Irish company Mainstream gets onshore planning consent for Scottish wind farm

18 Jun 2013

Mainstream Renewable Power CEO Eddie O'Connor, in Cape Town, South Africa, with guests at start of the construction of the Jeffreys Bay Wind Farm. Construction of the wind farm started in January

Mainstream Renewable Power, the Irish solar and wind farm developer led by Eddie O’Connor, has been granted planning consent for the onshore cable works to connect its proposed stg£1.4bn offshore wind farm, dubbed Neart na Gaoithe, off the coastline of Fife, Scotland, to the national grid.

The offshore wind farm, which Mainstream is calling Neart na Gaoithe, the Irish for ‘strength of the wind’ is set to cost stg£1.4bn to build and will be capable of generating up to 450 megawatts of power.

In 2009, Mainstream was awarded the right to develop the offshore wind farm off the Fife coast in the east of Scotland. The renewable-energy project is expected to start generating electricity from 2017 if Mainstream’s offshore consent application gets approved.

Mainstream is planning to construct the wind farm 15.5km off the coast of Fife and in water depths of 45-55 metres.

Today, East Lothian Council’s Planning Committee granted consent for Mainstream to pursue the onshore works for the offshore wind farm.

These onshore works include 12km of buried cable between Thorntonloch Beach, East Lothian, where the subsea cable is planned to reach shore, and Crystal Rig onshore wind farm in the Lammermuir Hills, where the grid connection would be made.  

The consent has also approved the construction of a new substation at the Crystal Rig wind farm, adjacent to an existing substation.

If it’s built, Mainstream believes the Neart na Gaoithe 450MW project will have the capacity to generate enough electricity to power the equivalent of 325,000 homes (think the number of homes in Edinburgh).

The combined onshore and offshore development represents an investment of stg£1.3bn. The company anticipates the new wind farm would create hundreds of direct and indirect jobs both during the building phase and to operate it.

Meanwhile, Mainstream’s offshore consent application was submitted to Marine Scotland in July of last year. The company is expecting a decision on this application later this tear.  

“This is a major landmark for Neart na Gaoithe, allowing us to work towards ensuring that the onshore connection is ready for when the wind farm starts to generate power,” said David Sweenie, Mainstream’s offshore manager for Scotland.

He said the project would make a strong contribution towards Scotland achieving its 2020 renewable energy targets.  

Mainstream expects to start work on the onshore works in 2014. The company said the cable will be buried for the full length of its route.

O’Connor set up Mainstream 2008 after he sold Airtricity (now owned by SSE Renewables). Mainstream is currently constructing solar and wind farms across Ireland, South Africa, Chile and Canada.

Earlier this month, the company announced a joint venture with the investor Actis for a US$1.4bn project to bring 600 megawatts (MW) of wind and solar farms to market in Chile by 2016.

Carmel Doyle was a long-time reporter with Silicon Republic