About the Project

Tormsdale Wind Farm is located immediately west of the existing Causeymire Wind Farm, on land approximately 17 km south of Thurso, and 22 km west of Wick, in Caithness. 

The Site was first identified in late 2013 by Arise through a ‘top-down’ process of assessing local planning policy, wind resource, environmental & technical constraints.. Early feasibility assessments identified the potential for a larger scale wind farm than that now proposed, with up to 23 turbines. A preliminary design concept was presented to Highland Council in October 2014 for pre-application comment and advice.

Extensive design and environmental survey work has since been undertaken to establish the existing environmental conditions on the site, and to inform the development design. This included surveys for ground conditions, surface and ground water hydrology, terrestrial ecology (including surveys for vegetation, bats, wildcats, and fisheries) and two years of bird surveys. 

The current wind farm design comprises 12 turbines each with a maximum tip height of up to 150 mwith a total installed capacity of 50.4 MW based on currently available technology 4.2MW turbines. Continued development of wind turbine technology may lead to a turbine with a larger generating capacity installed of the same physical size if the project is approved and built.

Once built, it is estimated that the energy output of Tormsdale Wind Farm will be at least 50% of the combined output of the existing Causeymire, Achlachan, Bad a Cheo and Halsary windfarms, from adding just 12 turbines to the existing cluster of 52.

There is no forestry on site. The land is currently used for sheep grazing and shooting, with fishing beats  along the River Thurso and Little River.  There is also a history of gravel extraction throughout the site.

Why this site?

If consented, this will be a productive wind farm due to the exceptional wind resource on site, highlighted by the number of other wind farm developments in the surrounding area, and capable of producing clean, green, renewable electricity and making a valuable contribution to Scotland’s ambitious renewable energy targets. The extensive environmental surveys and design work undertaken have shown the potential for this area to host further onshore wind development at this scale.

The Tormsdale site allows a sufficient set back from residential properties and other key receptors, and appropriate design has allowed the scheme to sit coherently alongside the existing wind farm developments. 

The wind farm layout has been subject of a number of iterations and refinements which considerably mitigate any predicted adverse effects.  For example, the use of exsiitng access tracks is maximised, whilst all turibnes have been located in areas of shallow or no peat and are typically located   as far as reasonably practicable. The resultant proposal balances the environmental and technical constraints, whilst still producing an economically viable project.

Need for the project

In 2019 the UK Government committed to bring all greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2050; The UK has already reduced emissions by 42% through an increase in the development and use of renewables as well as strategies and polices to encourage the public, for example, implementing the end of the sale of new petrol and diesel cars by 2032. Whilst the UK Government has announced a capacity target for offshore wind of 40GW, that alone will not be sufficient to meet increased demand for electricity as we move to a low carbon economy. The Climate Change Committee has recommended that further onshore wind capacity will also be needed; and the UK Government has recognised the importance of change and must now work to deliver plans to achieve the targets mentioned above.

The Scottish Government has declared a climate emergency and passed the Climate Change (Emissions Reduction Target) (Scotland) Act 2019 which commits Scotland to reducing its greenhouse gas emissions to net-zero by 2045. Action set out in the 2019 Act include reducing greenhouse gas emissions through a Just Transition to a net-zero economy and society; supporting decarbonisation in the public sector; and supporting communities to tackle climate change through the Climate Change Fund. In 2017, prior to the 2019 Act, the Scottish Government published its Energy Strategy which sets out the targets of achieving the “equivalent of 50% of the energy for Scotland’s heat, transport and electricity consumption to be supplied from renewable sources” by 2030. In order to achieve this, approximately 17 GW of installed capacity will be required throughout Scotland; onshore wind will be a key factor in achieving these goals.

In November 2020, the Scottish Government  released a Position Statement on National Planning Framework 4. This gives an indication of Scotland’s new Climate Change strategy and what they want to achieve by 2050. The Position Statement states that the key focus for Scotland is to achieve zero net emissions, a wellbeing economy, resilient communities and better, greener places. In order to achieve net-zero emissions by 2045 and to meet the emission reduction targets of 75% by 2030 and 90% by 2040, there must be a radical transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy, specifically in relation to infrastructure, heating methods and electricity supply. 

On a more local level, The Highland Council declared a climate and ecological emergency in 2019 and has since set a target for a carbon neutral Inverness in a low carbon Highlands by 2025 as a part of its Carbon CLEVER initiative.

Tormsdale Wind Farm would contribute to these local and national targets by adding 50.4 MW of onshore wind capacity over its 30-year operation, and producing low carbon electricity. Based on Scottish Government’s calculator, this would produce the equivalent to the annual power needs of 33,113 homes. That would mean the project displacing up to 51,259 tonnes of CO2 from the British electricity system annually.

Turbine layout design and design evolution

The wind farm layout has been informed by environmental surveys, such as ecology, hydrology and ornithology surveys, as well as technical input from geotechnical and wind engineers. This multi-discipline approach has produced a design which balances the optimisation of energy output and minimises impacts on the environment. 

Key drivers to the design process have been:

  • To minimise visual impacts from settlements and key routes in
    the surrounding area;
  • To visually accord with the surrounding operational wind farms such as Causeymire, Bad a Cheo and Achlachan 1;
  • To minimise impacts on sensitive peat habitats, and to
    minimise peat disturbance;
  • To  ensure that nearby residents are not subject to significant
    noise effects;
  • Minimising the impacts on local residents during construction
    and will pay careful attention to traffic routes through choice
    of access;
  • To ensure turbines and associated infrastructure are sited a suitable distance from sensitive watercourses, such as the River Thurso;
  • To minimise impacts on cultural heritage designations in proximity to the site, including maintaining the ‘setting’
    experience of these assets;
  • To avoid other onsite environmental constraints such as effects on areas with known bird activity.

The applicant

Arise is one of Sweden’s leading independent onshore wind power companies.  It develops, finances, builds and operates projects under its sole and joint venture ownership, and manages and operates wind farms for 3rd party clients. 

Since it was founded in 2006, Arise has developed around 900 MW of wind capacity in Sweden and manages a portfolio of over 1,000 MW across Sweden and Norway.  More recently it has investigated markets outside of Scandinavia and has been active in Scotland since 2011 under guidance from established Scottish based developer Lomond Energy.