Ambitious plans for a huge windfarm in Lochaber – costing more than £150million and aimed at benefiting both the local and national economy – are unveiled today.
GFG Alliance, which bought the aluminium smelter in Fort William as well as 120,000 acres of estate land last year, revealed that its latest investment proposal for the area would not only power the planned alloy wheel factory in the town but the company’s steel mills in Lanarkshire as well.
The company described the project as ‘win-win for all parties’, as the local community would also be involved with the scheme with shared-ownership opportunities and cheaper energy costs.
The windfarm project would be developed by GFG’s sister company, Simec Energy, at Glenshero, almost seven miles north of Laggan, and would cost up to £170million.
Around 54 turbines would generate up to 178MW of energy and the company said the development would contribute low-cost, low-carbon power for its industrial schemes both in Fort William and Lanarkshire.
The steel for the required structures could be rolled at the Dalzell plant in Motherwell and possibly fabricated at a potential new neighbouring wind tower manufacturing facility.
Jay Hambro, chief investment officer for the GFG Alliance and chief executive of SIMEC Energy said: “Glenshero is a unique project in our portfolio. It would be built in an environment of zero subsidies, using steel rolled and finished in Scotland and then generate clean energy to support the Scottish metals industry.
“It is also an exciting opportunity for us to work with the local community and encourage their investment alongside our own. This is truly a win-win project for all parties.”
Duncan Mackison, the newly-appointed chief executive of Jahama Highland Estates, GFG’s division which manages and develops the estate lands, said: “We want to use the assets of the estate in the most productive way to maximise benefit for the local economy and residents.
“Our aim is a joined-up plan with the different elements working together. For example, the assets of the estate, in whatever form, would feed into our industrial developments to help us to be even more ambitious in our plans for new sustainable manufacturing.”
He added: “We will engage with all local stakeholders to bring in those interested in investment in the wind project and make sure the local area shares the potential benefit of the energy generation.”
Following these discussions, GFG hopes to publish a blueprint for a revival of the estate lands and reinvigoration of the whole Highland economy.
Investment for the wind project was given the green light by the GFG Strategy Board, and the company’s next step will be to consult with the local community and a range of stakeholders before a planning application is submitted to Highland council next year.
Ian Blackford, MP for Ross, Skye and Lochaber, is pleased at GFG Alliance’s growing investment in the area.
He said: “It is good to hear of continuing investment in the area from GFG with a new development which will further secure the future of their Lochaber operation.
“I am also pleased that they intend to have a full public consultation with local communities.”
Helen McDade of the John Muir Trust said: “While the Trust is supportive of economic regeneration in the Highlands – and would be open to support some of the proposals of the GFG Alliance – we are also clear that development should not be at any cost.”