£100,000 a year was put on the table as a possible amount that local community councils in the West Mainland could receive if the proposed Costa Head Wind Farm gets the go ahead.
At a packed meeting in the Birsay Hall chaired by Ian Harcus, Evie & Rendall community council, the 150 strong audience heard from Hoolan Energy developers about the site. Not present at the meeting was any representative from Scottish and Southern Energy which meant many questions could not be answered with any certainty.
Lizzie Foot of Hoolan Energy told the meeting that the Costa Head Wind farm will consist of 5 turbines, 125m in height of 20.4MW. It will also include a substation, a small car park with electric car power points and improved paths. Questions were also taken by Tom Campbell of Hoolan Energy who dealt with many of the concerns raised by some members of the audience.
Doubts were cast over the visual representations of the turbines and the impact they would have on the landscape and tourism. Reassurances were given that protected species of birds would not be harmed by the blades. And one member of the public was concerned that the possibility of lights on top of the turbines would make viewing of the Aurora Borealis much more limited.
A question was also raised about the financial viability of Low Carbon, the parent company of Hoolan Energy and indeed of Hoolan Energy itself.
Due to the lack of any presence from SSE the many concerns raised about the actual route across Mainland that cables would take, could not be answered. The cost of this was also undetermined.
With the UK government withdrawing financial support for onshore wind Hoolan Energy were hopeful that a case could be made for government to restore investment in island wind developments.
Asked if they would appeal should Orkney Islands Council refuse them permission, Tom Campbell, replied that it would depend on the grounds for refusal. Any appeal of that nature would have to be made to the Scottish Government.
Future renewable energy generation in Orkney is now totally limited by the lack of a grid connection to the UK mainland. Hoolan Energy is one of many developers in Orkney who will be unable to proceed without the installation of an additional subsea cable.
If Costa Head Wind Farm gets the go ahead construction would start in 2021 and take about 12 months to complete with the proviso that there is a National Grid connection in 2022. The wind farm would have a limited life of 25 years with decommissioning taking place after that and reassurances that the land would return to the way it was. It was not known if the power lines would remain in place.
Hoolan Energy wish to engage with the local community through more meetings and a Community Liason Forum. Public meetings are also being held by SSE when hopefully more questions will be answered.
The projected £100,000 per annum for local communities would be index linked and would be paid whether or not the wind blew. How local communities receive this money is different across Scotland and there has been no decision made in Orkney if this would go straight to OIC or to community councils.
Reporter: Fiona Grahame
SSE West Mainland Meetings (meetings taking place across Orkney)
Rendall: 2nd March, 1400 – 19:30
Finstown: 3rd March, 1400 – 1930