A massive wind farm of up to 100 giant turbines could be built in Northumberland’s Kielder Forest under new proposals being explored by a leading green energy company.
RWE npower renewables is seeking permission to put up four test masts to assess wind conditions in the commercial Redesdale and Comb areas of Kielder.
The investigations could lead to proposals for a wind farm of between 50 and 100 turbines, including machines up to 170 metres tall, it is claimed.
If such a scheme was ultimately given the green light, it would be one of the biggest in the UK, and deliver long-held ambitions for a major, strategic wind farm in the Kielder area.
RWE has been appointed by the Forestry Commission, which manages Kielder Forest, to explore the potential for a wind farm there.
An application has been submitted to Northumberland County Council for permission to site the four 90m-high meteorological masts for up to three years, in an arc running from the Catcleugh Reservoir to Comb.
Any future bid to build such a large wind farm would be dealt with by the Planning Inspectorate’s national infrastructure planning unit, with the county council and Northumberland National Park Authority acting as key consultees.
Five years ago, the Regional Spatial Strategy – which committed the North East to meeting a target of 20% of its energy coming from renewable sources by 2020 – highlighted wind farm development at Kielder Forest as an essential component. Last night, county councillor John Riddle, who chairs the Northumberland National Park Authority and whose ward includes Kielder, said he was briefed about RWE’s plans this week.
He said: “I understand they are talking about the possibility of 50 to 100 very large turbines there, up to 170 metres tall, but a planning application could be a couple of years away.
“I don’t want to pre-judge anything, but as I understand where the turbines could be built, they would be extremely close to the border with the National Park.
“We would be basing any comments we make on issues such as landscape and public enjoyment.
“The Forestry Commission and the National Park are both funded by Defra, so I can see potential for some conflict here.
“I also understand that the carrot being dangled here, in terms of community benefit from such a wind farm, would be very large. However, it is a question of how much Northumberland can actually take without detriment to the landscape.”
Jude Leitch, development manager with Northumberland Tourism, said: ”Our board doesn’t have a formal position on wind farms because there is not enough real evidence about their impact on tourism. However, the unique selling point for Northumberland is our beautiful landscapes, and we would be very cautious about anything that might impact on that.
“Kielder has won awards for the amazing setting of its lake and forest, and is a very big part of our offer.”
Bill Short of Kirkwhelpington, who has compiled extensive data on Northumberland’s contribution to renewables generation, said he understood RWE was looking at a potential Kielder wind farm of 100 turbines.
He said: “It has always been thought that Kielder has the potential for a major, strategic wind farm, and that is why Northumberland was given such a big target for renewable energy.
“I believe this could be the biggest onshore wind farm in England, and there is an argument that it is better to build one really big one at Kielder than smaller ones in more sensitive areas, such as Middlemoor.”
Graham Gill, North East forest management director for the Forestry Commission, said: “The Comb and Redesdale area of Kielder Forest is a working forest, providing important revenue for us through timber production.
“However, we are always keen to explore new ways of generating income through all areas of the forest, and look forward to seeing detailed plans for the site once RWE npower renewables has collected the relevant data.”