Argyll Array Project Update Number 14 – Spetember 2011

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Public Information Day comments

I’ve responded below to more of the points made at the Public Information Day held in late June. I’ll cover the remaining points in the next update.


Desire for a guarantee on jobs from the project (THREE COMMENTS)

This is a complex issue. Firstly, the building of the wind farm would not significantly impact on Tiree as far as jobs are concerned. The turbines parts (towers, blades and generators) would be loaded on to very specialized installation vessels, at purpose built port facilities like those in Belfast. These vessels would then sail directly to the site and install the turbines. The wind farm could, however, provide around 100 jobs once it is built and operating and these could potentially be in Tiree.

These jobs would be for the Operations and Maintenance part of the project. Such jobs involve routine servicing of the turbines, repairing turbine breakdowns, monitoring the power output and ensuring that all technicians and materials are able to get to the turbines.

Because the project is in its early planning stages, it has not yet been decided if the Operations and Maintenance base (usually just called the O&M base) from which technicians travel daily to the wind farm would be best based onshore in Tiree or wholly/partly offshore within the wind farm site itself. If it was wholly offshore, with staff on a special platform or on a mother-ship permanently stationed at sea, there would be little impact on jobs for Tiree. If it was onshore, though, the base would require a safe harbour in Gott Bay and the O&M staff and their families would live in Tiree. The only place we foresee such a harbour being is Tiree. The only place in Tiree suitable for the harbour would be Gott Bay.

I know how frustrating it is that a decision has yet to be made about the O&M base, because so much of the benefit people see from the project would come from the base being in Tiree. That’s why planning for O&M is being looked at by the company more closely over the coming months, much earlier than it is for other offshore projects. (The whole matter of what Tiree actually wants from the Operations and Maintenance part of the project is the topic of the Scenario Planning consultation being carried out by consultants right now on behalf of Argyll and Bute Council and others. An open consultation on this topic is planned for early October in Tiree. This will not be an SPR event but I would encourage all to go along to it and get their voices heard. Look out for the notices in the next couple An Tirisdeachs)

Visual impact

Desire for photomontages of night-time views (TWO COMMENTS)

Tiree, like all rural areas, doesn’t experience ‘light pollution’, which is the orange/ yellow glow in the sky caused by city street lighting and other lights. This means that rural skies are much darker than city skies and give much better views of the stars.

There were two requests for photomontages that would show any ‘light pollution’ from the lights on the turbines. It’s useful here to explain what sort of lights would be on the turbines.

By no means all the turbines would have warning lights on them. Only one turbine every 4km on the perimeter of the wind farm would have an aviation light and a maritime navigation light. Tilley, the Tiree Community Turbine, has aviation light on the top and Gott Bay pier has a maritime navigation light on the pier head. Every turbine in the wind farm would also have an identification light, to illuminate the turbine number, in the event that a vessel in distress inside the wind farm at night needs to identify its location. Identification lights are no bigger than needed for that purpose and are only visible close to each turbine.

The Landscape and Visual Impact Assessment carried out for Argyll Array will discuss any night time lighting issues.

Character of island

Desire to leave the island if the project goes ahead

This was said by one person who presumably had the option of leaving Tiree if they chose. They were in the fortunate position of having the resources and freedom from commitments to exercise that choice.

For many families, however, Tiree is their home and the option to leave just does not arise. For them, any opportunity for improvement in their standard of living has to present itself on Tiree and the Argyll Array is possibly such an opportunity.

Equally, some individuals are forced to leave Tiree for work and opportunity and the option to stay does not arise for them. The project also offers them the possibility of being able to return home, or never having to leave in the first place.


Desire for more information on the converter station

The converter station is an installation that would convert the generated power from AC to DC for transmission to the national grid at Cruachan. Like the O&M base, this could possibly be located offshore in the wind farm or onshore on Tiree.

A study is presently being carried out by consultants to determine the options for the cable route to take power from the windfarm to the national grid. This study will also review options for the converter station. The most feasible options will be presented at Public Information Days before the end of the year.

An Environmental Impact Assessment will be carried out on the proposed route and converter station location, and details of the assessment will be given in the planning application.


Scepticism about the ability of the project to cope with weather and sea conditions

There is no doubt that the weather and sea conditions in the wind farm site can be extreme. It is also the case that no offshore wind farm has yet been built and operated in these conditions. This, however, is part of the big human and technical challenge the project presents. New technology and ways of working will have to be developed.

Looking back at history, it took Alan Stevenson many years to solve the problems and develope the technology to enable Skerryvore to be built and to stand for the last 150 years and more. The same will need to be done again. We can never defeat the power of the sea but we most certainly can build and work in a way which means we’re not defeated by it.

Wind Farm Visit

The visit to a wind farm in the Irish Sea, which was postponed earlier in the summer has now been provisionally re-arranged for September 26th-28th. This would entail leaving Tiree on Monday 26th by ‘plane, visiting the wind farm near Barrow in Cumbria on the Tuesday, returning to Tiree by ‘plane on Wednesday 28th.

All travel and subsistence will be paid by SPR. Four participants are being selected in association with the Tiree Trust but one more place remains for a general member of the community. I have one nomination from earlier in the summer and this is a final call for further expressions of interest. Please let me know, through the usual means, if you are interested in going on what will be a very informative visit.

Also, please speak to me if you would like more details, before the closing date of Wednesday 7th September.

Exhibition in Rural Centre

The exhibition of materials from the Public Information Day in June which was housed in the Auction Ring for the summer has now closed. I’ll publish an analysis of the attendance and comments in due course. Meanwhile, thank you to all who attended and to the Rural Centre for their hosting of the exhibition.

Future update

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