Work has started to install four test masts that could pave the way for a massive wind farm in Kielder Forest.
RWE npower renewables was last year granted permission to put up four test masts to assess wind conditions in the Redesdale and Comb areas of Kielder.
The tests could ultimately lead to a wind farm of between 50 and 100 turbines, including machines up to 170 metres tall.
When the proposals for the masts were first revealed in August last year, conservationists and wind power opponents pointed out that the development would be close to the Northumberland National Park and could affect the growing tourism industry at Kielder.
But supporters of the scheme say there would be financial benefits for the local community if the scheme went ahead while a wind farm would not be out of place in what was a working forest.
Work has now started to install four meteorological (met) masts, which would - along with other environmental and technical surveys - assess whether the site is suitable to host a wind farm.
The masts will measure wind speed, direction and turbulence and will be in place for around three years. It is anticipated that work to install the masts will be complete by mid-June.
Nicola Bell, Renewables Developer at RWE Innogy UK, said: “The installation of the met masts is an important step in the development of our proposed wind farm, known as Redesdale.
“The masts will provide us with valuable wind data, which together with our environmental and technical studies, will help determine the site’s suitability for a wind farm. Should the results of our studies continue to be positive, the data will also help inform the design of the proposed scheme.
“Our plans are still at an early stage and we would not anticipate submitting a planning application for a wind farm in the area until 2017. Before we prepare any planning application we will carry out a full public consultation to enable the local community to participate in the development of the project and give their views.”
Anyone wanting more information about the proposed Redesdale Wind Farm can call the freephone number 0800 294 3702 or visit the Redesdale web pages www.rweinnogy.com/redesdale
Kielder Forest was identified in 2008 as a potential wind farm site of regional significance in the Government’s North East Regional Spatial Strategy.
The Forestry Commission, which owns the forest, approached RWE npower renewables to explore the possibility of a wind farm in the area.
A final decision on the scheme is likely to be taken by the Government.