Jobs boost hopes as Moray link to offshore windfarm is approved

‘Unusual’ planning meeting approved offshore wind plans

OFFSHORE POWER CABLES that will carry electricity generated from the Beartrice windfarm on the Moray Firth will then travel underground to a new substation at Blackhillock near Keith.

Moray councillors paved the way on Monday for the plan that will see a new sub-station built at the Keith site – with two trenches laid to carry 200Kv cables from Portgordon – a distance of 18.5km.

The new cabling from the windfarm will come ashore to the west of Portgordon then surface on farmland around 150m inland. Cabling to the substation will be buried underground at a depth of 1.5m to 2m.

Horizontal directional drilling techniques will be deployed to take the tunnel under watercourses, roads and both the Aberdeen to Inverness and Keith to Dufftown rail lines.

Members of the planning committee unanimously approved the application at a special meeting on Monday then saw it ratified at another special meeting of the Full Council immediately afterwards.

The application from Beartrice Offshore Windfarm Ltd (BOWL) was before the planning committee as a national development. That procedure allowed the applicant an opportunity to put their case before Councillors who then had an opportunity to clarify any points raised.

BOWL had previously received planning approval in principal for the route of the grid connection in February 2013. Drop-in consultation events were held by the company in November last year in Portgordon and Keith.

Following the decision the Convener of Moray Council, Allan Wright, said that the plans had “broken new ground” for Moray Council because of the technical nature of the application.

He said: “This moves the whole thing forward and the developers assured us that all that will be seen above ground is two manhole covers for inspection purposes.”

Construction is now expected to start next year with the 110 offshore turbines promising up to 5000 new jobs throughout the north – the new windfarm will be serviced from Wick Harbour, although Councillor Wright remains hopeful that some of the jobs will be created in Moray.

He added: “The potential for this field extends further – we remain hopeful that at least some of the support work and ongoing servicing will come to Buckie.”