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Whitelee Solar PV, Green Hydrogen and BESS Development - Environmental Considerations

What will it look like?

The Development will result in a degree of change to views and it is important to show what it would potentially look like as part of the landscape. It is also important that a transparent and objective appraisal of potential changes to landscape and views resulting from the Development is made using established guidance and procedures.

What we propose to do

The first step in the landscape and visual appraisal is the establishment of the study area, which covers the area within which the Development may have a potential significant effect upon the landscape and visual resource. It is accepted practice within visual appraisal work that the extent of the study area for a  Development is broadly defined by the visual envelope of the site and the anticipated extent of the Zone of Theoretical Visibility (ZTV) arising from the development itself. In this case, it is considered that a study area of 5km (with a detailed study area of 2km) is considered appropriate to allow for accurate assessment of all potentially material landscape and visual effects; based on the local landscape character, the scale of construction and the scale of the Development.

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Please note that ZTV may be subject to alteration prior to planning submission

The study area is not intended to provide a boundary beyond which the Development will not be seen, but rather to define the area within which to assess potential effects. Notably, significant landscape and visual effects are more likely to include effects on close proximity views as well as the change in character of the site itself and in the area in close proximity to it. The ZTV above has been prepared to consider the potential impacts of the three project components on the following viewpoint locations:

  • A77/B764 Junction;
  • Drumtree;
  • Lochgoin Monument;
  • A77, South Drumboy;
  • B763, Queenseat Hill;
  • A77, Laighmuir; and
  • Clunch Road.

The documentation submitted as part of the planning application will consider potential impacts from these viewpoints above.


Ecology, Ornithology and Nature

Understanding the potential for a development to impact on habitats, birds and other species is an important part of scheme design.

We have…

  • Undertaken a series of desk-based studies to identify existing records of species and habitats;
  • Undertaken baseline ecological surveys on site for protected species and habitats; and
  • Undertaken baseline ornithological surveys.

We found…

No nationally important sites of nature conservation value are located within or near the Development. The nearest site, Brother Loch and Little Loch Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) is located approximately 3.8km to the north of the site, which is notified for open water basin-fens with a high diversity of wetland communities and small populations of wintering bird species. Three non-statutory designated sites are located within 1km of the site:

  • Fenwick Moor (Greenfield Burn) Provisional Wildlife Site is located within the eastern extent of the site;
  • Craigendunton Reservoir Provisional Wildlife Site is located approximately 350m from the site; and
  • Lochgoin Reservoir and Dunwan Dam Site of Importance for Nature Conservation (SINC), is located approximately 1,300m from the site.

A large proportion of the Development comprises wet modified bog, coniferous plantation woodland, and areas of improved, semi-improved and marshy grassland. Recent surveys indicate that the blanket mire (wet modified bog) resource within the site has been adversely impacted by the effects of commercial forestry plantation, grazing pressure and drainage. The southern section of the Development area comprises former coniferous plantation woodland, which was clear-felled in 2008 and has since been subject to phased restoration.

The following protected and priority species have been identified as present:

  • No evidence of badger or water vole has been recorded either historically or during recent surveys; and no potential bat roosts (in buildings or trees) have been identified within 100m of the Development;
  • Otter activity has been recorded within localised areas including the presence of covered and uncovered temporary resting sites;
  • Bird species of high conservation importance (hen harrier, merlin, peregrine, short-eared owl, barn owl and golden plover) are present in the wider area but based on previous surveys do not appear to use the site for breeding. Small numbers of black grouse are present in the wider vicinity, with two historic leks approximately 900m and 1,300m from the Development; and
  • No migratory salmonids (sea trout or Atlantic salmon) are known to be present in the five minor watercourses that are located within the footprint of the Development; however, brown trout (non-migratory salmonids) are likely to be present in all of them.

What we propose to do…

SPR will seek to mitigate impacts on ecology in a variety of ways by:

  • Avoiding construction during the bird breeding season where possible, or where not possible undertaking surveys to identify and protect any nesting birds;
  • Avoiding watercourses and areas of sensitive blanket bog habitats identified during the Phase 1/NVC vegetation surveys;
  • Adopting safe working buffers where protected species are found; and
  • Adopting pollution control measures to prevent silt or dusts entering watercourses.

