- Category: Renewables
- Energy type: Onshore wind
- Project type: Asset
Strathy North wind farm is an operational 33 turbine site located approximately 7km from Strathy village in north Sutherland.
We recognise that our investments in new electricity generation benefit from the cooperation of the local community in a variety of ways, particularly during the construction phase. In recognition of this, our policy is to establish long-term funds to support community projects in areas where we are developing generation projects.
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The Strathy North wind farm became fully operational at the end of 2015.
The 33 turbine Strathy North wind farm is located in a commercial forestry plantation called Strathy Forest, around 7km south of Strathy Village, in north Sutherland. Consented by the Scottish Government in November 2011, we began ‘enabling works’ in July 2013 to prepare for main construction which began in February 2014.
Turbine deliveries began in February 2015 with the final turbine erected in June 2015.
The site has been fully operational since November 2015.
In January 2007 we submitted a proposal to the Scottish Government for a 35 turbine wind farm at Strathy Forest, approximately 7km from Strathy Village in Sutherland. Since lodging this application we removed two turbines from the design, in response to feedback, and submitted an Addendum in November 2010 to the Scottish Government for a smaller 33 turbine scheme.
We worked closely with the Scottish Government and key consultees throughout the planning process to review responses received and where possible, address the points raised. On 10 May 2011 The Highland Council (a key consultee to the Scottish Government) held a special planning committee meeting to discuss the Strathy North wind farm proposal and provide their response to the Scottish Government. The Council supported the planning report which recommended 'no objection' to the proposal, and on 22 November 2011 consent for the Strathy North proposal was granted by the Scottish Government.
The Strathy North site is located in an area of commercial forestry plantation. In October 2012 we began the first phase of forestry works using a technique called 'keyholing' which targets and removes specific areas of plantation, such as those on the access track routes and turbine base areas, to help open up access to different areas of the site for construction. A mixture of mulching (to produce wood-chipped areas on site) and conventional timber harvesting was used to do this, in line with the site's Habitat Management Plan.
A few loads of harvested timber have been directed to Forsinain, to assist the local sawmill, with the remainder stockpiled whilst it is gradually extracted.
The forestry works will continue into the operational phase of the wind farm, involving a mix of mulching and felling, to gradually clear the commercial forestry on site. The eastern part of the site will also be replanted with native woodland, in addition to other habitat work such as peatland restoration to the south of the site.
In July 2013 we started ‘enabling works’ to prepare the site for the main construction phase of the project. These works were undertaken by highland civil contractor, RJ McLeod, and involved the following:
- Installing a temporary bridge (at Dallangwell) near the site entrance
- Building a platform for the on-site substation
- Opening a borrow pit to acquire rock and stone
- Minor on-site road works (between borrow pit and substation area)
- Building the new access track from Baligill (to bypass Strathy village)
The new access track that was built from Baligill on the A836 north coast road, to join up with the Bowside track which leads to site, was an important element of the preparatory works. This new track ensures that construction traffic and turbine deliveries associated with the main works can bypass Strathy village.
Main construction - civil works
In February 2014, SSE appointed Highland civil engineering firm RJ McLeod as its principal contractor for the main construction works at Strathy North wind farm. Work started on the main access track through the site, and then the spur roads out to each of the turbine locations and hard-standing areas were built. In May 2014 the 33 turbine bases began to be developed and this involved excavating the foundations and building a steel lattice framework for each base which was then poured with concrete. The final few turbine bases were finished at the end of the spring and cabling works to each of the turbine bases from the on-site substation were completed in June.
The on-site substation which will initially receive the power from the site and release it onto the grid is gradually being developed, and the majority of cabling works to lay the connections out to each of the turbine bases were completed by February 2015.
Main contruction - turbine works
The turbine deliveries started in February 2015 ran very smoothly and finished in early June. In total there were 264 deliveries, with 198 of these being abnormal loads and 66 standard HGV deliveries, and on average they took around 40 minutes to travel from Scrabster harbour to the site access track at Baligill. The first turbine was erected in February 2015, shortly after the turbine deliveries started, and the final turbine went up in June 2015.
Strathy North wind farm successfully completed its commissioning phase at the end of November 2015 and was formally handed over to SSE’s operations team. All 33 turbines are up and turning, exporting clean, green electricity to the National Grid.
Involving local businesses
We are committed to maximising the benefits and opportunities for local businesses and communities from the Strathy North project.
Business opportunities event
In February 2014 we held a Business Opportunities event in Strathy Village Hall to help local firms find out more about the upcoming opportunities associated with the £109m project. Over 50 businesses attended from across the north Highlands to talk to SSE's project construction team and principal civil contractor, RJ McLeod, about the services they could offer and how to get involved with the project. Our Open4Business procurement team was also on hand to help businesses register on SSE's highland portal at www.sseopen4business-highlands.com where Strathy North project opportunities will be advertised.
Feedback from the event was very positive, and Janette MacKay, Strathy & Armadale Community Council Chairperson, said: “SSE has worked hard to ensure that the event was well organised and relevant to the local area, and the feedback from within the community has been excellent. There are a growing number of people from the immediate communities of Strathy, Bettyhill and Melvich who have received work and long-term employment from the project either during the ‘enabling’ period or since the main construction phase has started, in addition to the bigger businesses in the wider north coast area. In fact, there are more people than we realised who are getting jobs from the project."
To see a video from the event, please click the link here.
Using local services
We have already been using a wide variety of local services in the area during the enabling works phase of the project. These include the hotels and B&Bs, restaurants and cafes, shops, garages and petrol stations, and local village halls for meetings and events. This is expected to continue into the main construction phase of works.
Involving local businesses
One of the key benefits from a project like Strathy North is the opportunities it provides to local businesses to get involved. Already, since the enabling works started in July 2013, the project has already generated in excess of £7m of investment to the Sutherland and wider Highland economy. Rural businesses at all levels have benefitted, from small operators like the Melvich shop, Clean Bees cleaning company in Bettyhill, accommodation providers in the local area and local trades people such as joiners and fencers, through to larger businesses within the wider area including:
- Charles Angus Engineers (Thurso)
- John Gunn and Sons Ltd (Kirkton Quarry - Melvich)
- E&M Engineering (Scrabster)
- GMR Henderson (Wick)
- MM Miller (Wick)
- Simpson Oils (Thurso)
- Waverley Plant Hire (Golspie)
This is in addition to Highlands civil engineering firm, RJ McLeod, which was awarded a £14m contract in February 2014. For more information click here.
In May 2014 SSE contractor RJ McLeod engaged the services of John Gunn & Sons – operator of the Kirkton Quarry in Melvich – in a landmark seven-figure deal for the local firm. The quarry will provide concrete for the turbine bases at SSE’s Strathy North wind farm, which is currently under construction nearby, and also enable its owners to invest in a new batching plant. This will allow the materials required for the construction project to be mixed at the quarry before being delivered to the wind farm site. For more information click here.
The project has also created a number of permanent new jobs in the local area, and indirectly supported many others.