Tuesday 23 April 2024
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Ocean Kinetics - The Engineering Experts

Energy / Plans for offshore wind farms east of Shetland at ‘very early stage’

THE CONSTRUCTION of floating wind farms to the east of Shetland will not happen for another ten years, one of the managers of the proposed developments has estimated.

Project director with the Arven offshore wind farm Ewan Walker was part of a delegation visiting Shetland earlier this month.

The Arven project, a joint venture by Edinburgh based renewables developers Mainstream and Ocean Winds, both big players in Scotland’s offshore wind industry, is one of three projects that now have lease agreements with Crown Estate Scotland.

Known as NE1, the designated area, 12 miles off the Shetland mainland and Yell, is set to become the home of three large floating wind farms with a total capacity of 2.8 gigawatts.

Project managers were in Shetland on a two day visit earlier in December to talk to interested parties such as engineering companies, Lerwick harbour, the local authority as well as the fishing industry.

Fearing the loss of valuable fishing grounds, the sector has started early in making representations.

Walker said the group had a “productive” and “intense” few days in Shetland and gave a commitment to develop an “open relationship” with the local and national fishing industry to allay fears of being squeezed out of traditional fishing grounds.

“We really had an excellent couple of days. It was quite intense,” Walker said during an interview with Shetland News.

“It was an introduction in many ways; I was aware of [the fishing industry’s] concerns.

“We had a productive kick-off meeting, which was an opportunity for them to set out what they are concerned about.

Arven wind farm project director Ewan Walker. Photo: Ben Mullay

“Key is keeping in contact with each other to minimise disruption during surveys, and also to develop an open relationship during the decade before we go into construction to mitigate impact.”

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Walker was working as an environment and consent manager for the Neart na Gaoithe (NnG) offshore wind farm before he was appointed to the Arven project.

He said work on Arven, which will have a capacity of 1.8 gigawatts – four times the size of the onshore Viking Energy wind farm – was at a very early stage.

The company was only incorporated in October, and Walker now heads up a small team which will grow as the project develops.

Attracted to the NE1 site due to the “fantastic wind regime”, he said the area was more challenging than the other ScotWind leasing sites but offered some interesting opportunities.

“I think that is probably true for a lot of things in Shetland,” he added.

One of those challenges, and indeed uncertainties, is the long distance from any grid connections, Walker said.

As such it is too early to say whether electricity from the wind farm – potentially operational by the mid 2030s – will be connected to the grid, used off-grid for green hydrogen production at Sullom Voe or elsewhere, or both.

“It will take quite a few years before we know whether one or both [options] are viable,” he said, adding that both concepts will be developed by his team.

The sites of the three proposed offshore projects. Image: ScotWind

“It is also too early to know where the grid connection will be. It could go to Shetland or to the Scottish mainland, or an offshore hub in the Moray Firth.”

He said he hoped his team would be in a position to apply for a grid connection next year.

“We hope to start doing environmental surveys this coming year. Over coming years there will be more survey activity and we will co-ordinate this with fishing activities to minimise disruption,” he added.

“It’s very hard to predict a time scale, but I think it will be approximately ten years before any construction starts, and the contraction phase for one of the wind farm will be four years.

“Three separate projects with three separate developers. We are working together where we can. Theoretically they could all be constructed at the same time, but more likely there will be some staggering; it’s what we have seen elsewhere in Scotland.”

Area manager for Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE), Katrina Wiseman, said: “During their visit they actively engaged with a range of key stakeholders and were presented with Shetland’s track record and strong capability to support large-scale energy projects.

“We also expect any developer to work closely with key industries such as fishing to mitigate any potential impacts. We are pleased to have obtained an early commitment to meet on a regular basis and start to build relationships.”

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