Windfarms have been a bone of contention in Berwickshire over the past few years but new plans could see them positioned out at sea rather than up on the hills.
The Berwickshire coast is part of one area earmarked for turbines by the The Crown Estate and the Scottish Government, as the Government bids to meet its renewable energy targets.
As owner of the seabed, The Crown Estate has a central role in the delivery of offshore wind. Round three of their scheme builds on the 8 GW of offshore windfarm projects currently under development and to be delivered by rounds one and two.
If successful, the addition of the capacity from round three would lead to a potential total of 33 GW of wind energy coming from offshore wind resources.
The rapid development of offshore wind capacity is central to the delivery of the UK’s share of the EU target of 20 per cent renewable energy by 2020.
Berwickshire is at the southern end of the potential development for Scotland, which if carried through will start close to Fife and be positioned 12 miles off shore.
A spokesperson for the The Crown Estate said that the east coast of Scotland, along with the other areas cited for windfarms, was identified as an area of great potential after factors such as water depth and wind strength were taken into consideration.
Although no firm details have been given yet as to how many turbines the windfarm will house or how much it is likely to cost, Euan Robson, Chief Executive of the Scottish Sustainable Energy Foundation said that it is a plan which should be welcomed, as long as there is consultation with those who could be affected.
“It is important to note at this stage that the areas are only indicitive and for the windfarms to come into fruition will require an awful lot of work- the condition of the sea bed needs to be looked at as well as the location of the columns and the turbines themselves.
“Here at the Scottish Sustainable Energy Foundation we are obviously behind any efforts to increase sources of renewable energy as long as people are fully aware of what they will entail and any possible repercussions.”
Fishing is still very much a key industry in terms of the Berwickshire economy and Mr Robson said that it is those involved in this sector who need to be consulted primarily.
“The zones designated for windfarms are obviously also areas which are highly important to fishermen, whether it be for catching prawns or white fish. Fishing is still big business for the region and personally I feel that with plenty of consultation an off shore windfarm could have benefits for the industry. It could raise the profile of ports like Eyemouth and the harbour could also become a centre for servicing and repairing of the windfarms.
“Efforts should be made to try and diversify the Berwickshire economy and have other industries to fall back on. Having a servicing and mainteance centre at Eyemouth could create a range of a different types of jobs.”
Mr Robson acknowledged that windfarms are a controversial topic for Berwickshire residents at present, with the most recent plan for a development at Fallago Rig in the Lammermuir Hills going to a public inquiry, but suggested that off shore windfarms don’t have quite the same impact.
“If the windfarms were suggested for sites inshore it would be a completely different story. The fact that the turbines would be 12 miles out to sea means that they would be a lot less visually intrusive and you might not even be able to see them from land. Noise also wouldn’t be an issue as they wouldn’t be in close proximity to any residential areas.
“However, there are still similar issues to be considered when citing a windfarm development offshore. There is currently a windfarm off the Northumberland coast at Blyth and an application has recently made to add additional turbines. However, Newcastle Airport objected to this on the grounds that it could create a shadow in their flightpath.
“As with all other windfarm proposals for both land and sea the mlitary also have to be contacted to see if they will be affected in a similar way- there are a great number of factors to consider.”
A spokesperson for The Crown Estate said that while areas like the east coast of Scotland have been earmarked for development, it’s not envisaged that they will be wholly covered by turbines and added that no definite decisions will be made until the Scottish Government complete their Strategic Environmental Assessment in March next year.
Euan Robson concluded: “I would advise people in Berwickshire to keep an open mind about these proposals and assure them that steps will be taken to make sure any negative impact will be minimal.
“Both the Scottish and English governments are working hard on this and if they are to meet their targets for renewable energy and significantly reduce carbon emissions, off shore windfarm developments like the one proposed for the Berwickshire coast will inevitably become more common.”
By Simon Duke
11 June 2008
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