SPECULATION about the future of the controversial offshore wind farm being opposed by tycoon Donald Trump intensified today as the developers announced a two year delay in their plans to connect the scheme to the National Grid.
Concerns about the fate of the £230 million Aberdeen Bay wind farm project were first raised earlier this year when Swedish company Vattenfall – Europe’s sixth-largest generator of electricity – announced plans to put its 75 per cent stake in the venture up for sale.
Vattenfall is spearheading the plan for the construction of the European Offshore Wind Deployment Centre (EOWDC) in Aberdeen Bay together with the Aberdeen Renewable Energy Group (AREG) and engineering company Technip Offshore Wind.
The consortium has now announced that the schedule for the cutting-edge 11 turbine demonstration scheme has now been pushed back by two years from 2015 to 1017 “to help secure the development’s future.”
A spokeswoman for the consortium said: “The shareholders in Aberdeen Offshore Wind Farm Ltd (AOWFL) now expect to connect the wind farm up to two years after originally scheduled following acceptance of an offer from National Grid, the system operator.
“The amendment to the schedule, which was prompted by the project shareholders, allows continued engagement with potential investment partners and takes into account the ongoing onshore planning issues as well as existing legal challenges to the offshore consent.”
Peter Wesslau, the UK manager for Vattenfall and a Director of AOWFL, said: “As with any development of this nature, the project partners continuously review its progress and this includes building in scope for all possible eventualities. As part of this process, the project partners have always been aware that its aspirations to generate first power by late 2015 might not be in step with the progress of the project and indeed, that of the industry.
“Therefore, in the best interests of the project, we have worked to successfully modify the grid connection date. We will also explore opportunities for an earlier grid connection than 2017 in step with the progress of EOWDC, which is recognised by industry as strategically important to accelerating the offshore wind industry across Scotland, the UK and Europe – particularly in the current, challenging economic climate.”
Morag McCorkindale, AREG’s chief operating officer, insisted: “Our in-depth knowledge and experience of the industry continues to reaffirm our belief that the EOWDC is vital and will deliver huge benefits. The potential for the UK’s offshore wind industry is phenomenal with an estimated value of £100billion. Lessons learned and skills developed through the EOWDC will also be exportable enabling our companies to win new business across the globe.”
A Scottish Government spokesman said : “The EOWDC will play a key role in developing Scotland’s huge offshore wind potential. This announcement ensures that the project continues to move forward.”
Lang banks, the director of environmental campaign group WWF Scotland, said: “While we’re disappointed with the delay, it’s great to hear that a new grid connection date has been secured with National Grid by the developer.”
He continued: “It’s also good to know that Donald Trump’s misguided attempts at frustrating Scotland’s ambition to create clean power and green jobs has not put the developer off from continuing to progress this important facility.
“Once up and running, this test facility would be ideally placed to help test the technologies needed to harness the huge offshore renewables potential, ensuring learning by industry, and playing an important role in helping to drive down costs.”
George Sorial, the executive vice- president of the Trump Organisation, said: “Vattenfall and AREG should just come clean and admit that there is no funding for the EOWDC project because, after more than a decade of languishing in the planning process, their proposal has amounted to nothing more than empty promises.”