Councillors get voice on turbines

BUCHAN area councillors will get their say on plans for the construction of an offshore windfarm and deployment centre at Aberdeen Bay, when they meet in Peterhead later today (Tuesday).

The controversial application, from Aberdeen Offshore Wind Farm Limited, will go before members of the Buchan area committee for their views before going to the council’s infrastructure services committee for debate.

The views of the council will then be forwarded to Marine Scotland, which is the determining authority for the application.

In a report to today’s meeting, members will hear that on August 3 this year, Aberdeen Offshore Wind Farm Ltd (AOWFL) submitted further information in the form of an addendum.

It contained additional baseline information as well as an updated environmental assessement.

It also included a review of existing offshore wind farms in close proximity to golf courses and visualisations from Menie Estate, Royal Aberdeen and Murcar golf courses.

Councillors will hear that the original application proposed to install 11 turbines, located offshore within Aberdeen Bay.

The report states that the total height of a turbine would not exceed 198.5m, although there could be several turbine types of varying sizes erected.

It says: “In order to maintain the project vision to ‘deploy new equipment...to improve the competitiveness of offshore wind energy production...and to increase the supply chain capabilities in Scotland, the wider UK and Europe’ they wish to modify the size range of the turbines to enable the very latst wind turbines to be considered for the project.

“The applicant still proposes to construct 11 turbines, each with an output of 7mw and a maximum output for the windfarm of 77mw. This is reduced from the previous output of 10mw and total output of 100mw.”

Councillors will hear that the turbines are much larger than any which have been approved.

Marine Scotland has received 599 letters of representative, of which 462 are in support and 137 against.

The report continues: “The planning service considers that if the turbines erected were of significantly different sizes within the scheme, this would result in negative visual impacts.

“Due to the scale of the turbines and their distance from the shoreline it is acknowledged that minor variations between the turbines would not be detrimental to the overall scheme, however major variations would potentially be more detrimental.

“The very nature of the project as a demonstration site suggests that a variation in height and design is likely and that the ‘make-up’ of the site will also change over time, the extent of such changes cannot be readily stated nor the impact fully assessed.

“In terms of noise, there is now a reduction of the number of piled foundations required from 11 to four which will reduce the magnitude of impact previously identified.

“The applicants have attempted to maintain a good visual balance and cohesiveness of views of the wind farm from the closest receptors.

“The proposed changes idenitified result in no material increase in environmental effects over and above those already outlined in the August 2011 Environmental Statement submission.

The meeting will hear that members have previously identified the visual impact on local golf courses and Balmedie Country Park as a concern.

The report continues: “The potentialvisual effects of the proposed wind farm on golfers are not unprecedented and the research has demonstrated that some world famous courses have views of offshore wind farms from part of the course.

“The applicant’s study identifies that recreational users of the landscape tend to have a heightened sensitivity to changes in views where appreciation or prolonged viewing of the landscape is part of their recreational pursuit.

“This would be the case for some golfers on these coastal courses.

“They suggest that for many golfers their concentration, in the main, will be focused on the terrain of the golf course itself rather than the surrounding landscape or seascape.

“Notwithstanding this, a photomontage has been submitted from the hotel site within Menie Estate. No details are available of the exact position or orientation of the building, however the turbines will be visible to residents of the futrue hotel.”

Members views are sought and they are asked to confirm if the previously issued comments should be carried forward.

They are also asked to provide advice on the new addendum and./or provide additional comments.