Scottish Projects Uncork Big UK Offshore Wind Round

It could change – it already has, a few times – but the planning applications just submitted for the EDP/Repsol wind developments in the Moray Firth of Scotland say it will add up to 1.5 gigawatts of new energy-generating capacity.

The news that detailed applications were received by Marine Scotland – the first in the UK’s “Round 3” offshore wind build-out – was greeted with headlines calling this the “world’s biggest offshore wind farm.” But at the risk of splitting hairs, it should be noted that the 339-turbine plan actually consists of three projects – each 400 to 500 GW – which would be built separately (though consecutively, according to Wind Power Offshore).

offshore wind, moray firth

image via Shutterstock

Meanwhile, in an adjacent zone in the firth, SSE Renewables and Repsol last year applied through the Scottish Territorial Waters leasing round to build a 920 megawatt wind farm. Recharge News reported that the Beatrice Offshore Windfarm is “likely to be a year or two ahead of Moray Firth in terms of its development timeline.”

But even that project doesn’t top the 2.2 GW Rhiannon Wind Farm proposed for the Irish Sea. The developers there expect to submit an application before the end of next year.

The point being, the idea of a single “biggest wind farm” might become obsolete in Round 3, as the UK dots an increasingly large amount of its coastal waters with wind turbines. RenewablesUK, the industry group, said up to 18 GW could become operational over the next eight years.

“We’re marking a watershed moment as Round Three starts to become a reality with this planning application,” Chief Executive Maria McCaffery said in a statement. “It’s the first of many coming forward. As well as delivering secure supplies of low carbon electricity to British homes and businesses, our global leadership role in offshore wind can provide tens of thousands of jobs across the country, building and maintaining these turbines.”

The 1.5 GW Moray Firth project had previously been discussed [PDF] by developers EDP and Repsol as a three-site project with a total capacity of 1,000-1,140 MW [PDF] and 1.3 GW.

Even at the smaller end of the range we’re talking massive – hundreds of turbines – and not everyone in Scotland is eager to see it — literally — come to pass.

“They are going to be in people’s eyes and in their windows,” Stuart Young, a consultant for Communities Against Turbines Scotland and chairman of Caithness Windfarm Information Forum, told the Scotsman newspaper. “It will be inescapable. They will be a blot on the landscape which will be left for future generations to deal with.”

And of course, we can’t fail to mention the most famous critic of Scottish offshore wind development, Donald Trump, who was moved to activism when a offshore wind test site was seeking permission to build within view of his seaside golf course development.

Pete Danko is a writer and editor based in Portland, Oregon. His work has appeared in Breaking Energy, National Geographic's Energy Blog, The New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle and elsewhere.

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