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Astronomers' warning over wind farm plans

A PROPOSED wind farm close to a top stargazing site is to be fitted with specialist infrared lighting to prevent the Scottish forest losing its status.

Galloway Forest Park, which spans South Ayrshire and Dumfries and Galloway, was given a gold award by the International Dark-Sky Association (IDA) in 2009 due to its lack of unnatural light and excellent stargazing opportunities.

However, campaigners and astronomers have raised concerns over plans to erect wind turbines at four sites nearby, claiming they could interfere with the dark sky park.

ScottishPower Renewables, the developer behind the wind farm closest to the park at Dersalloch, said the turbines will be fitted with infrared lighting that is not visible to the naked eye, but the Ayrshire Astronomical Society claims this could still interfere with camera equipment.

Society director Graham Longbottom said: "As far as we are concerned, we value this dark sky park and we should do all we can to make sure that development doesn't interfere with it.

"We understand the need for renewable energy and I'm personally not against wind farms in general, but it could be an issue when it comes to lighting.

"Although infrared isn't visible to the naked eye, it can interfere with cameras which are very sensitive to infrared lighting. In terms of light pollution we would be happier if the turbines weren't there at all."

The IDA had feared the park might lose its gold status if appropriate lighting was not used on the turbines should the plans get the green light, but the association has now accepted that infrared would have little impact on the dark sky award.

A ScottishPower spokesman said: "Following consultation, the Ministry of Defence recommended turbines be fitted with infrared lights, which are not visible to the naked eye and therefore will have no effect on the Dark Sky Park."

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