United Kingdom

United Kingdom

Radar trouble kills Scottish venture

UK: A 700MW offshore project in Scotland has been abandoned due to potential radar interference. UK energy company SSE and US engineering and construction firm Fluor Corporation pulled the plug on their Bell Rock project, ten kilometres off the coast of Angus, claiming that they had looked into mitigating the effects of the wind turbines on radar but had found no solution.

Bell Rock was one of four projects sited in the outer Firth of Forth off Scotland's east coast that were awarded site development licences from seabed owner the Crown Estate in 2008. It was the closest to the Ministry of Defence (MoD) site RAF Leuchars, which is responsible for policing UK airspace.

A spokesman for SSE insists the radar problem is a "specific localised issue" and will not affect the 3.5GW Firth of Forth project it is also developing with Fluor.

A statement from the project's partners says: "Both SSE and Fluor remain strongly committed to developing offshore wind in the UK and are disappointed that our site investigations at Bell Rock have led us to conclude the site is not suitable."

However, over recent years radar interference has been less of a problem than in the past. A more flexible approach by the MoD, working with the industry, has produced a number of mitigation solutions and resulted in objections to wind projects - both onshore and offshore - being withdrawn.

SSE and Fluor dropped their Bell Rock project around the same time that RWE quit its 75% holding in the nearby 905MW Inch Cape project (windpowermonthly.com, May 10), leaving SeaEnergy Renewables Ltd (SERL), the UK's only pure-play offshore wind company, to develop the project on its own. But Aberdeen-based SeaEnergy - the majority shareholder in SERL - is looking to sell all or a significant part of its holding in development arm SERL. The group, which recorded a £6.5 million loss for 2009, blames the tough financing environment, which makes it difficult to access the funds needed to build projects.

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