“We will have more definitive answers”
SSE Renewables is committed to consulting the local community again before submitting a planning application for an experimental green hydrogen hub at Gordonbush Wind Farm, Strath Brora.
The pledge was made at a Brora community council meeting last week which was attended by a six-person team from the power giant, including hydrogen hub project manager Richard Hearnden.
A planned slide presentation did not materialize due to technical difficulties, but the team spoke about the controversial project to community advisers and around 18 members of the public.
SSE has already applied for a hazardous substance authorization to produce and store green hydrogen. Some 19 objections were made.
The proposal has raised concerns locally with fears over the volatility of the gas and the potential for explosion, as well as the impact of transporters on the fragile Strath Brora single-lane road which is well used by walkers, cyclists, paddleboarders and others.
At last week’s meeting, Mr Hearnden said a number of changes had been made following feedback from a previous community consultation.
The number of trucks to and from the factory had been reduced from eight a day to four or five; a battery system intended for hydrogen storage had been removed from the planning application and the use of lye/caustic soda had been removed from the production process.
But Mr Hearnden could not give details on issues such as the tonnage of the trucks, whether the road would be widened, from where the water for the hydrogen process would be extracted and dumped, or the extent of the “blast zone”.
He said studies were currently underway on transport, ecology, noise, habitat management and hydrology, and an environmental impact assessment would be produced.
“We will hold a second public exhibition when we have more definitive answers before a planning submission,” he said.
Asked about job prospects for young people, Mr Hearnden said the facility would be self-sufficient, but skilled drivers and maintenance engineers would be needed. A session on the “benefits of hydrogen” had already taken place at Golspie High School.
Richard Mowat, whose house in Ascoile is one of the closest to the wind farm, said: “I think it’s obvious to all of us residents here that this is a totally unsuitable location for a large industrial plant.”
Community Councilor Diana Royce said SSE needed to “fully understand the amenity and scenic value of the Strath Brora Road”.