THE company that operates a major hydro power plant linked to the country’s only remaining aluminium smelter – the British Liberty facility at Fort William – has submitted a formal application to build a £158 million wind farm at Glenshero, north-west of Laggan.

SIMEC Energy, which is part of Sanjeev Gupta’s GFG Alliance, made the application to the Scottish Government’s Energy Consents Unit after a year of environmental and technical studies, along with extensive public consultation.

The company said the 168-megawatt development, which comprises 39 turbines located around 8km (4.9 miles) from Laggan, is intended to provide green power for Scottish industry and represents a significant boost to GFG Alliance’s investments in Scotland.

SIMEC said that, if approved, the windfarm would trigger up to £158m of capital investment with an estimated £23m being spent in the Highlands during construction alone. Local firms could benefit from contracts for various services, including haulage, aggregate, plant hire, concrete and accommodation.

The chosen developer for the project is renewable energy company RES, which has carried out the detailed environmental and technical studies, as well as the consultation process with the local community.

This saw more than 900 newsletters sent out to residents and over 70 attendees at public exhibitions at Laggan and Fort Augustus.

The Glenshero Wind Farm proposal is part of SIMEC’s ambitious GREENMETAL strategy, which it said represented an exciting opportunity to support Scotland’s industrial growth by contributing low-carbon power for industry.

Under the plans, steel for the wind-tower structures could also be rolled at GFG’s Dalzell plant in Motherwell and the towers could be fabricated at a new neighbouring wind turbine manufacturing facility, which the company hopes to set up.

The Glenshero project is also part of GFG Alliance’s stated vision to further develop the Lochaber estate lands for the benefit of the regional economy and local communities. Its aim is to enhance and expand existing hydro-power production as well as developing new recreational facilities, upgrading visitor accommodation, improving agriculture, forestry and fisheries, providing better access to the land and more support for new local businesses.

If the plans are approved, SIMEC Energy said it intended to develop opportunities for the local community to share in the ownership of the wind farm.

Jay Hambro, SIMEC’s chief executive, said: “Developing this wind farm will be a landmark for green energy in Scotland and we are proud to bring forward a project that will deliver clean, competitive power to Scottish industry and the wider economy.”

He added: “Onshore wind has been shown to provide one of the cheapest and cleanest forms of power on the market today, so we look forward to pressing ahead with this exciting scheme.”

Duncan Mackison, chief executive of the GFG division which manages the estate lands, said: “This is a very exciting step for the project and our plans for the estate. We’re hugely grateful to everyone who participated in the public consultations – the feedback from local people, from our neighbours, together with our environmental studies has been used to inform the design of the proposals which we’ve now submitted.

“If approved this project will bring significant benefits to the local area and local economy both in the short term, as part of the construction and longer term as part of our plans to develop the estate and support local industry and jobs for years to come.”

RES development director, Lucy Whitford, added: “RES is delighted to be working with SIMEC on their first onshore wind proposal in the UK, as part of their unique GREENMETAL strategy. Glenshero Wind Farm will support Scottish industry by providing access to the lowest cost form of energy and will significantly benefit the local economy throughout construction.”