PLANS have been tabled for a £200million windfarm off the coast of Aberdeen which could help turn the north-east into a global leader in the renewable energy industry.
After six years on the drawing board, the application for the European Offshore Wind Deployment Centre (EOWDC) has been lodged with the Scottish Government agency Marine Scotland.
US billionaire Donald Trump once threatened to pull out of his golf resort plans for the Menie Estate because the proposed location of the turbines was so close to his development.
George Sorial, managing director at the Trump Organisation, vowed last night to object to the application and fight it “using any available legal means in any jurisdiction”.
Under the proposals, 11 offshore turbines would be erected – capable of producing enough electricity to power more than half of the homes in Aberdeen.
The highest point of the biggest turbines could be 640ft above the sea – taller than the London Eye and more than double the height of Big Ben. The test centre site lies about one-and-a-half miles off the coast between Balmedie and the outskirts of Bridge of Don, and work could get under way in 2013 if the application is approved.
Energy industry companies, governments and academics from across Europe would closely monitor the progress of a scheme which aims to prove offshore wind technology is ready for full-scale commercial deployment.
In the north-east, the development is seen by many as crucial to ensure the region becomes a key player in marine energy as it looks towards a post-oil future.
The project is a joint venture between Vattenfall, Europe’s sixth largest generator of electricity, subsea engineering firm Technip, and Aberdeen Renewable Energy Group (Areg). Morag McCorkindale, chief operating officer at Areg, said: “The region has an offshore oil and gas supply chain unrivalled outside of Houston and therefore has the highest concentration of energy expertise, experience, skills and technology.
“This industrial-scale know-how is crucial to the development of marine renewables, and in the short-term particularly, offshore wind.
“The EOWDC is a key project to assist in the diversification of its economy.”
Mr Sorial said the Trump Organisation would object to the application, and suggested the firm could even pursue legal action in the US, because the turbine development would spoil the views from the £750million Balmedie resort.
“We are all for anything that will help the region and create jobs,” he said.
“On that regard our interests are aligned, but you don’t do that by compromising one asset.
“We have invested significant resources in this project and we have become part of the fabric of the north-east.
“We are here to stay and I don’t think it’s a good idea to interfere with our investment.
“We are not going to support a project that compromises what we have done. We will use any available legal means in any jurisdiction.”
The plans for the north-east were previously scaled back from the original proposal for 33 turbines after Mr Trump threatened to walk away, and Oil & Gas UK and the Aberdeen Harbour Board raised concerns about safety for helicopters and shipping lanes.
David Hodkinson, Vattenfall’s UK manager, said: “We believe we have made a good case for the development, which places Aberdeen at the heart of the development of new technologies to serve the growing European offshore wind sector.”
Ron Cookson, senior vice-president of Technip Offshore Wind, said: “It is our belief that this project could, with considerable EU support, be the catalyst which ‘kick starts’ the region’s rapid emergence as an industry-leading player in marine renewables.”
Offshore wind is said to have the potential to deliver more than 28,000 direct jobs in Scotland by 2020 and inject up to £7.1billion of investment into the economy.
In August last year, The Crown Estate awarded the EOWDC an exclusivity agreement as an offshore wind demonstration site, and in December it was given a 40 million euro (£35million) grant from the EU.
The turbines could be between four and 10mw, which, based on a capacity of 100mw, would produce more than 300,000mw hours every year, the equivalent of the domestic needs of more than 65,000 homes.
The 4mw turbines would have a maximum height of 328ft above low tide, while the 10mw structures would be up to 394ft, and the rotor blades would be between 196ft to 246ft, giving a maximum height of 640ft.
Consultation will be held before a decision is made by the Holyrood government, with the environmental impact assessment to go on display at a series of public meetings.
Bob Collier, chief executive of Aberdeen and Grampian Chamber of Commerce, said: “There is fierce competition, not just in Scotland but across the rest of Europe to gain recognition as a leader in the field and this project will provide an extremely valuable testing site for manufacturers to demonstrate their products and to gather vital data on performance.”