Has Orkney Had Enough of Wind Farms?

With its strong tidal currents and huge waves Orkney is today a world leader in marine renewables but it was in 1951 that the first ‘modern’ day wind turbine was erected at Costa Head.

Not far from Costa Head a massive wind turbine was installed at Burgar Hill,Evie. This experimental 2 bladed 3MW  monster was running (on and off) from 1987 finally being demolished in 2001. Burgar Hill now has 6 wind turbines from 1.3MW  to 2.75MW with heights from 76m to 116m.

Orkney abounds in wind turbines. These are mostly small domestic ones located on farms or where a person has a sizable piece of land adjacent to their property. At more than 500 it makes Orkney the holder of the largest number of wind turbines for any county in the whole of the UK.

There are community owned wind turbines on the islands of Westray, Eday, Hoy, Rousay, Stronsay and Shapinsay. The wind farm at Hammars Hill, Mainland,  has 5 wind turbines contributing 4.5MW to the Grid. It  is partly owned by Orkney Islands Council.

It means that Orkney produces more than 100% of its energy requirements through renewables – mostly wind – indeed sometimes turbines have to be switched off when there is over capacity feeding into the National Grid.

It should also be noted that although Orkney is regularly a net exporter of energy it also has the highest rate of fuel poverty in Scotland at 63%.  (Archived story Changes Ahead to Definition of Fuel Poverty)

Orkney Islands Council’s Planning Committee this week rejected 2 wind farms proposed by Hoolan Energy at Costa Head and Hesta Head. The Costa Head application was for 4 turbines up to 125m in height and at Hesta Head for 5 wind turbines also up to 125m in height.

Stating their case on their website Hoolan Energy said:

“Costa Head Wind Farm has been recommended for approval by Orkney Island Council’s planning officers and has received no objections from any of the statutory consultees.  In the report, the Planning Officer states the “employment creation, socio-economic benefits of shared ownership, carbon displacement and contribution towards the needs case for the subsea transmission cable are considered to outweigh landscape and historic environment concerns.”

“Hesta Head Wind Farm has also received no objections from any of the statutory consultees, including no objections from SNH, SEPA and Historic Environment Scotland, however the Council’s planning officer has recommended the project for refusal on landscape impact grounds, stating: “Many issues are already considered to have no unacceptable impact, through design iteration, mitigation, as could be controlled by planning conditions, or a combination. Consideration is finely balanced between the benefits and residual adverse effects. In the end, landscape impact concerns are considered to outweigh employment creation, socio-economic benefits of shared ownership, carbon displacement and contribution towards the needs case for the subsea transmission cable.”

The projects, however,  were met with articulate opposition locally culminating in a demonstration outside the Council Offices and several of the objectors presenting their evidence to the Planning Committee.

Jason Schofield who lives very near to the proposed Costa site explains:

John Crossley representing Orkney Field Club describes his concerns with the developments.

It is possible that Hoolan Energy will appeal the decision of the Planning Committee.

The decision has given hope to others in Orkney concerned about future applications for wind farms. Orkney Islands Council is keen to see a large scale wind farm on the island of Hoy.

In May of this year after a public meeting on Hoy James Stockan, Leader of Orkney Islands Council said:

James Stockan“For the seventh year running, we are having to make a range of cuts to Council services. We expect our Government funding to diminish further over the years ahead, while demand for many of our services continues to grow.

“The Council has to live within its means. Further and more severe cuts will be needed over the years ahead unless we find significant new sources of income.

“A large scale wind farm could make a major contribution towards helping the Council to preserve and enhance key services people value and depend upon.

“Importantly, it could also serve as a transformational source of funding for projects of great value to our community.

“The profits generated would remain in Orkney, for the good of Orkney – supporting initiatives that boost the social and economic wellbeing of the county. This would occur during the lifetime of the wind farm.

“It is important to stress, however, that there are many stages to go through before a decision is taken on whether the project goes ahead and in what form.”

The Hoy wind farm project could see as many as 30 turbines being erected of between 3 and 3.5 MW.

A large part of Hoy is an RSPB reserve.  and this year saw the successful breeding of a pair of Sea Eagles. The north and west of Hoy including the part of the inshore marine area is a Special Protection Area. The island also contains the last remnants of Orkney’s ancient woodland.

hoy rackwick martin laird

Hoy Rackwick Photo Martin Laird

Reporter: Fiona Grahame

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3 replies »

  1. We were thinking we’d better get to Costa Head for a walk, before the turbines appear, and, worse still, start making a racket. But – thank goodness – the permission has been refused. I do have a terrible feeling, as always, that, if it suits the Council to change their mind and agree to the turbines being put in place, then the turbines will appear, after all. That’s how it seems to work here – nothing to do with how the folk living here feel about an issue.

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