The next phase of a project looking at how a large scale wind farm could generate significant income and community benefit for Orkney has been announced at a public meeting in Hoy.
The meeting heard that after assessing a number of potential sites, Orkney Islands Council plans to undertake a detailed investigation to see if land to the west of Lyness would be suitable for a substantial wind energy development.
OIC Leader James Stockan said: “We are taking an enterprising approach to tackling the considerable financial challenges we face. It would be remiss of us if we failed to fully explore a project of this kind, which could be of enormous benefit to Orkney.
“By identifying a potential site, we have now reached a significant milestone. This is why we wanted to give the local community the first opportunity to hear and ask questions about the project and what happens next.”
Last year, the Council invited landowners in Orkney to put forward suitable sites for a large scale wind farm.
The site the Council plans to look at in more detail lies to the south of Wee Fea, the hill behind Lyness which contains underground wartime oil tanks. The landowner has consented to investigation work being carried out.
Councillor Stockan said: “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 Scottish Government has been provided with initial information about the project.
Bird and ground surveys will be carried out over the months ahead as part of the site investigation work and it is planned that wind measuring equipment will be installed in due course.
In addition, a grid connection has been applied for. As this can be a lengthy process, it is important to do this well ahead of any decision being made on whether to submit a full planning application.
A grid connection for the project would depend on upgrades between Orkney and the Scottish mainland. Latest estimates suggest that these could be in place by 2022. This would represent the earliest date the wind farm could be operational.
An initial assessment indicates that the site could house up to 30 wind turbines each of 3 to 3.5 megawatt (MW) capacity. These figures are likely to change as the site investigation work is undertaken.
As the wind farm, if it went ahead, would have the capacity to generate more than 50 MW of electricity, any planning application would be considered and decided by the Scottish Government.
Councillor Stockan added: “The Council is looking at how best to take forward a major project of this kind, in a way which would generate the maximum community benefit for Orkney.
“We are well aware that wind farm developments attract a range of views – and that we need to consider the full range of impacts such a development could have.
“We will keep the local and wider community closely involved as the project progresses. A comprehensive consultation exercise will be carried out if the next phase of work indicates that it is worth developing a detailed proposal for the project.”