Any potential adverse effects for any species will be mitigated to meet legislative requirements and good practice, with species-specific mitigation plans created where required.


Geology, Hydrology and Hydrogeology

Our understanding of the ground conditions and surface water network has informed the site design and layout. This minimises the risk of groundwater and surface water being adversely affected. Our technical specialists work closely with one another to ensure that the potential effects of the Development on hydrology and related habitats and species are considered holistically. This is particularly important for Groundwater Dependent Terrestrial Ecosystems (GWDTEs), for example.

We have…

Assessed watercourses on the Site and avoided them as far as possible in the design process, investigated peat depths across the Site, identified the location of private water supplies near the Site and the potential for flooding from Site watercourses.

We found…

Our technical consultants have identified the key hydrological components in and around the Development. This allows us to understand how rainfall and surface water run off infiltrate into soils and peat and discharge into watercourses and drainage channels.

This information will also allow us to assess whether any private water supplies are potentially at risk of being affected by construction works.

Preliminary peat surveys identified peat deposits of variable depth across the Site, including some areas where there is no peat present.  Our initial design avoided the areas of deepest peat.

What we propose to do…

Utilise our baseline and site survey data to provide key information to the design team to allow peat bodies to be avoided as far as possible by careful siting and design. Where peat cannot be avoided, location-specific mitigation measures will be set out to minimise effects on peat.


Transport and Access

We have…

SPR and our technical consultants have undertaken a preliminary assessment of the potential impacts on access, traffic and transport. This has considered the potential effects of the  Development on the transport network, in relation to both construction and operational vehicles.

What we propose to do…

Traffic and transport assessments are ongoing. SPR and our technical consultants will undertake a detailed assessment of the potential impacts on access, traffic and transport which will be informed by the findings and analysis of other environmental studies and feedback from consultees.

Protecting Road Users and Residents

In order to minimise the impact on local residents and other road users, it is anticipated that a Construction Environmental Management Plan (CEMP) and a Traffic Management Plan (TMP) will be produced prior to construction. The following practices will be used:

  • Erection of appropriate temporary signage in the vicinity of the Site warning of construction traffic and warning other users of abnormal load turbine movements;
  • Ground preparation, including protection of services; and
  • Arrangements for road maintenance, wheel washing and road sweeping where necessary.

Other Characteristics

Emissions, Air Quality and Climate Change

Operation of the electrolyser requires input electricity and water. The outputs from the process are Hydrogen (H2) and Oxygen (O2) gases.  Where electricity is derived from renewable energy, the production of H2 is a zero-carbon footprint process.  On this basis, there are no adverse emissions to air or land resulting from the operation of the green hydrogen production facility. In the case of water there will be flow through of water due to the ultra-high purity required for the input water. No chemicals or additives are introduced to the water, so there will be no adverse impact on local water quality. Suitable drainage systems will be implemented to manage this water, the details of which will be included within the future application.

Due to the heat applied to the water during the electrolysis process – necessary to split the H2 and O2 – water vapour is produced in limited amounts alongside the release of unused O2.  In cold atmospheric conditions, as the water vapour is released it may condense in the atmosphere creating localised plumes, however as no additional chemical reactions occur due to the nature of the electrolysis process, this water vapour is clean and presents no detrimental impact on air quality.

The potential for adverse effects on local air quality during construction is considered to be minor, temporary and not significant. During operation, the Development will provide a beneficial effect on local and global air quality, by avoiding emissions which would otherwise be achieved by other technologies by the burning fossil fuels. 

Furthermore, in respect of the Green Hydrogen Production and Storage facility, the electrolysis process splits water by electrical energy to obtain hydrogen plus oxygen. As the hydrogen is stored and transported off-site, the primary outputs are oxygen and water with the oxygen output serving to improve local air quality.  Further indirect benefits to air quality resulting from the green hydrogen development are centred on the increased availability of green hydrogen within the wider locality, which in turn can result in reduced reliance on fossil fuels. This will positively contribute to meeting Scotland’s national targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

The Climate Change (Emissions Reduction Targets) (Scotland) Act 2019 amends the Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009 and sets targets for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions in-line with the objectives of the Paris Agreement.  The opportunity to introduce renewable and green energy technologies as part of the Development provides both direct and indirect benefits which can contribute to the Scottish Government’s aims towards decarbonisation by 2045 and can positively contribute to the national agenda on climate change.

