The site comprises of 20 turbines
Each turbine can supply 2 megawatts of electricity
Supplying 32,000 houses with electric power
Fairburn Wind Farm and Hydro
Scottish & Southern Electricity (SSE) approached Fairburn Estate in 2000 with a plan to build a wind farm on the Seilach Mor. It was identified as an ideal site because of the predicted wind supply and its proximity to the National Grid, with a plug-in point at the Orrin Hydro Power Station by Loch Achonachie.
We agreed to the project in 2002. Permission was finally granted in late 2008 and construction started (by RJ McLeod, the contractor) in March 2009. Most of the work was completed by November 2009 (only 8 months) but power being generated by the site was not handed over to SSE until April 2010.
The infrastructure required to support the wind farm consists of 4.2 km of upgraded hydro track and 7.1 km of new track (mostly floating on top of the peat and heather). 50,000 cubic metres of stone was extracted from two borrow pits on the site.
In addition, a control building was constructed in order to transform the power from the turbines to the grid, and to provide storage, control equipment and Mess facilities.
A permanent anemometer, 70 metres high, is also situated on site, providing real time information by satellite to the Operations Room in Perth.
The Orrin Power Station was also upgraded to handle the additional power supply to the National Grid. This can clearly be seen as you drive up the wind farm track.
The site comprises of 20 turbines. Each turbine tower is 59 metres high (consisting of three sections), and the three blades are each 35 metres long. The total height of each turbine is just under 100 metres. Foundations for each turbine are considerable, with a large steel wire cage filled with 260 cubic metres of concrete supporting the turbine base.
Each wind turbine costs £2 million – therefore a cost of £40 million for the turbines. The engineering and other works required cost a further £15 million. So the whole project cost £55 million. SSE hope to recover all costs within 8 years. This means that the wind farm is generating a profit of £6.875 million per annum. The project runs for 25 years so the total profit, in today’s terms, will be in the region of £117 million.
Each turbine is controlled by two computers – one at the base and one by the turbine (or nacelle) at the top. The whole site can be operated by remote from Perth or even by a laptop computer by authorised staff (security codes change three times a day!).
Each turbine can supply 2 megawatts of electricity with the site capable of producing 40 megawatts. This is sufficient to supply 32,000 houses with electric power.
It may be of interest to know that the hydro schemes on Fairburn Estate (Orrin Power Station and Tor Achility Power Station) produce sufficient electricity to power 60,000 houses – so the total contribution of wind and water electric power from Fairburn Estate to the national grid is sufficient to supply 92,000 houses. To put this into context, the population of Dingwall is 5,491 (2019) and Inverness is 63,780 (2018). This is a major contribution to renewable energy in the UK.
Fairburn Estate has just over 7 miles of the River Orrin. The Orrin has been a sanctuary over many years for salmon since the Orrin Dam was built in 1959 as part of the Conon Valley Hydro scheme. Water flows through a pipeline in the hill, North to the Conon at Loch Achilty for electric power generation. As a result, the water flow down the Orrin is often at compensation levels. Added to this, the banks of the river Orrin have for many years been infested with rhododendron (ponticum), which we have cleared for over two miles, opening up the river. Pools can now be seen that have not been visible for well over 80 years.