RSPB keep ‘watching brief’ on combined impact of new Forth estuary offshore wind farm alongside giant Mainstream turbine parc

Environmental designations close to the Forthwind turbine farm site off the Fife coast
Environmental designations (shaded in pink) close to the Forthwind turbine farm site off the Fife coast at Methil.

The RSPB is closely monitoring the likely impact on marine bird life of a new wind turbine farm in the Forth estuary by a developer which is part-owned by the same company against which the charity lodged a legal appeal last year.

The Forthwind Offshore Demonstration prototype wind farm aims to prove that commercial feasibility of two-bladed turbines.

Based in Fife, Forthwind Ltd is a subsidiary of the Dutch-based 2B Energy – in which a major shareholder is Ireland’s Mainstream Renewable Power, the biggest offshore wind-electricity generator in Europe.

The RSPB launched an ultimately unsuccessful judicial review against the Scot-Govt for approved Mainstream’s plan to build the £2 billion Neart Na Goithe (NnG) wind farm further out in the Forth estuary.

Forthwind Ltd has won planning approval to develop an offshore wind technology demonstration array in the Firth of Forth, just offshore Methil in Fife.

The development, consisting of an array of up to nine turbines with a rated capacity of between 6 and 12 MW, will have a capacity of up to 65MW of renewable power for export to National Grid plc.

The project will use new offshore wind technology currently being developed by 2B Energy. The technology consists of a downwind 2 bladed turbine on a steel lattice tower.

For offshore wind to be commercially sustainable there is a need for a technology step change, where generation costs eventually must reach a reduction towards 50% of its current level.

This means that there must be a change in how the win-dustry approaches these technology and power plant developments, not only on the technology level, but also in how it operates, finances and manages risks in offshore wind generation. The purpose of this demonstration array is to demonstrate the 2B Energy technology in a small offshore wind array and the efficiencies achieved by the integrated approach to grid.

A Forthwind prototype 2-bladed onshore wind turbine in Holland
A Forthwind prototype 2-bladed onshore wind turbine in Holland

2B Energy has developed a 6MW onshore demonstration prototype at Eemshaven in the Netherlands that achieved grid connection and exported power in March 2016. Work on the Forthwind turbine demonstrator is due to start in Spring 2019.

But the RSPB charity fears that the proposed Forthwind turbines could affect near-shore bird species in the area and it could not rule out a potential legal challenge.

Charles Nathan, RSPB marine conservation planner, said that the impact of the proposed development is being considered together with the cumulative effects of four larger wind projects in the firths of Tay and Forth that have already been approved (including Mainstream’s massive Neart Na Goithe turbine farm).

10 Jan 2018

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