Monday, 11 November 2013


Islay had the first wave-power machine in the world which, for a prototype, worked reasonably well but it ‘died’ principally for lack of public funding. It was built in 2000 and was shut down in 2012. 

                          Wave Machine - now closed
Given the huge amounts of public money currently directed towards ambitious renewable projects, the experience with the wave machine has been salutary. Politicians who came to laud the wave machine soon dropped it and turned instead to wind.

Scotland’s First Minister, ‘Wee Eck’ Salmond, has stated that he wants Scotland to be self-sufficient in renewable energy by 2020. He went on to say that he thought Scotland could become ‘the Saudi Arabia of renewables - exporting energy to other parts of Europe.” Hmmm. Granted there has to be some seedcorn spent in developing new technologies but – and it is a huge BUT – the subsidies should be realistic and not over-egg the development. Huge power companies like SSE(R) have seized the opportunity for risk-free investment. 
Marine Scotland Map showing Offshore developments planned for Islay
The map (above) from Marine Scotland, shows the extent of potential offshore development off the west coast of Islay. The Tidal Energy project is well on the way with a formal planning application due to be handed in on the 13th December. The SSER Wind Array scheme application is due in by August 2014. As this has already slipped by a year it will be interesting to see whether the deadline is delayed further. 

It was the shenanigans of SSER, in alliance with Argyll & Bute council, not forgetting the ineptitude of SNH (Scottish Natural Heritage), to get a ‘met mast’ built for their offshore wind development, that stirred Power4Islay into being.

The Islay Offshore Wind Array is scheduled to have 138 massive turbines, 7 miles off the coast. They will be easily visible from Islay’s wild west coast. There are considerable difficulties to be overcome. The sea area is adjacent to some of the roughest waters in the UK. When the wind direction is opposite to the tidal flow, enormous overfalls develop which are potentially very dangerous for shipping. Conditions at sea will test the structure and build quality of the turbine towers. Any power generated then has to be transported by special cable to the mainland - a very expensive process. Maintenance and repairs will not be easy, particularly in the winter months. 

As for wave power there are no plans as yet put forward. A lot of this technology is in its infancy and is still being developed as is the tidal turbine technology. The Tidal Turbine ‘Farm’ planning application from D P Energy has plenty of ‘maybe’s’ and ‘probably’s’ as they honestly accept they are proposing to do something that has not been done before. All the prototype turbines currently in use are single machines. The difficulties of linking 15 - 30 turbines out at sea, and then transporting the power to the mainland will be considerable. D P Energy have estimated they will need 20km of undersea cable just to link up their turbines. These cables will be laid in an area of fast-flowing tidal current - precisely the reason the site has been chosen - and their electro-magnetic presence will create as yet unknown consequences. If successful, D P Energy plan to extend the number of turbines to 400. They are currently swithering between having all undersea turbines (which Power4Islay prefers) to turbines with towers sticking well out of the water, or a mixture of both. A similar planning application to build a house would not grant the time of day to an application which said ‘we may build a bungalow or a block of flats - we are not sure yet!’ 

Power4Islay are in the process of lobbying Marine Scotland to ensure that all decisions made concerning renewable energy in the Islay area are clear and transparent. The deadline for submissions to Marine Scotland is this Wednesday (13 Nov. ’13). Comments, observations and concerns can be sent to 
Marine Scotland are a relatively young body tasked with the job of overseeing the administration and authorisation of the offshore development schemes. 

As a government department they will be under pressure to do the First Minister’s bidding. As concerned citizens it is our role to ensure that this is not done at any price - financial or aesthetical.



No comments:

Post a Comment