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Hundreds could get better broadband from wind farm technology

By Staff Reporter- NOSN

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At least 242 homes in Caithness and Sutherland could receive improved broadband using technology installed at a proposed wind farm, according to a new study.

The area is the first to be researched by Statkraft, Europe’s largest generator of renewable energy, as part of a commitment to carry out feasibility studies on the possibility of bringing enhanced high-speed wireless broadband to communities at all its planned wind farm sites in Scotland.

Statkraft, whose portfolio includes the Baillie Wind Farm, is investigating the potential to build the Ackron Wind Farm, consisting of up to 14 turbines, near Melvich.

No planning application has been made, but an analysis has shown it is feasible to install wireless technology into wind farm infrastructure to provide high-speed internet connection without using phone or cable lines.

Initial indications from the study, carried out by Highland-based Monsternet, show that at least 242 homes near the Ackron site could receive an improved broadband service, with the potential to extend coverage to many other homes and businesses in the area.

It is expected the wireless technology would have the capability of providing fast internet for anyone living within line of sight up to 10km from one of the network repeater masts.

Further technological and engineering studies are required, but it is envisaged that fixed wireless broadband could provide an improved service for both residential and commercial users, including those on part of the North Coast 500 tourist route.

The prospect was well received at a public exhibition held by Airvolution Clean Energy to discuss the proposed wind farm. Airvolution has since been acquired by Statkraft, with which it had been working exclusively in Scotland.

Statkraft is now in the process of setting up a broadband consultation group made up of local residents and businesses to find ways to take the idea forward.

Our study shows this is an initiative that could have a transformational impact for a lot of people.

The feasibility study found that:

  • Current internet speeds in the area appear to range from the extremely good to very poor
  • An enterprise-level fixed radio wireless system could potentially provide consistently high speeds up to 40 Mbps for download and upload
  • Two masts of 12 metres in height on the wind farm site would provide potential for a faster alternative to existing broadband providers
  • Incorporating the installation costs into a larger construction project provides a more affordable way to bring improved internet
  • The local topography makes this a very good site for the installation of wireless broadband

Monsternet managing director Fergus Weir said: “Our study shows this is an initiative that could have a transformational impact for a lot of people in the area near the Ackron Wind Farm.

“We are already working with communities in the area and are excited about bringing the benefits of improved broadband to communities post-construction. Superfast broadband is ‘the fifth utility’ and the delivery of such a service to the area would benefit all subscribers.”

Lloyd Godwin, senior project manager for the Ackron scheme, said: “We are at a very early stage in the process, but the indications are that a lot of people could potentially benefit from this technology.

“We are not broadband providers, nor are we seeking to profit from the delivery of broadband. However, this is an opportunity to provide an improved service as part of a wider development and one the community may wish to take forward.”

David Flood, managing director of Statkraft UK, said: “We are often asked by residents near our projects if we can help deliver improved broadband. We need good broadband to operate our wind farm sites and it makes sense that we can try to share that benefit where possible.

“We are committing to investing in feasibility studies at the early planning stage for future projects. The result could be enhanced wireless broadband provision where we have wind farms.”

He added: “We are not aware of other developers offering this opportunity with their projects and we are excited about the potential of this initiative.”

Last month Statkraft opened its new Scottish HQ in Glasgow and made a commitment to carry out feasibility studies which will focus on the possibility of bringing improved high-speed wireless broadband to communities at all planned new sites.

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