New Forth and Tay estuary wind farms could power up to 1.4 million homes, says Scottish government

Out-Law News | 10 Oct 2014 | 4:23 pm | 1 min. read

The Scottish government has approved plans for four major offshore wind projects in the Forth and Tay estuary, which could power up to 1.4 million homes once complete.

The Neart na Gaoithe, Inch Cape Offshore Ltd, Seagreen Alpha and Seagreen Bravo projects could be capable of generating up to 2.28GW of electricity and saving 135 million tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions over their combined lifetimes, according to Scottish government estimates.

Planning and environmental law expert Gary McGovern of Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind Out-Law.com, said that the Neart na Gaoithe project was particularly interesting as it was on track to become the first major offshore wind farm anywhere to be solely funded via project finance.

"This decision is to be welcomed as a sign of Scottish ministers getting back to business and consenting a major project which will make a significant contribution to Scotland's offshore wind industry," he said.

"Along with the Moray and Beatrice developments, the Forth and Tay estuary projects are a strong illustration of the importance of Scotland's offshore wind industry in both generation capacity and construction opportunities," he said.

The Scottish energy minister, Fergus Ewing, said that developers of the four projects would now be entitled to bid for a share of UK government support through an electricity market reform (EMR) contract for difference (CfD). CfDs will provide guaranteed payments to operators of approved renewable generation technology, while enabling the National Grid as system operator to 'claw back' money when prices are high.

"The budget for offshore wind and other less established technologies in the first of these rounds scheduled for autumn is £235 million, thought to be enough to support around 800 MW of offshore wind in UK waters," he said.

"I am determined to ensure communities all over Scotland reap the benefit from renewable energy, which will help to reduce climate emissions. I also want to see the right developments in the right places – the design and location of any onshore and offshore wind farm should reflect the scale and character of the landscape or seascape and should be considered environmentally acceptable," he said.

The projects have been approved subject to strict conditions which will mitigate and monitor a range of potential impacts, including those in relation to birds and other environmental considerations, Ewing said. The projects could generate between £314m and £1.2bn for the Scottish economy and create between 2,567 and 13,612 jobs during the construction period, he said.