottish Government.
SSE Renewables is to develop the Stronelairg project next to its massive Glendoe hydro-electric scheme in the Great Glen, overlooking the Highland tourist village of Fort Augustus.
The Mountaineering Council of Scotland and conservation charity the John Muir Trust had opposed the development, while government agency Scottish Natural Heritage had also raised concerns.
The government said the project would generate power for 114,000 homes and bring £30 million of benefits to the area, as well as more than 100 jobs.
The John Muir Trust had previously lodged a petition in the Court of Session for a judicial review of Highland Council’s decision. A rejection would have triggered a public inquiry.
The trust warned the project would “destroy the character” of an area of wild land.
But energy minister Fergus Ewing said it would create work during its construction and operation. He added: “Once it is up and running, the wind farm will save thousands of tonnes of carbon dioxide each year, and will be able to produce enough electricity to power thousands of homes in the Highlands.”
An original application for even more turbines was refused consent, in order to mitigate landscape and visual impacts.
Mr Ewing said: “Wind farms, like Stronelairg, play an important part in helping Scotland reach its target of the equivalent of 100 per cent of electricity demand generated from renewables.
“We want to see the right developments in the right places. That is why I have refused permission for the proposed wind farm at Newfield [near Lockerbie], which would have brought unacceptable impacts on the landscape.”
The Stronelairg project is to be built around SSE’s Glendoe hydro scheme, using existing access roads that run right through the wind farm site.
It will be on a plateau set about 14km from Loch Ness.
SSE said no turbines would be visible throughout the main tourist routes of the Great Glen, Loch Ness and Cairngorm National Park.
Colin Nicol, lead director for the project, said: “We estimate as much as £120m could be secured by Highland and other Scottish companies, and that significant local employment opportunities will be created.
“In addition, SSE will be providing up to £30m of community funds for 25 years from the construction start.
Willie Cameron, a businessman from the Cobbs Group of Companies and Loch Ness Marketing, said: “I have lived and worked in the area for decades in the tourism industry, and have seen many changes both here and across the Highlands, and I welcome today’s decision to grant consent for Stronelairg wind farm.”
But wind-farm objector Lyndsey Ward said: “This is a sad day for Scotland: an appalling decision for an appalling wind farm.
“The jobs promised will be short-lived and not all local, that’s for sure. As for the ‘benefits’ – a tiny percentage of what the owners of this monstrosity will rake in, paid for by even the poorest in our society.
“What a legacy this government is leaving: the destruction of our most precious asset – our landscape.”