Dounreay floating wind farm could create hundreds of jobs but environment and shipping have to be considered, says Caithness councillor
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Plans to build a floating wind farm off the Dounreay coast "could create hundreds of jobs," according to local Highland councillor Matthew Reiss.
But the Thurso and northwest Caithness representative stressed that other factors, such as the environment and shipping routes have to be considered as well.
Councillor Reiss said people need to be open-minded about the proposal which would be led by Highland Wind Limited and backed by Copenhagen Infrastructure Partners (CIP), a Danish fund management company which has invested in a number of offshore wind projects around the world and had a 35 per cent stake in Beatrice Offshore Windfarm Ltd.
The development would have an installed capacity of up to 100 megawatts and be an update on the earlier Dounreay Trì project. It was managed by a subsidiary of Hexicon, a Swedish investment business and planned to build two 10 megawatt turbines six kilometres offshore as a demonstrator project but encountered financial difficulties.
CIP is now planning to breathe new life into the idea with the Pentland Floating Offshore Wind Farm which would share the same location as Dounreay Tri. It was given consent and a site lease four years ago.
The new project would consist of between six and 10 floating turbines which would have a maximum blade-tip height of 270 metres. The aim of the project is to test and demonstrate a technology solution for floating offshore wind in Scotland.
Councillor Reiss said: "Most people on the north coast would prefer if the development was further offshore but that has to be weighed up with the fact there could be hundreds of jobs created. Jobs are a very, very important factor given the depopulation concerns we have."
He added: "There would be a small number of turbines but at up to 270 metres tall they will probably be the tallest anywhere in Scotland. There is the potential for lots of well-paid jobs but on the other hand they are large structures. Shipping routes and environmental issues will also have to be considered."
Last week, Trudy Morris, chief executive of Caithness Chamber of Commerce, described the proposal as "an exciting development" and said she would be very pleased to see it go ahead.
She pointed out it has the potential to be a major driver of the area’s economy in years to come. "For the region to play host to innovative developments such as this project will stand it in good stead for the future and help the local supply chain to build further expertise in the sector," Ms Morris added.
The structures would be taller than those at the Beatrice offshore wind farm, 13km off the east coast of Caithness. Its 84 turbines with their fixed foundations, are 188 metres from sea level to blade tip.
A floating offshore wind turbine is mounted on a structure that allows it to generate electricity in water depths where fixed-foundation turbines are not feasible.