With a royal flush of excitement, we note that the Cairngorms National Park Authority (CNPA) has approved planning permission for Her Majesty, The Queen to install a hydroelectric turbine on her land at the Balmoral Estate in Scotland.
The 2MW generator is to be built on the River Muick, which runs through the estate. The project will provide power to the estate and potentially create a surplus for export. Aberdeenshire Council's Environmental Team had objected to the proposals in 2018, with concerns it would be too noisy for the woodland species in the area such as badgers, otters, voles and grouse. The council considered that the proposal lacked details of how much noise the generator would produce and whether it would be detrimental to the tranquillity of the woodland.
Having called in the plans in order to further scrutinise the environmental impact, and following due consultation and consideration, the CNPA approved the Queen's proposed generator despite the objection. The CNPA acknowledged that the proposals will have a significant environmental impact. However, appropriate mitigation and compensation measures will be put in place to minimise these and in the longer term these impacts will have a minor to negligible effect. Outlining the decision, the CNPA stressed however that no work should be undertaken during the nesting bird season between February and August.
Obviously, to a Projects team with expertise in renewable energy projects, planning approval for any renewable energy project and indeed hydro scheme is positive news. But a hydro scheme fit for the Queen (and, if you please, an article in Hello! magazine) shows renewable energy projects are climbing the social ranks and reaching unprecedented audiences. With 4.1M followers on Twitter and a palace that attracts around 15 million tourists each year, one cannot deny the profile of the British Monarchy not just to British society but to the world.
The hydroelectric turbines at Balmoral will become the fourth and fifth to be installed on the estate, the first having been supplied to provide electric light to Queen Victoria in 1898. Windsor Castle is also powered by hydroelectricity through two turbines on the River Thames. By investing in renewables at Balmoral, the Queen raises awareness and delivers a positive message on renewable energy and the benefits of locating hydro projects like this in Scotland to a much wider audience.
Of all planning consents for renewable energy projects to be granted this year, the hydroelectric turbine at Balmoral may be a Jewel in the Crown.