Noise and Vibration

The Development is not considered to present a significant impact arising from noise and vibration and specifically the elements comprising the solar PV farm and the HV cable is not predicted to create any additional noise impacts.

Hydrogen production and storage and BESS facilities of the type proposed do not generate significant noise during their operation. However, data from suppliers of key components (electrolysers, compressors, storage vessels) will be assessed for their noise impact as part of the planning application and mitigation will be proposed if necessary.

Health and Safety

There are no significant risks to human health identified in the context of the operation of the Development across its different components.

The location of the Development is not in a location which is susceptible to natural disasters or extreme weather.  Therefore, there is not considered to be any significant risks for major accidents or disasters to occur.

The Development will be constructed and operated in accordance with relevant health and safety legislation including the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and the Control of Major Accident Hazard Regulations 2015 (COMAH). All site-based construction activities will be conducted in accordance with the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015 (CDM 2015).

Waste

The development will necessitate construction work in respect of its three main elements.  Primarily it is anticipated that there will be no significant impacts arising from construction which cannot be suitably mitigated.  The construction is unlikely to generate significant quantities of waste materials, such as excavated arisings which would necessitate transport off-site.  Those quantities which may be produced are anticipated to be at a low level and primarily limited to construction activity only. 

Any waste arisings will be further addressed within a future Construction Environmental Management Plan (CEMP) for the site which will provide a working method based on Best Practice guidance and applicable waste regulations for the safe disposal of waste and transport off-site, as well as an outline of roles and responsibilities with regard to waste management during construction.

Glint and Glare

Potential solar reflections can arise from proposed solar PV schemes which have the potential to affect receptors including aviation, nearby dwellings and road users.

We anticipate that the application for the solar PV farm will be supported by a Glint and Glare Assessment which will take account of the potential impact on dwellings located within or close to 1km of the Development, or that are in view of the PV panels - in line with Best Practice guidance.

The accepted practice to consider impact on road users is as per that of dwellings.  Within 1km or in view of the PV panels are sections of the B764 and M77 to the north and west and the Whitelee Windfarm and Extension link road and an unnamed access road to the east.  Notably, the link road and the unnamed road to the east are both private access roads with signage indicating no public access.

In respect of aviation, Glasgow International Airport is located approximately 20km north and Glasgow Prestwick Airport is located approximately 25km south west of the solar PV location.  Consideration will be given to the potential for indirect impact on both the airports themselves and their flight paths.

Historic Environment

Our baseline assessment data indicates that the Development is located in an area with several cultural heritage features (referred to as ‘assets’) of local or less than local importance, most of which are associated with historical farming use.

There is one designated heritage asset within 2km of the Development, which is Lochgoin (nee Lochgoin) Monument, a Cat B listed building.  The monument is an obelisk in memory of Scots author John Howie (ref LB12509) which is located at Lochgoin farm to the south of the western site boundary at the green hydrogen production facility (NGR, NS 52824 46950) and is considered to be of regional importance.

Beyond the 2km study zone, there is one designated heritage asset: Dunwan Hill Fort (ref SM12882) which is located c. 3.1km west (NGR, NS 54689 48952) and is listed as a Scheduled Ancient Monument.

There are several non-designated heritage assets located within 500m of the Development, with the closest being a cairn within the site boundary in the area for the HV cable route at Craigendunton Reservoir. 

Of the non-designated heritage assets, nine are identified as being historic landscape types.  Of these historic landscapes they are primarily typified as being associated with agriculture and include moorland and rough grazing land, coniferous plantation, fields and rough grazing land. .

The documentation submitted as part of the planning application will consider potential impacts on these features above.

Resources and Socio-Economics

During construction 3 temporary construction compounds and several equipment laydown areas totalling c. 6,000 sq. m (0.6 hectares) will be required and during the operational phase of the development, most of the site will be returned to be used for grazing land.

The construction of the Development would result in beneficial effects for on-site employment, particularly regarding the green hydrogen production facility, and would provide a wider service benefit to the local and wider economy in terms of offering efficient green energy, particularly with regard to green hydrogen production. 


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