The UK Ministry of Defence is set to withdraw standing objections to hundreds of megawatts of proposed wind farms around the Eskdalemuir nuclear test-ban monitoring facility in southern Scotland following publication of new independent scientific evidence that wind turbines do not materially interfere with seismic monitoring.
The Eskdalemuir Seismic Array is one of 170 seismic stations across the globe used to monitor compliance with the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty.
The UK is bound by the Test-Ban Treaty not to compromise the detection capabilities of the Eskdalemuir station, and it is the responsibility of the MoD to safeguard this station.
This interim guidance updates existing guidance on Eskdalemuir and provides advice to planning authorities in dealing with applications in Scotland for wind energy development within the 50km Eskdalemuir Consultation Zone.
This follows research work undertaken by the Eskdalemuir Working Group (EWG) entitled Seismic vibration produced by wind turbines in the Eskdalemuir region, and is pending an announcement by the Scottish Government which will accompany the publication of the research undertaken.
The Scottish Government has now sought to guarantee the continued safeguarding of the Eskdalemuir Seismological Monitoring Station (EKA) in a way that maximises the potential for wind energy deployment.
Recently completed research by Edinburgh based wind noise and turbine vibration experts Xi Engineering – commissioned by the EWG – has confirmed that there is headroom which would allow for further wind farm consents without breaching the 0.336nm seismic ground vibration threshold – data which has been separately validated by the UK Ministry of Defence.
Consequently this now unlocks the potential to install more than a gigawatt of onshore wind energy in Scotland in the years ahead – enough to power more than half a million British homes.
This would allow the MoD to withdraw objections to some of the wind energy projects proposed within 50km of the array, with a 15km exclusion zone set to be approved by the Scottish Government, following consultation.
Scottish Energy Minister Fergus Ewing said: “The Scottish Government-led Eskdalemuir Working Group is a fantastic example of industry, Government and the MoD working in partnership to resolve a major issue for the deployment of renewables.
“With potentially 1-gigawatt of renewable energy now freed to progress through planning, I’m delighted that Scotland can now benefit from further significant economic rewards from harnessing our natural resources, including the hundreds of jobs created and the knock-on benefits to local companies and communities.
“I’m also delighted to see a Scottish SME, Xi Engineering Consultants Ltd, having been successfully appointed, then go on to undertake such ground-breaking scientific work in cooperation with the MoD’s own experts.”
Tim French, Director of the Aviation Investment Fund Company Ltd (AIFCL) – which provided £100,000 worth of financial and technical support for the research work – said: “It is a significant achievement reaching a resolution to the Eskdalemuir issue as it has held back a substantial amount of wind energy for the past five years.
“The strong collaboration between all the members of the group, together with excellent input from the technical consultants, Xi Engineering, have enabled us to challenge original assumptions and develop a much more scientifically robust approach to safeguarding Eskdalemuir as we go forward”.