Orkney Unveils Ambitious Community Wind Farm Project

Orkney Islands Council’s ambitious plans for 3 community wind farms have been described by Leader of the council James Stockan as essential to decarbonise  our local community.

wind farm project 1

The public were able to view the plans at Kirkwall Town Hall on Thursday 2nd of May. Some councillors and officials were also in attendance to answer questions and provide more information.

OIC’s proposals are to have in total 3 community wind farms located on: Hoy, the uninhabited island of Faray and at Quanterness, Mainland.

The Planning Committee of OIC recently had their objections to Hoolan Energy’s proposed wind farms at Hesta and Costa overturned by The Scottish Government’s Planning and Appeals Division (DPEA Scotland).

Costa & Hesta Wind Farms – Successful Appeals

The Costa and Hesta Wind Farms are promising a community pay back of £5000 per MW.

Lizzie Foot, Development Director of Hoolan Energy, said:

“Local communities will receive £5,000 per MW of annual community benefit fund for each project. This is index linked and lasts for the lifetime of the wind farm, meaning overall community benefit of up to £4.59m. Fuel poverty match funding of over £800,000 has also been offered.  In addition, we are offering shared community ownership of at least 10% in our projects and are committed to ongoing engagement and support to enable Orcadians to take up this offer.”
For James Stockan he sees the OIC Community Wind Farms as supplying a revenue stream. This would far exceed the community pay back that Hoolan Energy has offered.

A new interconnector for Orkney is essential if any of these proposals are to make headway and Councillor Stockan is of the view that the Hesta and Costa windfarms would not make a strong enough case, on their own, for that to be supplied.
The public event in Kirkwall was light on detail with the plans still in the very early stages of development but this was an opportunity for members of the public to share their views and shape the project from the start. Perhaps attendance picked up during the day but by early afternoon few people had visited.

Time Frame

The council aims to have the community wind farm project before the Planning Committee by the end of 2020. Hoolan Energy submitted their planning application in March 2017 after extensive tests and consultations. After being refused by OIC Planning they then went to appeal which has only just been successful. They are aiming to connect to the grid by April 2023. OIC will have to provide a lot more details and hold more public events if they are to meet their time frame of the end of 2020.

Proposals so far
  • Hoy: 7 turbines
  • Quanterness : 6  turbines.
  • Faray: which the council owns, 8 turbines

There are two public events scheduled for Eday ( Tuesday 7 May – Eday Heritage Centre – 12.00 to 16.00 and 19.30 to 21.30) and Rendall (Wednesday 8 May – Rendall Community Centre – 12.30 to 17.00 and 19.00 to 21.00)  with a future one planned for Westray. 

The event in Kirkwall had followed a short statement to the full council that morning by OIC Leader James Stockan on the islands response to the climate change emergency. Councillor Stockan had attended an ‘excellent’ meeting with Roseanne Cunningham, Cabinet Secretary for Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform in the Scottish Government where he had offered Orkney as an example of ‘how things can be done‘. 

Referring to the OIC Plan to become a carbon neutral community,  James Stockan said:

‘our statement has been made 2 years ago…. but we need to reinforce that’. He was supported in this by Depute Leader Leslie Manson.

You can hear that statement 8 minutes in: General Meeting of the Council 2nd May 2019

Orkney’s community wind farm project is incredibly ambitious both in what it wishes to achieve and the time frame it seems to be setting itself. Public engagement is crucial but the response to this first meeting from residents was extremely poor. The economic benefits to the community from the ‘revenue stream’ may not be realised for 25 years but the construction of the infrastructure would itself be a jobs boost.

Localised environmental impact versus a global climate change emergency is a difficult balance to achieve. The People of Orkney will be taking the impact  of the  wind farm developments and if they are to go ahead the community must benefit. They must also have a meaningful say in how that money is spent within their communities.

‘This is not oil reserve fund 2‘, said James Stockan but all the profit will be going into the local community not to replace core Government funding but to continue to make Orkney the best place to live.

Here is a slideshow of some of the information panels

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Reporter: Fiona Grahame

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