A final regulatory decision about the 450MW Neart na Gaoithe offshore wind farm is unlikely to emerge until the final months of this year, Windpower Offshore understands. The project’s developer still hopes to begin offshore construction in 2015.
Mainstream Renewable Power submitted a consent application for Neart na Gaoithe last July. At the time, it hoped a regulatory decision would be forthcoming within nine months. The developer now hopes that regulator, Marine Scotland, will complete its deliberations during the third quarter of this year. This would allow the Scottish energy minister to reach a final decision – based on Marine Scotland’s recommendation – during the fourth quarter.
If this schedule is maintained and approval is granted, Mainstream will aim for financial close on the project during the second half of 2014. The developer's schedule continues to foresee offshore construction starting in 2015, although it acknowledges this represents a challenging timetable.
There is no suggestion that the Neart na Gaoithe application is in trouble, simply that Marine Scotland is being methodical and comprehensive in its deliberations. The regulator is under unprecedented pressure from offshore wind developers, and is currently assessing four applications for new developments: Beatrice, Neart na Gaoithe, Moray Firth and Firth of Forth.
Last month, the Scottish Government approved an 11-turbine offshore test site in Aberdeen Bay. Fiercely opposed by US property developer, Donald Trump, the decision in favour of the European Offshore Wind Deployment Centre (EOWDC) took more than a year and a half to emerge, but bodes well for Scottish offshore wind.
Marine Scotland told Windpower Offshore that its assessment of Neart na Gaoithe is ongoing: "Mainstream Renewable Power is undertaking further analysis of their environmental data. The planning determination for the proposed offshore wind farm project will be made by the Minister for Energy & Enterprise taking account of all potential impacts… Every application is considered on its merits, giving due consideration to the views of stakeholders, consultees and members of the public."
An application to construct an onshore cable link for Neart na Gaoithe was submitted to local authority, East Lothian Council, in January. The permitting process is progressing well.