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Scotland approves 640-foot prototype offshore wind turbine

May 10, 2013 at 12:06 AM   |   Comments

METHIL, Scotland, May 10 (UPI) -- The tallest offshore wind power turbine in Scotland got the go-ahead this week under plans approved by the country's energy ministry despite local opposition.

Scottish Energy Minister Fergus Ewing announced Tuesday he has given his blessing for the 7-megawatt prototype turbine, to be built by South Korea's Samsung Heavy Industries under a $9.3 million grant from the government's economic development agency.

For a five-year period, it will tower more than 640 feet just off Scotland's east coast at the Fife Energy Park in Methil, where the government has set aside 134 acres of seaside industrial land to attract renewable energy industry development, The Scotsman reported.

Samsung officials said the demonstration turbine will be used to test new designs and models with the aim of increasing the reliability and efficiency of the power they produce.

In a statement issued from South Korea, Scottish Finance Secretary John Swinney said the planning approval for the turbine marks a major step forward in the country's drive to boost its green energy drive, through which it hopes to produce 28,000 jobs and generate more than $10.8 billion in economic activity by 2020.

"Today's announcement marks a significant step forward in establishing a globally competitive supply chain for the offshore wind industry," he said.

"This development ... will utilize newly developed technologies which have not yet been deployed offshore -- further confirming Scotland's commitment to innovation in the offshore wind production sector."

The site at Fife Energy Park, he added, "offers the ideal location for a cutting-edge test center like this."

Samsung in January announced it would base its offshore wind operations at Fife, with the intention of investing $155 million in developing and manufacturing turbines there.

Local officials also praised the project.

Tom Adams of the Fife Council said Methil "is well placed to be one of the leading centers for the global offshore wind industry, and I am delighted with this confirmation from the Scottish government that the Samsung offshore wind demonstrator can now be built, just off the Fife Energy Park."

The move also drew the approval of WWF Scotland. Its director, Lang Banks, said that if Scotland is to make the news jobs a reality, "then it is important Scotland has the facilities to test offshore wind turbines and other components."

Some residents, however, were less than enthusiastic about the turbine, which officials conceded will be "a major change in the Fife skyline."

The citizen's group Scotland Against Spin, which opposes what it calls Scotland's "unsustainable wind energy policy" and the "spin of the Scottish government," said the Fife demonstration project is "a recipe for disaster" for the area's natural landscape and residents.

"Once again the government is championing the profits of the wind industry before its prime duty to protect its citizens," group spokeswoman Linda Holt said in a statement. "The turbine will create next to no sustainable jobs for locals, but it will be a disturbing eyesore for many Fifers as it will dominate the (Firth of Forth) coastline."

Holt said building such a tall turbine designed to operate far out at sea less than 40 yards from shore would produce "a range of health problems from the noise, flicker and shadow effect. Without an enforceable noise condition, Methil residents are being sacrificed as guinea pigs."

Topics: John Swinney
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