A £5.4bn offshore wind farm off the Scottish coast will not go ahead after developers concede it is not financially viable.
Scottish Power Renewables (SPR) made the decision to scrap the 1,800MW Argyll Array scheme off the coast of Tiree in the Inner Hebrides after technical and environmental site studies found that ground conditions at the site, particularly the presence of hard rock, coupled with challenging wave conditions would make construction unfeasible.
A significant presence of basking sharks also contributed to the decision. The company says the project, which would have had up to 300 turbines, may become viable in the future as offshore wind technology develops, but they estimate that will not be within the next decade.
Jonathan Cole, head of Offshore Wind at Scottish Power Renewables, said: “We believe it is possible to develop the Argyll Array site, it has the some of the best wind conditions of any offshore zone in the UK.
“However, it is our view that the Argyll Array project is not financially viable in the short term. As cost reductions continue to filter through the offshore wind industry, and as construction techniques and turbine technology continues to improve, we believe that the Argyll Array could become a viable project in the long term.
“The rate of progress in development of foundation and installation technology has been slower than anticipated. The current outlook for offshore wind deployment in the UK suggests this will not significantly improve in the short term. This supports the view that it could take 10 to 15 years for the required technology improvements to be available for this project.
SPR has been working on the Argyll Array project since 2009 but has now agreed with The Crown Estate, which manages the seabed around the UK and is responsible for leases for offshore renewable energy projects, that development work will cease on the project with immediate effect.
Ronnie Quinn, who leads The Crown Estate’s Scottish Energy and Infrastructure team, said: “While there is an excellent wind resource at the Argyll Array site, both organisations agree that the project should not proceed at this point in time.
“Developers have to take a wide range of factors into account when preparing to apply for planning consent – this decision by The Crown Estate and SPR follows a very thorough assessment of all those factors. We look forward to continuing to work with SPR on other sites and programmes.”
Deputy chief executive of industry body RenewableUK’s Maf Smith said: “The fact that not all wind farm projects go ahead is a natural part of the development process. Some encounter physical obstacles or financial challenges which mean that they aren’t viable for the time being – although they will be in the future, as cutting-edge wind turbine technology is developing at an astonishing rate.
“Other projects of course go ahead – only yesterday DONG Energy announced it had bought Centrica’s stake in Race Bank offshore wind farm, demonstrating that there’s a vibrant market for such projects.
“When you take a broad overview, the pipeline of projects is still a healthy one. We already have 22 offshore wind farms operating successfully, providing clean electricity for 2.5 million households. 5 more are under construction, a further 8 have been approved and another 12 are awaiting consent.
“The current pipeline of projects gives us the potential to have 20GW of wind energy installed in UK waters – more than five times as much as we have now. The Department of Energy and Climate Change says up to 39GW is possible by 2030."