It has been nearly a year since An Tirisdeach first reported on the proposal by Scottish Power Renewables (SPR) to explore the possibilities of an Offshore Wind Farm to the west of Tiree.
The UK Government has set ambitious targets for energy supplied from renewable sources and the Scottish Government targets are even higher. The Government’s Strategic Environment Assessment (SEA) is due in any time now and Tiree Trust has been trying to do a report to assess the impact of building and maintaining a large offshore wind farm on the Island, although this report has been restricted by a lack of available funds. When the two reports are finalised there will be a public meeting to update the community.
If the SEA shows that the area around Tiree/Skerryvore could be used, SPR has to carry out bird, marine, environmental and seabed surveys which could take until 2011. Wind masts to measure the wind, one on land and one at Skerryvore will be set up and there will be at least one more year of counting the numbers of birds, fish and Basking sharks as well as creatures that live on the seabed. If the reports in 2011 show in favour of the wind farm it is expected that planning permission will be applied for in 2012.
The application will consist of three requests; One for the off shore Wind Farm. One for shore based infra structure such as changes to roads and the airport for helicopter use and the building of houses, warehouses and relay stations, one out at sea and one on the mainland, to convert the energy, and lastly an application to connect to the grid to get the power to the mainland. The route of this power line has yet to be decided. The only things that may stop the turbines being placed off our coast are;
- Financial: It is estimated that this project will cost around £7.5billion and SPR must prove to their investors that they are able to make a profit from what has been classed as the most difficult area to work in.
- Environmental: Kenovara is a nesting and feeding site for birds. If the location of the farm turns out to be on migratory routes or if it is thought that it may cause harm to Whales, Dolphins Basking Sharks or other marine life.
Possible impacts for the Island are;
- an influx of people during construction – perhaps as many as 250, who may need accommodation on Tiree if they are not housed at sea.
- It is thought that the wind farm could have a 50 year life span, which would mean long term jobs of operating and maintaining the turbines –although there is no guarantee that there would be employment opportunities for local people.
- There will be an increase of air traffic, mainly helicopters, flying over the Island from the airport to get to the site and to the mainland.
- During construction the activities of fishermen in that area will be constrained but this should be a temporary interruption to fishing as afterwards creel fishermen should be allowed to go between the turbines.
One concern is that the people of Tiree have no say in whether or not the off shore wind farm goes ahead. The best we can hope is that we have enough accurate information on the effects of the wind farm on our island to be able to exert pressure on decision makers to ensure the island benefits from this development.
Tiree Trust has been trying to get as much information as possible, with the limited funding that they have, by employing a group of independent consultants to do an impact assessment showing what we can reasonably expect to happen if the project goes ahead, so that when the time comes for meetings with the power companies we will be able to talk with them in an informed manner.
The Trust has formed a partnership called Argyll Renewable Communities (ARC) with the communities of Islay and Kintyre who are facing the same situation. All the information we get gives us a greater understanding of what consequences this development may have so we can ensure that if the off shore wind farm goes ahead we, as an island and as individuals, get as much benefit from it as possible and reduces any possible negative effects.
Scottish Power Renewables has been giving the Trust monthly updates. It is important that they communicate with us as a community to keep us better informed and up to date with what is happening. With in the next few months there will be another public meeting to discuss the progress of the proposed off shore wind farm and it is vital that as many of us as possible attend as this is a development that will have both long term and far reaching effects on the future of Tiree. Meanwhile, the Trust will keep us all informed of any developments through the pages of An Tirisdeach.