The controversial proposals to erect giant turbines close to Tiree are hitting delays and uncertainties.
As we know, Scottish Power Renewables (SPR) now will not submit planning applications until the latter half of 2014. Tiree folk have to accept at face value the company’s explanation that this is due to ‘environmental issues’. However, there may be other factors at work to put brakes on SPR’s plans. Citi Group, the global investment bank, warned that investors would be cautious until after the Scottish referendum on independence. These ECONOMIC UNCERTAINTIES were more recently compounded by market worries about the exposure of Scottish Power and its parent company, Iberdrola, to Spanish banks. Spain’s economic crisis is mounting by the day. The issue of the withdrawal of Doosan, the Korean manufacturer who planned to develop offshore turbines in Scotland, was clarified by the company as the result of ‘…the overall economic conditions in Europe’. In other words, the wind energy industry is feeling the windchills of all the economic woes!
A recent SPR update stated it was minded not to place a huge converter station on Tiree. Last week the Oban Times reported that SPR were exploring options via Mull. SPR reasoned that if offshore cabling risked being dredged up it could take months to fix it!
This happened near Tiree two years ago and it took five months to get power transmission back to normal. If this is such a real risk it makes one wonder why the Tiree Array is being proposed in the first place! SPR itself is not allowed to build or own the kind of high voltage equipment needed for these jobs. The transmission network will be constructed by an Offshore Transmission Operator (an OFTO) appointed by OFGEM the energy industry regulator. Had things been on track for Tiree, the OFTO tendering process for the Tiree Array should have been started by now. There is no sign yet of this happening.
The Moray Array made its first moves on this process last November, and it is hoping to submit for planning in 2012. It would appear to the layman, then, that transmission problems for SPR continue to mount and may be contributing to their own planning application delay. NTA has asked for clarification on this from OFGEM and SPR.
The issue of the Tiree Array is now at the heart of Europe! NTA made a presentation to an EU symposium on offshore windfarm environmental issues, including the Blue Carbon question and potential destruction of wildlife, flagged up by NTA itself.
These also may have contributed to SPR’s problems. The meeting was attended by folk from the Scottish Government and Marine Scotland, the planning agency.
WHAT YOU WILL SEE IF THE ARRAY IS BUILT
Regrettably, the Tiree Trust has withdrawn from a previously agreed joint approach with NTA to this question of visuals and the selection of viewpoints on the island. Because of delays, SPR will pursue this issue next year. Last November Marine Scotland announced that it was ‘currently reviewing its licence manual and the consultants working on this will include visual impact.’ This shift on visual impact will replace and update current guidelines and when these are published NTA will consult with the various statutory bodies involved. We’ve told SPR we’ll be doing so. PLEASE REMEMBER THAT THE CONSULTATION PERIOD FOR THE ON-SHORE MAPPING SCENARIO CLOSES ON FRIDAY 27 AUGUST. ALSO BE AWARE THAT CONSTANT UPDATES ON ALL THESE ISSUES AND MORE ARE AVAILABLE ON NTA’S WEBSITE AT www.no-tiree-array.org.uk