THERE ARE a number of offshore renewable energy projects planned or under construction around the Scottish coastline, and while these do not themselves cause any loss of treasured landscape, there will still be serious disruptions for farmers and landowners where power cables come ashore.

The majority of Scotland’s renewable energy currently comes from onshore wind and hydro, but with support and political will favouring larger offshore projects, this is expected to change as more offshore windfarms and tidal arrays are constructed. Offshore wind generation increased by 19% alone last year.

Rural surveyors Davidson and Robertson have been protecting the interests of landowners and farming businesses affected by energy installations across Scotland, from Berwick upon Tweed to Carnoustie and as far afield as the Orkney isles and Islay in the Hebrides. While these vary in scope and scale, the firm said that the essentials and impact of schemes to connect energy generated offshore with the onshore national grid are broadly similar.

Moray East Windfarm

Covering an area of 295km sq. and currently under construction, Moray East is 22km offshore in the Moray Firth, off the North Aberdeenshire coast. Consent for construction of up to 1,116MW was granted in 2016. Underground cables will connect from the wind farm to the national grid at a substation being constructed near New Deer, some 30 miles north of Aberdeen.

The underground export cable corridor route is 86km long, running 52km underwater, before coming onshore and travelling 34km across land. Construction of road crossings has begun with cable trenching works expected early 2019. The route for the power cables skirts away from residential property as much as possible to minimise disruption. However, the strip of land needed to lay the cables has a 50m wide ‘working width’ to allow three power cables to be laid in separate trenches, avoiding electrical interference and heat build-up which can result when cables are laid too close together.

The same developer is also scoping an extension – the Moray West Windfarm. For various reasons including tax and government regulation, they can’t use the same infrastructure as Moray East and will have to negotiate separate cable rights with landowners and farmers for a potential new substation. The route is likely to be close to the existing Moray East site, so if permission is granted, there is a strong chance that clients affected by Moray East will be affected by Moray West although it is too soon to know.

Other projects in North East Scotland that are constructed and operating or are close to completion are the Beatrice Offshore Windfarm Ltd project (BOWL) and the Aberdeen Bay Vattenfall project.

West Islay Tidal Energy Project Link to West Islay Tidal Energy project

There are ambitious plans for an off-shore tidal array of sub-sea turbines located off the western coast of Islay, linking to an electricity sub-station on the island. The West Islay Tidal Energy Farm project has agreed a lease with The Crown Estate for a 30MW tidal array, consisting of up to 30 tidal turbines in an area to the west of Portnahaven.

The developer hopes the electricity generated can provide energy to the growing whisky distilleries on Islay which have huge electricity requirements to produce the Islay malts. Energisation is expected to take place by 2022. The Developer – DP Martine Energy Ltd – and its development partner, Bluepower NV, have ambitions to increase the output of the site up to 400MW and making it one of the world’s first commercial scale tidal energy parks.

Seagreen Windfarm

The SSE Seagreen offshore wind farm, coming onshore at Carnoustie, has 19km onshore cable running to the substation at Tealing. The windfarm is approximately 25km east of Fife, in the outer Firth of Forth and has potential installed capacity of 2.45GW. Phase 1 (1.05GW) in the north will be followed by Phase 2 (1.4GW) in the south east. The onshore cables are crossing through some of the best agricultural land in the country.

Neart na Gaoithe Windfarm

Neart na Gaoithe (NgG) is a 450MW offshore windfarm 15.5km off the coast of Fife. When fully operational it will generate energy for 325,000 homes.

Orkney Mains Reinforcement Project

SSEN (Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks) is running a 300kW cable from a new substation near Dounreay to landfall west of Stromness on mainland Orkney. It will run underground to a new substation at Stymilders – approximately halfway between Kirkwall and Stromness. New overhead lines will fan north and south, connecting two large onshore wind farm projects and an offshore tidal energy scheme. Over time, this additional export capacity will allow construction of offshore wind farms in the islands.

D and R associate director Gervase Topp, who heads up the Aberdeenshire office, has clients affected by offshore work in North East Scotland and others in Orkney affected by National Grid reinforcement works. He advised: “Whatever the energy source, when cables come across fields, there are common issues faced by landowners and farmers. Once powerlines leave the Crown Estate foreshore and come ashore, they can be a considerable distance from the substation connection to the National Grid substation, often having to cross prime agricultural land to reach this connection.

“Our job is to ensure the impact on farming / landowner clients is minimised and that they are fully engaged in the process from the start. It is important not to underestimate the real impact, both in timescales and also the areas of land that can be out of action time during the pipelaying operations – many offshore projects require working widths of 50+ metres during cable laying operations.”

Working on the Orkney project with Gervase is Kirsten Tait who originates from Orkney and joined D and R as a Graduate Surveyor. Kirsten said: “The new electricity connection is essential for future development in Orkney, but it is equally important to ensure those affected are properly advised. They are entitled to professional representation, with the utility company covering reasonable costs. Travelling home to support fellow islanders is a great opportunity.”

The key messages to anyone affected by any type of utility work would follow the same principles:

  • Engage with an agent early in the process to influence the route (if necessary and where possible) and to ensure the best commercial deal;
  • Building work practices into the project control is advisable so all parties are clear on rights and responsibilities regarding access, drainage and reinstatement of land;
  • Do not underestimate the impact the scheme will have on your business. It is not just the loss of land during construction, there are also potential consequences with future drainage issues caused by a poorly designed trenching work and the sterilisation of land in the vicinity of the cables for future development.