Drilling work for a controversial £230million wind energy development off the Aberdeen coast starts today.
Backers of the scheme described the seabed exploration as an “exciting step” in the process of establishing an 11-turbine testing facility. The Scottish Government approved plans for the European Offshore Wind Deployment Centre (EOWDC) in March.
However, US property developer Donald Trump, who is building a £750million golf resort at nearby Menie Estate, has pledged to fight the decision in the courts.
The Trump Organisation’s executive vice-president, GeorgeSorial, last night dismissed the start of work as “smoke and mirrors” and said a writ would be filed at the Court of Session next week.
EOWDC spokesman Iain Todd said the companies behind the project – Vattenfall, Aberdeen Renewable Energy Group (Areg) and Technip – would “cross each bridge” as it came.
And he revealed that plans for an onshore electricity substation at Blackdog, which have been deferred twice by Aberdeenshire Council, would still move forward if planning permission for the “preferred” site was denied.
Almost the entire village of Blackdog has opposed the development, which would feed electricity generated by the 600ft structures into the national grid.
However, Mr Todd said alternative options had been identified in the event of refusal by the local authority.
“We have looked at a number of possible sites, but we will be continuing to work on the issues raised by the planning committee,” he added.
When asked about the Trump Organisation’s opposition, he said: “We will cross each bridge as we come to it, but today’s news is about this very welcome and exciting development.”
The work will involve drilling a series of boreholes about two miles off the coast of Aberdeen at four of the 11 planned turbine sites.
Surveys will be carried out in water ranging in depth from 7298ft and are expected to last 10 days.
The offshore work will be carried out by Fugro Geo-Consulting using the drilling vessel Markab and is backed by the Carbon Trust’s research and development scheme, the Offshore Wind Accelerator.
Mr Todd said the investigations could demonstrate “innovative foundation designs” and would provide valuable information to help the UK lower the cost of offshore wind energy.
He added: “The geotechnical surveys, which are being conducted as part of the overall development process, will help us gain a further understanding of what is under the seabed and enable us to progress with foundation type selection and design.”
Phil de Villiers, head of offshore wind at the CarbonTrust, said theEOWDC provided a “tremendous opportunity” for the industry to demonstrate “novel” foundations tailored to deeper waters.
He added: “The new designs have tremendous potential to drive down the cost of offshore wind, and demonstration at EOWDC will show they are ready for commercial use.”
Mr Sorial said the Trump Organisation would be filing its writ, which will challenge the legal procedures followed during the planning process, with the Court of Session in Edinburgh next week.
He said: “Today’s announcement is nothing more than smoke and mirrors from a desperate developer that knows the project will not survive legal scrutiny.”
The latest development on the EOWDC comes against a backdrop of negative publicity for Vattenfall, one of the lead companies in the project.
Profits at the Swedish firm, which is cutting 2,500 jobs across Europe, dropped by 55% from £1.6billion in the first quarter last year to £831million this year.
The figures were published just days after the board revealed chief executive Oystein Loseth was being investigated over claims that he took a bribe during a 2009 business deal.
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