March 19, 2013

Highland councillors back offshore wind plans

By ALISTAIR MUNRO | Published on Tuesday 19 March 2013 |

Highland councillors have given their full backing to controversial plans for the world’s largest offshore wind farm off the Caithness coast – saying the economic benefits far outweigh any concerns from objectors.

The £4.5billion project would see up to 339 turbines, some reaching 670ft above sea level, in the Moray Firth, covering a total of 114 square miles.

Anti-windfarm campaigners claim the project proposed by Moray Offshore Renewables Ltd (Morl) – made up of a consortium of energy firms – would destroy marine wildlife and be ‘a blot on the landscape’.

But Highland Council’s North Planning Applications Committee unanimously supported their planning officials’ recommendation to “raise no objection” to the development.

Caithness Councillor Bill Fernie said: “This would bring significant economic benefits to the area, particularly ports along the coast including Wick.

“If these are successful and work the possibility is they [windfarm developers] will keep exploiting that field and others in the area.

“It could be a beginning to a huge industry at sea. We have the experienced people who could be employed here.”

A report to councillors said the economic benefit to Scotland was £312, while the north of Scotland would reap £113million.

Morl is a joint venture between Spanish/Portuguese firm EDP Renewables and Spanish oil and gas company Repsol Nuevas Energias.

The proposal has attracted vocal opposition from a number of campaigners, including American tycoon Donald Trump, who is fighting plans for a similar offshore windfarm off the Menie Estate where he has his Aberdeenshire golf course.

Morl say the proposals represented the culmination of three years of development work, data gathering, extensive environmental studies and broad consultation.

Work, if approved, would start in 2015, with completion by 2020.

The wind farm, they claim, could produce up to 1,500MW of power – about the same as a conventional power station – providing power for over one million homes.

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