£2bn windfarm project nears construction as backers found

Renewables news
Renewables news

A consortium has pledged £500million worth of backing for a £2billion windfarm planned for the outer Forth Estuary, bringing the construction phase a step closer, the company behind the project said yesterday.

Mainstream Renewable Power is now in a stronger position to meet the March 26 deadline for achieving financial close, though a judicial review continues to cast doubt on the scheme.

The Neart na Gaoithe (NNG) wind farm would bring huge economic gains to Scotland. More than £540million will be spent in Scotland during the construction phase, with 500 jobs created.

A further £610million will be spent on its operational phase, which will provide jobs for 100 people over 25 years.

Mainstream already had £1.5billion worth of debt funding in place, and yesterday said it had entered into exclusive discussions with a consortium for the outstanding sum.

The consortium consists of power company InterGen, whose European headquarters are in Edinburgh, Siemens Project Ventures, Paris-based Marguerite Fund and London’s Infrared Capital.

But even if talks with the consortium end favourably, NNG, which is Gaelic for ‘strength of the wind’, could still be derailed by a judicial review.

Bird protection charity RSPB Scotland last year mounted a legal challenge to the Scottish Government’s decision to award planning consent to four wind farms in the firths of Tay and Forth, including NNG.

RSPB said the developments posed a threat to birds and that the awards could have serious implications for the protection of wildlife habitats across Scotland.

A spokesman for Mainstream said the review was with the courts and that, as such, the timing of the final ruling was out of the company’s hands.

The project’s progression onto the construction phase hinges on the outcome of the review.

Despite the uncertainty created by the RSPB’s dispute with the government, Mainstream’s chief operating officer, Andy Kinsella, was bullish on NNG’s prospects.

“All the building blocks are now in place to deliver this power plant into operation by 2020,” Mr Kinsella said.

NNG received planning consent in 2014, and in February 2015 secured a so-called Contract for Difference (CfD) in the Department of Energy and Climate Change’s first ever green power auction.

The funding application for a major new wind farm in the Moray Firth was snubbed in the same auction.

CfD’s guarantee energy producers a ‘strike price’ for every megawatt per hour (MWh) they supply to the grid over a 15-year period.

Under the terms of its deal, NNG will get £114.38 per MWh, which is the lowest strike price in the UK, Mainstream said.

Mr Kinsella said the project’s ability to provide cheap electricity “strongly underpinned government policy of driving the price of renewables down for the benefit of consumers”.

The windfarm will consist of about 75 wind turbines and occupy an area of about 30 square miles. Its closest point to land is 9 miles off the Fife coast.

Mainstream has said it will be the first large-scale offshore wind farm constructed and operated in Scottish waters to be directly connected to the Scottish electricity system.

At 450 megawatts, it will have the capacity to deliver enough power for 325,000 homes, or 3.7% of Scotland’s total electricity demand.