Orkney Islands Council plans to erect 6 wind turbines on the island of Faray as part of the Orkney Community Windfarm Project. The Scottish Government approved the planning application on 21st of December 2022, with conditions.
The decision has been welcomed by Leader of OIC James Stockan who said that the Scottish Government “clearly understood the potential economic benefits of ‘Orkney’s Community Wind Farm Project”. It’s all part of a deal with Ofgem who will only approved of a new 220MW subsea cable to export Orkney’s energy south into the National Grid if the plans for massive increased generation in the islands go ahead.
James Stockan said :
“Planning permission for Faray is the final piece in the Orkney’s Community Wind Farm Project jigsaw. It’s been a long road to get to this point, with some hefty delays outwith our control. With planning permission now in place and the Needs Case expected to be met, our project team will now be working to bring further reports to elected members on the next steps.”
Orkney Constituency MSP Liam McArthur, LibDem, has reiterated his support for a new transmission connection between Orkney and the Scottish mainland following Ofgem’s backing of a 1.8-gigawatt subsea cable to the Western Isles.
Liam McArthur said:
“Ofgem’s green light for an interconnector to the Western Isles signals a long overdue shift in government and regulatory policy.
“As SSEN have rightly pointed out, this now provides a clear route for a similar transmission link to Orkney. This is absolutely essential in fulfilling our islands world-leading renewable potential and protecting associated high-value local jobs.
“It is also critical in the context of meeting our ambitious net-zero targets and securing our energy security which has come increasingly to the fore this year. The case for an Orkney interconnector commands strong cross-party support. Ofgem must now outline how this can finally become a reality.”
This is what will be done to Faray:
Erect 6 Wind Turbines (Maximum Height 149.9 Metres, Maximum Wind Farm Capacity 50Mw) With An Indicative Capacity Of 28.8 Mw, Erect A Meteorological Mast (Maximum Height 90 Metres) And A Substation, Construct Access Tracks, Crane Hardstandings, Underground Cabling, Transformers And A Slipway And Jetty, Create A Borrow Pit And Associated Infrastructure
CIN-330-001 (Called-in application)
The reporter appointed by the Scottish Government to consider the case was Mr Michael Shiel MA(Cantab) Bphil. His recommendation was that planning permission be refused.
The island of Faray is uninhabited by humans but it is an important habitat for wildlife, especially the rare grey seal.
The report comments on the landscape and visual impact. The development will alter this landscape completely.
“The development would have a major adverse impact on the landscape character of the island of Faray, becoming the dominant and defining feature of the Landscape Character Unit (LCU), and overwhelming the small scale and low height of the existing topography and the island’s other landscape characteristics.
It would also have an adverse indirect effect on the nearby LCUs of Holm of Faray and Rusk Holm because of their proximity to the development and very small size. The development would have a lesser, but still significant adverse impact on a number of nearby LCUs.
The proposed turbines would have a major, adverse visual impact when seen from a number of viewpoints on the west coast of Eday and the south-east coast of Westray. They would also have a major adverse visual impact when seen from passing ferries. Although the visual impact would inevitably be less severe at greater distances, the height of the proposed turbines would ensure that they would be visible from a number of viewpoints, with some adverse impact.
There would also be some adverse cumulative impacts, primarily with the existing wind farm at Spur Ness, on Sanday, but also potentially with the consented Quanterness wind farm, on Mainland, in terms of the sequential visual impact experienced by ferry passengers.
The proposed turbines would have a significant adverse impact on the visual amenity of residential properties on the west coast of Eday within about three kilometres of the development. They would not, however, reach the threshold of making such properties unattractive places in which to live”
“The development would have a significant adverse impact on the cultural heritage of the island, most particularly in terms of its impact on the setting of the Quoy Chambered Cairn Scheduled Monument.
The visual impact of the proposed wind farm on the abandoned settlement and other features of the former occupation of Faray would also have a negative effect on its overall cultural heritage.”
Mike Sheil’s assessment also considered the impact of wildlife. The report does not see ‘a significant adverse impact on any bird species’ provided there are mitigation measures put in place.
The major issue is with the grey seal population.
The windfarm development falls within the Faray and Holm of Faray Special Area of Conservation (SAC) and Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). The windfarm and all the infrastructure construction required will ‘have a significant effect on the grey seal qualifying population of the SAC’.
Grey seals are the rarest seals in the world.
In the UK as a whole grey seal numbers dropped to a bare 500 in the early 20th Century. It is estimated that today numbers for the UK are 120,000 grey seals, representing 40% of the world’s population and 95% of the European population.
Faray and Holm of Faray Extra-Regio, Highlands and Islands These two uninhabited islands in the northern part of Orkney support a well-established grey seal Halichoerus grypus breeding colony. The seals tend to be found in areas where there is easy access from the shore, and freshwater pools on the islands appear to be particularly important. The islands support the second-largest breeding colony in the UK, contributing around 9% of annual UK pup production.JNCC Grey Seals
In his report Mike Shiel concluded that his refusal to grant permission was summed up as follows:
“I conclude that the adverse effects of the proposed development would significantly and demonstrably outweigh its benefits. I believe that the island of Faray is not the right place for a wind farm of this scale. All told, therefore, I conclude that the proposal would be contrary to the development plan, and that there are insufficient other material considerations to warrant granting planning permission.”
Despite the report by the reporter, expert Mike Sheil, Scottish Government Ministers took the decision to approve the plan by Orkney Islands Council. Click on this link to access the decision: Decision Letter from Scottish Government Ministers
Click on this link for the report by Mike Sheil: Report to the Scottish Ministers
Please read the report which you can access through all the links posted within the article.
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