The Scottish Government approved plans for an offshore wind testing centre despite admitting it would have an impact on tourism and recreation in the north-east.
First Minister Alex Salmond insisted previously that the country’s successful tourism industry would grow alongside the development of offshore windfarms.
But a report – which helped form the basis of Energy and Tourism Minister Fergus Ewing’s approval of the European Offshore Wind Deployment Centre (EOWDC) – highlighted an “adverse visual impact” on Royal Aberdeen, Murcar Links and Trump International golf clubs.
Mr Ewing insisted last night that the 100MW project – a joint venture between Vattenfall, the Aberdeen Renewable Energy Group (Areg) and Technip Offshore Wind – was of national economic significance and the benefits outweighed the negative effects.
The government, which claims the offshore wind sector will support 28,000 jobs by 2020, said it was key to developing technologies to meet renewables targets.
However, Mr Ewing was unable to say how many jobs would be created during the construction phase of the testing centre and whether the turbines would be made in Scotland.
A report prepared by government agency Marine Scotland said the development would support only 25 jobs over the project’s 22-year lifetime – which the report described as “768 job years” worth of employment.
It also revealed that SNP ministers accepted wind power was “variable and cannot be relied on as a constant source of power”.
The report said, however, it was a necessary component of a balanced energy mix for Scotland.
And the Scottish Government said studies showed that most of tourists were generally positive towards windfarms.
US property developer Donald Trump, who has vowed to take legal action to stop the testing centre being built in sight of his £750million golf resort at the Menie Estate near Balmedie, hit out at the revelations. “This could potentially create just 25 jobs – but that is not what they are presenting to people,” he said.
“For them to talk about 800 job years may be the most disingenuous thing I have ever heard.
“I don’t know how they can sit there with a straight face and talk about all the jobs this will create – it is disgraceful.”
The Trump Organisation’s international development director, George Sorial, said: “Fergus Ewing is the minister for both tourism and for energy – so which one is more important to him? You don’t need to commission a great big study to come to the conclusion that tourism and an industrial zone do not mix.”
The report said the government accepted there was a risk of some adverse effect on tourism both in relation to the other golf courses and more generally. But it added that ministers noted there were golf courses elsewhere in the UK that “co-exist” with offshore windfarm developments.
Mr Ewing said the turbines would have the capacity to produce enough electricity to power the equivalent of 49,000 homes in Aberdeen.
Michael Rieley, policy manager for industry group Scottish Renewables, said offshore windfarms were more productive than land-based ones.
“In the current European market, offshore wind turbines are typically 4MW in size,” he said. “This is compared to onshore wind turbines, which are around 2MW. These larger turbines, coupled with wind speeds that are much greater off the coast that on the land, mean that offshore turbines can provide us with a significant amount of electricity.”
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