Fears that a planned 277-turbine offshore wind farm, potentially worth millions to the Caithness economy, may be in danger of being scrapped have been dismissed as speculation by supporters.
SSE Renewables said it was “carefully assessing” its proposed Beatrice wind farm scheme after it was announced the project had not been named by the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) in its list of 10 most affordable projects to receive £4.5 billion of subsidies.
The firm behind the project announced it was now unlikely to receive an investment contract from the UK government unless one of its 10 preferred options pulled out.
But supporters of the project in Caithness said it was only one source of funding of many.
An SSE Renewables spokeswoman said it was surprised none of its major offshore wind farm projects had been named in the list.
She said it would now have to consider where the announcement leaves the firm in delivering its future projects, which included the Beatrice wind farm.
“We are disappointed with the announcement that Beatrice has not been included in the list of projects deemed ‘provisionally affordable’ under final investment decision enabling process for renewables (FIDeR).
“We will continue to participate in the FIDeR process but, unless a project drops out or additional funds are made available, this means Beatrice is now unlikely to receive an investment contract.
“There are some strong renewable projects at a very advanced stage of development, like our Galloper offshore wind project, that have surprisingly been left out of the process completely.
“We are therefore actively seeking to understand and question precisely how this situation has arisen. For both Galloper and Beatrice we will now need to carefully assess with our partners how we will progress each of these projects.”
The proposed £3 billion development, a joint venture between SSE Renewables and Repsol Nuevas Energias UK, would be located on the north-western point of the Smith Bank, eight miles south-east of Wick.
If the project is given the go-ahead, it is estimated it will provide 1000MW of electricity to power over 796,000 homes and bring up to 950 jobs to the far north.
In June, Highland councillors voted not to raise any objection to the Scottish government for the scheme to be given the go-ahead.
The Scottish government will announce in 2014 whether it will receive approval, with construction estimated to begin in 2015 and take three years.
Caithness and North Sutherland Regeneration Partnership programme manager Eann Sinclair said until the wind farm is given approval for construction, it was too early to suggest it may not happen.
“My understanding of the DECC scheme is it is only one potential funding source of a number to finance the project,” he said.
“It is way too early for anyone to make any judgements about the future of the project.
“It will be a case of wait and see but the project is not even at the stage of consent to develop and we will not know until into the spring whether we have a better understanding of what will happen.”
Earlier this year, Wick harbour was given £450,000 from Highlands and Islands Enterprise and the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority to improve facilities at the port to meet the needs of the offshore renewable industry, estimating developments could create up to 300 jobs.
Wick Harbour Authority chairman Willie Watt declined to comment on SSE’s announcement until more information had been made available, dismissing it as speculation.
Moray Offshore Renewables Ltd (MORL) has also announced plans to build the world’s biggest offshore wind farm off the Caithness coast.
In March, Highland councillors gave their approval to the £4.5 billion project to build 339 turbines 13km from the east coast.
|Wind Watch relies entirely
on User Funding