Why Hill of Fare?
The Hill of Fare site has been selected for a number of reasons, not least the fact that it was identified within the Aberdeenshire Local Development Plan (2017) Spatial Framework for Wind Energy as a ‘Group 3’ area which has ‘potential [for wind energy] subject to detailed consideration’.
Since the site selection, the Aberdeenshire Council adopted its new LDP in January 2023 which reaffirms the Group 3 status. Furthermore, the Scottish Government published the National Planning Framework 4 (NPF4) in February 2023 which provides the national spatial strategy for Scotland. Whilst it removes identification of Groups 1-3, Policy 11 asserts support for onshore wind farms outside of National Parks and National Scenic Areas. Hill of Fare is outwith such national landscape designations.
A site needs to have enough wind resource, be accessible, have a timely and affordable grid connection and meet criteria for a host of other site constraints. The topography, proximity to housing/communities, waterbodies, peatland, cultural heritage assets, etc, are all considerations that feed in to decisions upon the selection and then design of a site. The Hill of Fare has been selected within this context.
The need for onshore wind
We are in a climate emergency, cost of living crisis, and face issues with security of energy supply. Onshore wind can address all of these.
This is recognised by the Scottish Government’s National Planning Framework 4 (NPF4), Scotland’s long term spatial planning strategy, which was published in February 2023. Scotland currently has almost 9GW of operational onshore wind capacity. The Scottish Government has a target of achieving 20GW of installed wind capacity across Scotland by 2030 in order to help meet Scotland’s legally-binding 2045 net zero carbon emissions target. This is a substantial increase in capacity and will require a significant deployment of new onshore wind projects in order to meet this demand for green, low carbon electricity - which is not only essential for tackling climate change but also for supporting a globally competitive economy and creating jobs.
Onshore wind alongside other renewable technologies can generate the cheapest form of new electricity generation and isn’t subject to sudden fossil fuel price fluctuations or the uncertainties of global markets. Hill of Fare Wind Farm would be capable of generating enough clean, low-cost electricity for around 101,000 homes and reducing carbon emissions by approximately 69,000 tonnes each year. Onshore wind is also quick to build (12-24 months) and the carbon payback time is usually within 1-3 years – with the Hill of Fare Wind Farm proposal expected to achieve carbon payback within 2.8 years.
Protecting the Environment
In August 2022, following initial feasibility work on site we submitted a Scoping Report to the Scottish Government, seeking feedback from the Scottish Government and other key consultees (including local Community Councils) on the scope of the proposed Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) survey work.
The report included an early design layout for the proposed scheme comprising 17 turbines at a tip height of around 250m, and a proposed energy storage facility which will help maximise generation capability and efficiency of the site.
The EIA is an extensive piece of work which investigates and mitigates any potential effects of a development on the natural, physical and human environment. Over the last couple of years, RES had undertaken a wide range of technical and environmental surveys on the site covering a wide variety of considerations, including:
- Landscape and visual
- Archaeology and Cultural Heritage
- Hydrology, Hydrogeology and Geology
- Traffic and Transport
The findings from the site studies are written up in a comprehensive Environmental Impact Assessment Report (EIAR) which the Scottish Ministers will take into account when deciding whether or not to grant consent for the wind farm. A copy of the EIAR can be found here.
Design development and consultation
In October 2022 we held public consultation events to engage with the local community on the early scoping design layout and gather feedback. We have also been consulting with key consultees such as Aberdeenshire Council, NatureScot, SEPA, Historic Environment Scotland, and others to gather their feedback on the project.
The comments received from the local community, together with findings from the site survey work and key consultee feedback, have helped to shape the design.
We have made a number of key design changes, including a reduction in turbine tip height from 250m to a mix of 200m and 180m and turbine numbers reduced from 17 to 16. Turbine technology has advanced considerably in recent years, meaning that turbines are now taller and more efficient which enables them to generate a significantly greater amount of renewable electricity per turbine.
In June 2023 we held a final suite of public consultation events to present the final design and gather feedback.
To find out more about the public consultation events, please click here.
Protecting Private Water Supplies
One of the key topics raised to us during our pre-application consultation by residents living closer to the site was whether their private water supply would be affected by construction work on the site. We understand people’s concerns and would like to reassure them that RES takes this matter seriously. Private water supplies are assessed in the Hydrology, Geology and Hydrogeology Chapter of the Environmental Impact Assessment Report that will accompany the planning application. The layout design has been developed to maximise distance between any construction work and private water supplies; as such, there are no private water supply abstractions from groundwater within 250 m of any proposed excavations that are greater than 1 m in depth.
Given the nature of the bedrock underlying the site, and the limited depth and extent of superficial cover, it is considered that there are unlikely to be any adverse impacts on private water supplies arising from the proposed development. Should the project be consented, RES would ensure that construction best practice methods are followed, water quality monitoring is undertaken and that specialist Clerks of Works are appointed to monitor construction activity.
RES has submitted a Section 36 application for consent to Scottish Ministers for Hill of Fare Wind Farm. The application was accompanied by other key documentation, including the Environmental Impact Assessment Report (EIAR). To view the planning application and associated documentation please click here.