Orkney Islands Council (OIC) has written to the Scottish Government to press its case for a decision on the Faray onshore wind farm, warning that a vital interconnector to the mainland cannot happen without it.
In a statement on Wednesday, OIC said it had written to Holyrood to highlight the “critical importance” of the planning permission decision on the Faray wind farm, and the “tight timescales” involved in the process.
The project must be granted approval to meet a “needs case” set by regulator Ofgem to justify a new electricity interconnector between Orkney and the mainland.
OIC says that the transmission link could be worth nearly £1.5 billion to the economy, according to a recent study, and pressed for “urgent action” from central government to make sure the projects go ahead.
The proposed 28-megawatt (MW), six-turbine wind farm on the uninhabited island of Faray is the final element of Orkney’s Community Wind Farm Project, with planning permission already granted for similar projects at Quanterness and Hoy in December last year.
The Scottish government called in the Faray application in September 2021 but has yet to make a determination on the site, OIC says.
In September 2019 Ofgem published its final decision on the case for a new interconnector, stating that that planning permission for 135MW of new energy generation was required.
To help meet the case, the Council itself took the approach of a developer and worked on proposals for the three 28.8-MW sites, with six 150m high turbines on each.
Under Ofgem’s terms, these projects must have a grid connection agreement signed and pass a financial audit before the end of 2021 in order to trigger the interconnector, though this was later extended to 2022 as a result the pandemic.
Orkney Island Council leader James Stockan said: “At this point in time there are around 110MW of projects consented – including Orkney’s Community Wind Farm Project sites at Hoy and Quanterness.
“The only project which has potential to fill the remaining gap and trigger the cable before the end of year deadline is the Faray project – without it, the cable simply will not happen,” he warned.
Mr Stockan said previous government determinations on Quanterness and Hoy, had “rightly” highlighted the impact of interconnector as a key factor lending “substantial weight” to their decision.
The projects were also successful in most recent Contract for Difference (CfD) auction round 4, again contributing to the regulator’s needs case criteria.
“However, the timescales are now tight – the project has been with the Scottish Government for close to a year now and we have therefore written to them to ask for urgent action,” Mr Stockan added.
“We need a decision on these projects before October – otherwise the future of these critical projects could be in jeopardy.”
The economic report found that the projects could be worth more than £800 annually for each islander over the next 45 years, with both the cable and renewable projects boosting economic activity in the islands by between £371 million and £807m.
In addition to the electricity link IOC says the projects would also generate significant income for the Council – estimated at £6m per year – which it intends to use to support and protect services in the county, in addition to a location-specific community benefit scheme.