Why the RAF is objecting to plans for a massive new Scottish windfarm on 'national security' grounds

Energy park would be the size of 100 football pitches

The RAF is aiming to shoot down plans for a massive Berwickshire windfarm which would be the size of 100 football pitches.

Fred Olsen Renewables has submitted an application for Scottish Ministers’ consent to construct and operate Lees Hill Renewable Energy Park at a site on Langton Lees Farm to the south of Hardens Hill.

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This will cover a significant proportion of the area between the Duns to Longformacus road and the Duns to Westruther road.

The proposal consists of six 200m wind turbines, almost 70 hectares (equivalent to 100 football pitches) of reflective solar panels, a battery storage system made of large containers holding batteries, an onsite substation and temporary construction compounds.

But the plans have been rejected by the Ministry of Defence (MOD) who have raised concerns regarding its potential impact on national security.

The site falls within a designated low flying zone which is a tactical low level training area for the MOD where fixed wing aircrafts may operate as low as 250 feet (76.2 metres) above ground level.

In addition to that, based on the developer’s plans, the turbines will be located approximately 35 miles from, be detectable by, and “will cause unacceptable interference” with the Air Defence radar at Remote Radar Head Brizlee Wood, an air defence radar station in Northumberland operated by the RAF.

The MOD’s objection states: “The principal safeguarding concerns of the MOD with respect to this wind farm development relate to the development being detectable by one or more MOD radars as specified, and for the potential for the turbines to introduce/form a physical obstruction to air traffic movements.”

The MOD added: “Wind turbines have been shown to have detrimental effects on the operation of radar. These include the desensitisation of radar in the vicinity of the turbines, and the creation of ‘false’ aircraft returns. The probability of the radar detecting aircraft flying over or in the vicinity of the turbines would be reduced, hence turbine proliferation within a specific locality can result in unacceptable degradation of the radar’s operational integrity.

“This would reduce the RAF’s ability to detect and deter aircraft in United Kingdom sovereign airspace, thereby preventing it from effectively performing its primary function of Air Defence of the United Kingdom.”

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On the issue of physical obstruction, the MOD’s objection states: “The addition of turbines in this location has the potential to introduce a physical obstruction to low flying aircraft operating in the area.”

The proposed development from Fred Olsen Renewables includes wind turbine generators that exceed 150 metres in height above ground level. This means they must be illuminated at night, as set out by the Air Navigation Order 2016, and therefore the MOD highlights that an additional aviation safety lighting specification will also be required.

There are already 360 turbines in the surrounding area where Lees Hill Renewable Energy Park is planned and tallest of these turbines is 145 metres and the average height is 103 metres (half of the height proposed for Lees Hill Renewable Energy Park).

The local community called a Dun Lees Hill SOS “Save Our Skyline” meeting on June 25 at Duns Volunteer Hall, where members of the public discussed the plans for the proposed energy park.

The developer submitted its application to the Energy Consents Unit (the body responsible for administering the process on behalf of the Scottish Ministers) in April 2024 and consultees, including the public, are able to submit feedback before 16 August.

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