August 2, 2011

Plan for giant windfarm to power city

By DAVID McCANN, Edinburgh Evening News, 2 August 2011

A huge offshore wind farm capable of powering Edinburgh will connect to the National Grid through East Lothian, under fledgling proposals by a leading renewable energy firm.

Up to 130 turbines – between 80m and 120m high – could be installed 30km north of Dunbar as part of the £1.2 billion project led by Irish group Mainstream Renewable Power, which won exclusive rights to develop in an area of the outer Forth Estuary two years ago.

Dubbed Neart na Gaoithe, a Gaelic phrase meaning “might of the wind”, the wind farm could power up to 335,000 homes, but up to 75 turbines may be visible from parts of the East Lothian coastline.

A cable delivering power from the offshore plot to the National Grid would come ashore just south of Torness before connecting further inland at Crystal Rig wind farm in the Lammermuir Hills. The connection cannot be made at Torness Power Station because it would require “major infrastructure” changes and force the station to close for around two weeks.

At a consultation meeting in Dunbar, fears were voiced about the environmental impact of the hub and potential hazards to marine wildlife.

Speaking later, Kate Thomas, secretary of Dunbar Community Council, said: “We raised concerns about the environmental impact of the turbines particularly with marine life and birds, but this is an early assessment they are carrying out that has yet to be concluded.

“There were not too many concerns generally, but it is early days for the project and until they have submitted a planning application they can’t really go into much detail.”

Tom Brock OBE, chief executive of the Scottish Seabird Centre in North Berwick, said: “To reduce the effects of climate change, the Seabird Centre is in favour of suitable renewable energy projects in appropriate locations. However, there are many issues which must be taken into account.

“As we are committed to the care of the natural environment, we look forward to having the opportunity to review the environmental impact assessment in detail. The Firth of Forth is rich with wildlife and this is a priority for us.”

A report commissioned by Marine Renewable Power indicates that monthly wildlife surveys in the Neart na Gaoithe study area began in November 2009 and will continue for two years. Surveys are either concluded or ongoing in the following areas; marine, mammals, birds, socio-economics, geophysical and preliminary geotechnical conditions, shipping and navigation, commercial fishing and fish ecology,” said the report.

“A model is being developed to determine potential noise impacts on marine mammals fish and bird species.

“This will consider cumulative effects.”

In terms of a socio- economic boost for East Lothian, the report said: “This development has potential to have an effect, at both the regional and local level, particularly on employment and other sea users. Potential effects are being assessed over the short and long term.”

The wind farm, which would have a 40-year lifespan, would have to be reviewed by the Scottish Government, which will make a decision over whether to grant consent to the plan

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