Struan Stevenson: The Moray Firth offshore turbine plan is a step too far

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PLANS for a gigantic offshore development in the Moray Firth, billed as the world’s largest offshore wind farm with 339 turbines at a cost of £4.5 billion, are completely unsustainable economically.

Developers claim this vast array could supply the electricity needs of “800,000 to one million households”, but closer inspection reveals the usual spin expected from the energy companies.

First, although the project may be “capable” of supplying the electricity needs of up to one million households, this is supposing they operate at 100 per cent efficiency, yet the load factor of offshore turbines is only around 30 per cent on average. The real output of this huge project is therefore more likely to cater to the energy needs of less than a third of the promised number of household users.

Secondly, over their 20-year lifespan these turbines will require constant repair and maintenance due to the harsh oceanic conditions in which they operate, so we will still have to rely on constant base-load back-up from coal or gas-fired power stations to keep the lights burning when the turbines aren’t spinning.

The conclusion has to be that the SNP is determined to give monstrous projects like this the go-ahead because it fulfils the dogmatic prophecies of its new renewables religion, whatever the cost. The vast subsidies for this and other offshore wind farms are simply passed straight down the line to electricity consumers, leading to repeated hikes in our bills and driving more than 900,000 Scottish households into actual fuel poverty.

Meanwhile, the devastating visual impact of this development will destroy tourism around Caithness and the Moray Firth. In addition, sinking the enormous concrete and steel foundations over 114 sq miles of seabed will have a catastrophic impact on marine ecosystems and sea mammals, and the long-term noise and vibration from the 339 giant turbines will drive most sea life out of this formerly productive fishery.

Anyone who thinks this is a suitable contribution to a sustainable low-carbon economy should think again. We cannot afford it and we should not be trying to do so to satisfy the vanity of a Scottish Government hooked on the wrong solutions for our energy needs.
• Struan Stevenson is a Conservative MEP for Scotland