ScottishPower has scrapped plans for a £5.4bn wind farm off the west coast of Scotland, saying the seabed was too hard, the waves were too big – and it had discovered of hundreds of basking sharks in the area.
The ‘Argyll Array’ had been in planning since 2009 and would have involved the construction of as many as 300 turbines, each up to 662 feet tall, to the west of the island of Tiree.
It could have generated power for up to one million households but would have been dependent on high government subsidies and faced fierce opposition from local campaigners who warned it would be an “environmental disaster”.
In the latest blow for Government hopes to develop a vast offshore wind industry, Spanish-owned ScottishPower said it believed it would be too expensive to build a wind farm at the site for at least a decade because development of the necessary technology for the hard ground had been “slower than anticipated”.
It warned that “the current outlook for offshore wind deployment in the UK suggests this will not significantly improve in the short term”.
ScottishPower’s decision comes just weeks after Germany’s RWE announced it was scrapping the £4bn Atlantic Array project off the North Devon coast.
RWE and ScottishPower have both insisted their decisions relate to specific problems with the site – but both companies had also recently warned that investing in the UK was becoming less attractive because of policy uncertainty and political rows about energy company profits.
Announcing the scrapping of Argyll Array, ScottishPower said: “The main issues affecting the progression of the project are the ground conditions in the site, particularly the presence of hard rock, coupled with challenging wave conditions which could impact construction.
“Beyond this, there is a significant presence of basking sharks, which environmental groups continue to study to get a greater understanding of their movements in the area.”
Basking sharks, which are a protected species, were known to be present in the region but the company is understood to have encountered hundreds of the sharks – far more than expected.
The RSPB had warned that it would be “challenging to deliver a development on this site that does not cause significant environmental impacts”.
ScottishPower had originally hoped to build the Argyll Array project by 2018 but it had already been delayed to at least 2020 while it carried out more assessments of the area.
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