The world’s first floating wind farm has started to take shape off the north-east coast.
Norwegian firm Statoil’s Hywind project, which will change the seascape of Peterhead, has been in development since 2014 when proposals for the £200million scheme were first shown to the public.
The five monster 575ft structures, which each weigh 11,500 tonnes, will be tethered to the seafloor 15 miles off the coast of the Blue Toon.
When switched on later this year they will supply enough power to fully light 20,000 homes.
This week, the first of the turbines was secured overlooking the port.
And last night, Erik Haaland, a spokesman for Statoil, said a second turbine was already en route to Peterhead.
Three more are floating on a fjord on the western coast of Norway waiting to be towed into place.
“By the end of August we expect that all five turbines will be in place,” he added.
“Overall, we are on schedule to start production by the end of 2017.”
The project by Statoil will be a world first for the renewable energy sector.
Previously, the structures had to be embedded into the sea floor which meant there was a maximum depth – of about 131ft – in which they could operate.
Statoil’s structures are instead tethered with mooring lines.
The project builds on the firm’s experience with the technology in its native country, where in 2009 it launched a single floating windmill off the coast.
Irene Rummelhoff, the head of the firm’s low-carbon division, has said opportunities to deploy the technology elsewhere is “unlimited”.
“It opens up ocean that was unavailable,” she added.
“If you look at coastlines around the world, there’s few that have sufficient area at depths down to 131ft, so if they want to deploy offshore wind, they need to introduce floating wind.”
Lindsay Roberts, senior policy manager at Scottish Renewables, said: “This is a hugely exciting development for a ground-breaking project.
“The potential global market for floating offshore wind technologies is significant, so it’s fantastic to see Scotland once again at the forefront of an innovative, burgeoning industry.”
The prospect of floating wind farms has already been picked up by French engineering firm Ideol, which has announced intentions to build the structures in Japan.
But the project in Peterhead has faced opposition, not least from animal welfare campaigners.
Among objectors was the bird charity RSPB Scotland, which raised fears over the decline of native species.
Eight offshore wind projects were granted approval by the Scottish Government in 2014.
And the charity said that the water near Peterhead, specifically, was important for providing space for foraging, commuting and moulting seabirds.
Aidan Smith, a spokesman for the charity, said that while offshore developments could be built far away from seabird nesting sites it was not the case at Peterhead where birds could be affected.
“Generally we are very enthusiastic about floating wind technology because it allows turbines to be placed far offshore – away from seabird nesting sites, and it helps us tackle climate change,” he said.
“We oppose the Hywind project because it adds to a situation we already believe is a problem.”
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