Fresh doubts were raised today about the future of the controversial offshore wind farm being opposed by Donald Trump.
Speculation about the fate of the contentious project intensified after Swedish company Vattenfall – Europe’s sixth-largest generator of electricity – announced plans to put its 75 per cent stake in the venture up for sale.
The shock announcement came only a day after test drilling investigations to pave the way for the construction of the European Offshore Wind Deployment Centre (EOWDC) got underway today in Aberdeen Bay.
The EOWDC – a £230million experimental offshore wind farm development – is being spearheaded by Vattenfall, together with the Aberdeen Renewable Energy Group (AREG), and engineering company Technip Offshore Wind.
The consortium today announced that new investors were being sought for the EOWDC following Vattenfall’s decision to put its shares in the venture on the market.
A spokeswoman for the consortium said: “The partners behind the European Offshore Wind Deployment Centre (EOWDC) have called on the offshore wind sector to back the pioneering scheme with new investment. The call comes after Vattenfall, the majority shareholder in the company behind the more than £230 million scheme, today said it is confident it will secure new investment through a dilution of its shareholding in the company behind the project.
“It also said that it would continue to develop the scheme along with project partners Technip Offshore Wind and the Aberdeen Renewable Energy Group (AREG) throughout the process.”
She continued: “Vattenfall, which has already invested around £5million in the 11-turbine scheme, is confident that the strategic importance of demonstration sites like the EOWDC will lead to high levels of interest in the project from potential investors and therefore ensure that sufficient capital funds are made available to realise its full potential.”
Peter Wesslau, Vattenfall’s UK manager, said: “Vattenfall’s future investment will focus on sustainable heat and electricity production by transforming the production to low emitting technologies, by delivering smart energy solutions to consumers and achieving a sustainable economic performance by pursuing excellence in everything we do.
“The EOWDC is a scheme that will benefit the whole offshore wind industry as it will help to drive down the cost of generation and secure industrial benefits for the UK. We therefore believe that the EOWDC deserves wider support through the forging of a strategic industrial alliance.”
He continued: “However, like all energy companies across Europe, there are constraints on our capital budgets and so Vattenfall has had to prioritise its investments which means calling on new investors to help realise the more than £230million investment in the EOWDC.
“Vattenfall, as one of three development partners behind the EOWDC, wants to see the scheme generate first power in 2015. That is why we continue to progress the development of the scheme.”
Morag McCorkindale, chief operating officer at AREG – which was behind the original concept for the EOWDC – played down concerns about the fate of the controversial scheme.
She said: “We believe that attracting investment from the wider industry will make for an even more compelling proposition for Scotland.
“It offers an opportunity for collaboration and to increase the number of representatives in the consortium would hugely benefit the project as well as both the public and industrial sectors in terms of jobs creation and inward investment.
“An industry-wide partnership, determined to deliver a successful test facility, sharing in the cost of construction and collectively reaping the benefits of a world class facility is precisely the model needed to make the UK’s offshore wind industry a world leader. The fact that a development of this scale is being delivered in Aberdeen where the public and private sector work extremely well further underlines the potential.”
Ron Cookson, Senior Vice President, Technip Offshore Wind said: “Through our role in delivering engineering and project management services to the EOWDC during the development and implementation phases, Technip believes it is working on a project that will benefit the Offshore Wind industry for years to come through the safe and effective deployment and demonstration of new wind turbine and related technologies.”
As news of the shock announcement spread, North East Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald called on the Scottish Government to intervene and ensure that the Aberdeen Bay scheme goes ahead.
He said: “The world’s leading renewable energy companies will be meeting in Aberdeen on 22 May, at the All-Energy conference. I hope one of these firms will take up this excellent project, and make sure all the work done so far is not wasted.”
Mr Macdonald continued: “It is essential the Scottish Government starts work right now to save this project and find an operating partner to take it forward. The European Union has already committed €40 million to Aberdeen Bay; now the SNP has to match that commitment.
“Alex Salmond loves to talk about his support for renewable energy. This is a chance for him to put his money where his mouth is.”
Two months ago Donald Trump pulled the plug on any future investment in his £750 million resort after the Scottish Government gave the go-ahead to the “monstrous” offshore wind farm he claims will blight the future development of the Menie estate.
Trump has hired Gordon Steele QC, one of Scotland’s top legal planning experts, to lead a court challenge against the Scottish Government’s decision to grant approval for the EOWDC.
Tom Smith, chairman of ACSEF, the local economic forum, said: “The EOWDC is a ground-breaking project which has the potential to put Aberdeen City and Shire right at the heart of the research and development around next generation offshore wind.
“Within Scotland’s energy corridor – Energetica – alongside the potential carbon capture and storage project and a growing cluster of energy technology firms, it helps build a compelling proposition for the region to become the home of the next age of energy.”
He added: “It will act as a catalyst to attract a supply chain of developers, suppliers and manufacturers, who will in turn create jobs and wealth in the economy. The EOWDC is in a robust position with much of the feasibility and initial studies already carried out and consent granted. There now exists a major opportunity to bring in more investment through one or more partners to realise the vision, spread the risk and share the rewards.”
Donald Trump said: “This is just a nice way of them bowing out gracefully. No investor would be stupid enough to go anywhere near this project because it will lose tens of millions each year.”
But Lang Banks, the WWF Scotland director insisted: “While it’s disappointing Vattenfall is having to reduce its stake in the development, it’s also clear they’re not abandoning the scheme. In fact, this week the company even began expensive preparation works at the site.”
He added: “As a site strategically important to the development of offshore wind in Scotland we call upon others companies to step forward to help make the centre a success. Alongside increased energy efficiency, offshore wind will be one of the main ways Scotland is going to be able create green jobs and cut climate emissions in the future.”
|Wind Watch relies entirely
on User Funding