Written by Will Clark

Fears that a planned 277-turbine offshore wind farm, potentially worth
millions to the Caithness economy, may be in danger of being scrapped have
been dismissed as speculation by supporters.

SSE Renewables said it was “carefully assessing” its proposed Beatrice wind
farm scheme after it was announced the project had not been named by the
Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) in its list of 10 most
affordable projects to receive £4.5 billion of subsidies.

The firm behind the project announced it was now unlikely to receive an
investment contract from the UK government unless one of its 10 preferred
options pulled out.

But supporters of the project in Caithness said it was only one source of
funding of many.

An SSE Renewables spokeswoman said it was surprised none of its major
offshore wind farm projects had been named in the list.

She said it would now have to consider where the announcement leaves the
firm in delivering its future projects, which included the Beatrice wind
farm.

“We are disappointed with the announcement that Beatrice has not been
included in the list of projects deemed ‘provisionally affordable’ under
final investment decision enabling process for renewables (FIDeR).

“We will continue to participate in the FIDeR process but, unless a project
drops out or additional funds are made available, this means Beatrice is
now unlikely to receive an investment contract.

“There are some strong renewable projects at a very advanced stage of
development, like our Galloper offshore wind project, that have
surprisingly been left out of the process completely.

“We are therefore actively seeking to understand and question precisely how
this situation has arisen. For both Galloper and Beatrice we will now need
to carefully assess with our partners how we will progress each of these
projects.”

The proposed £3 billion development, a joint venture between SSE Renewables
and Repsol Nuevas Energias UK, would be located on the north-western point
of the Smith Bank, eight miles south-east of Wick.

If the project is given the go-ahead, it is estimated it will provide
1000MW of electricity to power over 796,000 homes and bring up to 950 jobs
to the far north.

In June, Highland councillors voted not to raise any objection to the
Scottish government for the scheme to be given the go-ahead.

The Scottish government will announce in 2014 whether it will receive
approval, with construction estimated to begin in 2015 and take three years.

Caithness and North Sutherland Regeneration Partnership programme manager
Eann Sinclair said until the wind farm is given approval for construction,
it was too early to suggest it may not happen.

“My understanding of the DECC scheme is it is only one potential funding
source of a number to finance the project,” he said.

“It is way too early for anyone to make any judgements about the future of
the project.

“It will be a case of wait and see but the project is not even at the stage
of consent to develop and we will not know until into the spring whether we
have a better understanding of what will happen.”

Earlier this year, Wick harbour was given £450,000 from Highlands and
Islands Enterprise and the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority to improve
facilities at the port to meet the needs of the offshore renewable
industry, estimating developments could create up to 300 jobs.

Wick Harbour Authority chairman Willie Watt declined to comment on SSE’s
announcement until more information had been made available, dismissing it
as speculation.

Moray Offshore Renewables Ltd (MORL) has also announced plans to build the
world’s biggest offshore wind farm off the Caithness coast.

In March, Highland councillors gave their approval to the £4.5 billion
project to build 339 turbines 13km from the east coast.


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