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Scotland offshore wind farm ready to go

  |   Aug. 8, 2011 at 6:03 AM
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ABERDEEN, Scotland, Aug. 8 (UPI) -- Developers of the long-planned, $246 million European Offshore Wind Deployment Center say they're ready to begin construction in Scotland.

A joint venture between Swedish electricity company Vattenfall, the Aberdeen Renewable Energy Group and French subsea engineering firm Technip, began planning for the offshore wind center, or EOWDC, off Aberdeen Bay began eight years ago.

But it became official with Friday's announcement that the partners had formally submitted a consent application to Marine Scotland, the government agency responsible for managing Scotland's seas.

The application seeks permission for work to start on the construction and operation of the EOWDC.

"We believe we have made a good case for the development, which places Aberdeen at the heart of the development of new technologies to serve the growing European offshore wind sector," said David Hodkinson, manager of Vattenfall's British operations.

Its backers say the EOWDC will test and demonstrate up to 11 next-generation offshore wind turbines, support infrastructure and other related technology. It has taken so long because of the "extensive consultation with stakeholders and studies which have seen the project significantly evolve."

The wind farm, which is envisioned to stretch from Aberdeen to an area near the outskirts of Balmedie, Scotland, was reduced from 33 to 11 turbines after safety concerns were raised by shipping agencies and the Aberdeen heliport, The Guardian reported.

It is seen as a way to accelerate the development of offshore wind power by serving as a proving ground for cutting-edge wind power technology concepts in a "real time offshore environment."

New ideas tried out there will receive "independent validation and accreditation before commercial deployment," thus reducing development risks and capital costs. Vattenfall says the wind farm will provide electricity to the national grid and will "disseminate lessons learned to the EU industry at large."

Scottish government backers say they are counting on the EOWDC to attract scientists, researchers, engineers and offshore wind supply chain companies to Aberdeen, hopefully diversifying the local economy beyond its current status as a North Sea oil and natural gas hub.

It also has the backing of local business leaders.

"This is a real opportunity for Aberdeen and the Northeast to place itself at the forefront of this aspect of the renewables industry," said Bob Collier, chief executive of the Aberdeen and Grampian Chamber of Commerce.

"There is fierce competition not just in Scotland but across the rest of Europe to gain recognition as a leader in the field and this project will provide an extremely valuable testing site for manufacturers to demonstrate their products and to gather vital data on performance," he said.

A key moment in the development of the wind project came in December when it landed up to $57 million from the European Commission.

One powerful interest, however, is fiercely opposed to the EOWDC: American real estate tycoon Donald Trump, who is building a championship golf course and resort at Balmedie. Trump's company said last week it would "use any legal means" to scuttle the effort, which it claims ruins the views from the seaside course.

"We are here to stay and I don't think it's a good idea to interfere with our investment," George Sorial, managing director of the Trump Organization, told the newspaper. "We are not going to support a project that compromises what we have done. We will use any legal means in our jurisdiction."

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