Offshore wind farm plans are submitted

PLANS for the offshore wind farm Neart na Gaoithe have been submitted to the Scottish Government and as part of the consultation process Scottish Borders Council has been asked for its views.

Although the turbines are off the Fife coast the cables bringing the power produced from them are planned to come ashore at Thorntonloch near Torness, the electricity feeding into the National Grid at a new substation at Crystal Rig II, in the Lammermuir Hills; and this will be a separate planning application made by developers Mainstream Renewable Power Ltd.

Renewable energy developments of more than 1 MW within 12 nautical miles of the shore are submitted to Marine Scotland for consideration; and the Electricity Act requires developers to apply for separate permission for the cables and a substation adjacent to the existing substation at Crystal Rig II.

The economic benefit for Scotland of the wind farm is expected to be between £118-570 million and over the first 25 years it could generate up to 11,000 jobs. If all the planning permissions are approved then construction is expected to start in 2015 and continue into 2016, with energy being exported into the National Grid by mid to late 2016.

Eyemouth Harbour is in the running to become an operations and maintenance port for the offshore wind farm because of its location and facilities, and the harbour has already been servicing the survey boat carrying out environmental research for the Neart Na Gaoithe development.

Potentially there could be two wind farms in the Firth of Forth area - Neart na Gaoithe to the north and a 450MW offshore wind farm at Array, 17 kilometres off St Abbs. The impact that this could have on fishing grounds used by Berwickshire fishermen is described as “moderate” as the offshore export cables pass through areas of regional importance for nephrops, squid and crustaceans.

Last year windfarm developers Fred Olsen Renewables announced that they were no longer the preferred developer for the Array offshore windfarm off St Abbs, opting instead to focus their attention on onshore wind turbines. However, the proposed National Grid connection for the first of the two Firth of Forth offshore wind farms to be developed is planned to be at Olsen’s Crystal Rig wind farm in where a second sub station is being proposed.

The proposed corridor for the cables is surrounded by five Sites of Special Scientific Interest (Woodhall Dean, Barns Nest, Rammer Cleugh, Lammermuir Deans and Pease Dean), but the route itself is not within an SSSI.

There are also over 50 recorded cultural heritage features and sites within the route corridor; from prehistoric settlements to burial remains to World War II military structure and eight scheduled monuments.

Six individual cables (laid in two groups of three) will be buried within one or two trenches stretching for a distance of approximately 12km and routed along a corridor from Thorntonloch beach, approximately 8km south-east of Dunbar, travelling westwards then south-westerly to Crystal Rig II onshore wind farm. Much of the cable route will be installed in open field and for these sections all construction works will lie within a 20m wide area along the proposed route and a temporary haul road will be established.