Walkerburn Community Council
Information on the proposed wind farm development on Scawd Law
Scawd Law Wind Farm Information note 1
Information note 1
The plan for this wind farm is for 12 turbines, 180 metres in height, around Scawd Law, less than 2 miles north of Walkerburn, on Holylee Estate.
Scawd Law is 543 metres high. It is the hill between Windlestraw Law, the highest hill in the Moorfoots at 659 metres, and Cairn Hill (499 metres) the hill immediately behind Walkerburn to the north.
The land is currently used for sheep farming. Holylee Estate also releases pheasants and red-legged partridge for game shooting.
The developer is Fred Olsen Renewables, part of a wholly Norwegian owned group. It will be a profitable development for the landowner (high annual rent for his land) and for the company but will provide very little in the way of employment once access tracks and concrete platforms are in place.
The sites shown for turbine bases on the current plan, which may change, are on very steep ground, possibly in an attempt to place the turbines as close as possible to, although outside, the Scottish Borders Council boundary for acceptable development (Ironside Farrar Report). The turbine base sites shown are at about 420 metres to 640 metres. Only 2 turbines are shown at below 500 metres.
This means that the turbines will rise to between 600 metres and 820 metres making them the highest altitude objects in the Moorfoot Hills.
Turbines will be very visible from the Tweed Bridge in Walkerburn, from Alexandra Park, the end of Caberston Road and the end of Tweedholm Avenue, but not from most houses in the village.
On the back road, turbines will be visible from the station, and very visible from everywhere east of Juniperbank on the road to Peel. They will tower over the valley on the way to Clovenfords and will dominate views from the hills south of the A72.
In the wider surrounding area, turbines will be visible from parts of Cardrona, Peebles, Innerleithen, Clovenfords and Heriot.
As always, there are concerns that the Wind Farm will be expanded if the initial phase gains permission. (The same developer went from Crystal Rig 1 to Crystal Rig 5 in the space of a few years – 2nd largest onshore windfarm in UK.)
This will be a separate planning application. The developer has said that a route to the Yair sub station is most likely. (We understand the Yair sub-station is due to be upgraded). This would mean highly visible heavy-duty pylons or poles from the turbine site all the way down to the A72 and thence on down the Tweed valley.
Access to the Site
Access to the site is planned from the A72 via an upgraded track up the burn to Seathope. This is a very dangerous section of the A72 road on which there have been fatalities. They may have to consider an alternative access route, perhaps from the B709.
The very heavy loads which will need to use the A72 during construction will cause damage to a road that is already in a poor state.
Aircraft and Radar
The National Air Traffic Control Service has stated that the location/size of the turbines may be unsafe and has warned that they would oppose the current plan. The Ministry of Defence has taken the same view.
Lighting and Noise
If the plan goes ahead, there will be red aircraft warning lights on each turbine.
Turbines create noise, which can travel some distance depending on atmospheric conditions and wind direction. We understand that Fred Olsen will conduct an operational noise assessment of all nearby properties.
Moorfoot Hills and River Tweed : Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) and Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs)
The site for the wind farm is tucked into a narrow space between two SACs/SSSIs with potentially adverse implications for both. There are obvious environmental concerns at the effect of this huge construction project, especially given the potential for run-off of contaminants into the Tweed. Even if these concerns are addressed, the two sites and the wildlife living there will inevitably suffer adverse effects.
Scottish Government Policy
The policy states: “By 2030 we aim to generate 50% of Scotland's overall energy consumption from renewable sources, and by 2050 we aim to have decarbonised our energy system almost completely. We remain committed to onshore wind as the lowest-cost new-build electricity generation in the UK.”
This makes Scotland a target for wind farm companies as is shown by the huge number of current applications.
More sources of renewable power are desirable, indeed are essential. However various governments in Europe have decided that too many onshore wind farms have been built and now only permit the construction of offshore ones. In Norway, for example, industry analysts, such as StormGeo Nena Analysis (Reuters 12/9/2020), believe that the Norwegian government is unlikely to accept any new on-shore developments. (Fred Olsen is a wholly Norwegian owned company.)
The questions have to be:
Is the electricity produced worth the effects on landscape,
wildlife and the environment of the Tweed Valley?
2. Would a wind farm of this size be better sited elsewhere, and in particular offshore?
The Community Council will not come to a decision on how to respond to the proposal until an actual application has been submitted.
In the meantime, if you have any comments or questions please speak to any member or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
Community Benefits are voluntary arrangements offered by renewable energy businesses to communities located near developments. They are not a material consideration in a planning application. Any discussions on Community Benefits must be independent of the planning process. It doesn’t matter if you are for or against a development you can still take part in discussions about Community Benefit.
The Community Council is a statutory consultee in the planning process and must be careful to make a decision on whether or not to support or oppose the wind farm separately from any discussion on community benefits.
There is NO guarantee that the Walkerburn and District community will ever see any real benefits from the Scawd Law wind farm development.
Any benefit has to be shared amongst the communities affected – in this case probably amongst 8 community council districts – not just villages/towns.
There will be rules agreed with the developer on how much benefit is paid and when – this will be a very long process. NO payment is made until after the wind farm is fully operational.
The Scottish Government’s “Good Practice Principles for Community Benefits from Onshore Renewable Energy Developments 2019” lays down principles for Community Benefit and suggests a minimum of £5,000 per megawatt installed or the equivalent in value, index linked for the operational lifetime of the project. The Government’s aim is to encourage a more holistic approach of supporting a community’s needs and aspirations rather than random payments. The developers state on their website that they intend to pay this minimum, ie about £300,000 per annum spread amongst all communities.
The Scottish Government encourages developers to begin the process of identifying all communities affected by their development and to start discussions on how community benefit might be managed and shared at an early stage in the planning process to allow community groups time to consolidate their available resource and build capacity, as well as to enable discussion and identification of an appropriate area of benefit. The developer has identified all the areas affected by the windfarm and has engaged with Community Councils and some other groups. WDCC is in the process of establishing contacts to start early discussions.
The Government believes that, “Key to future discussions will be a community possessing a community action plan: detailing its investment aspirations and associated outcomes. This will be critical for communities in their discussions with renewable energy businesses, irrespective of the community benefits package being offered.” WDCC and Walkerburn Community Development Trust are putting together a draft action plan which can be discussed with the wider community in the next few months.
At some point the developer and all of the communities involved will have to take decisions on how any benefits will be agreed and managed. We will seek help from Local Energy Scotland and Scottish Borders Council on how best to do this.