The Highland Council approves West of Orkney Windfarm’s onshore plans


The Highland Council has approved the onshore plans of the West of Orkney Windfarm – which is advancing a major offshore wind project off Scotland’s northern coast.

The council’s North Planning Applications Committee met today [June 4] and approved the project’s onshore application for planning permission in principle – which outlines the underground cables and electrical infrastructure required to connect the £multi-billion windfarm to the national transmission network.

This is a significant milestone for the two-gigawatt energy scheme, which aims to commence construction in 2027 and begin generating electricity in 2029. Once fully operational, the project will provide enough green energy for around two million homes.

In 2022 the West of Orkney Windfarm secured the development rights to an area of seabed from Crown Estate Scotland in the ScotWind leasing round to develop an offshore windfarm 30km west of Orkney and 25km north of the Sutherland coast.

The West of Orkney Windfarm will have up to 125 turbines on fixed foundations and is being developed by a joint venture comprising Corio Generation, TotalEnergies and Renewable Infrastructure Development Group (RIDG).

Last year, the project became the first ScotWind proposal to submit both its offshore consent application to Scottish Ministers and its onshore planning application to The Highland Council.

The onshore application provides information on proposed cable landfalls on the north Caithness coast, the project’s substation at Spittal in Caithness and the underground cables which will extend around 25km and connect to the substation.

In preparation for the application, the developer organised 33 public events, meeting over 2,400 residents across Caithness, Sutherland and Orkney in order to allow local people to actively participate and engage with the project’s design.

The application was accompanied by an extensive suite of environmental assessments based on survey data collected over two and a half years.

West of Orkney Windfarm Development Manager Jack Farnham said:

“We would like to thank local residents and community representatives, landowners and businesses across the Highlands for their time and input on our proposals. Community feedback helped us shape and deliver our application. The officers’ report and members positive decision ensures we can continue to realise the local, regional and national benefits from the West of Orkney Windfarm. 

“The onshore connection is a vital component of the offshore windfarm and will enable us to export clean electricity to homes and businesses across the country. The cables to our substation will all be underground and once installed, the land will be reinstated.

“We look forward to continuing close engagement with the Caithness community, The Highland Council and all other stakeholders to ensure all aspects of our onshore plans are delivered safely and successfully,” Farnham concluded.

The West of Orkney Windfarm plans for 60 percent of the project to be delivered by UK businesses over its lifetime, with 40 percent coming from Scotland, and has an ambition to drive skills development and create opportunities for businesses and organisations in Caithness, Sutherland and Orkney, across Scotland and the rest of the UK.

The developer has already supported a number of initiatives in the north of Scotland, including a £1 million research and development programme being led by EMEC in Orkney, a £1.2m education initiative led by UHI, a £125,000 Fit 4 Renewables scheme led by ORE Catapult and £50,000 to support local apprentices in Caithness and north Sutherland.

The project is still awaiting a decision on its offshore consent from the Scottish Government. The windfarm developer submitted its application in October last year, which includes applications for consent under the Electricity Act 1989 and marine licence applications under the Marine (Scotland) Act 2010.

The final decision on the offshore consent will be made by Scottish Ministers following recommendations by the Marine Directorate Licensing Operations Team (MD-LOT) and taking into account comments made by statutory consultees.

[The full application can be viewed here.]


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