New analysis of the ground vibrations produced by wind turbines has removed a significant constraint on the construction of wind farms in Scotland.
Trade association RenewableUK welcomed the study published by the Eskdalemuir Working Group (EWG), saying it would unlock the potential to install more than a gigawatt of onshore wind energy in Scotland.
The EWG, which includes representatives from governments and industry, commissioned a study on the safeguarding approach being used by the Ministry of Defence at the Eskdalemuir Seismic Array (EKA) in Dumfries and Galloway, which monitors international compliance with the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty.
Vibration and noise specialist Xi Engineering Consultants carried out the research and devised a more accurate way of calculating what vibrations proposed developments would produce, based on the characteristics of the turbines and their location.
The work confirms that there is scope to raise the existing cap on wind farm capacity without breaching the limit for permitted ground vibrations (the ‘noise budget’). This will allow the MoD to withdraw objections to some of the wind energy projects proposed within 50km of the array
At present there is a 10km exclusion zone around the EKA. However, the impact of seismic vibration from wind turbines falls off rapidly with distance, so to prevent developments close to the array from exhausting any headroom in the noise budget the Scottish government is proposing to extend the exclusion zone to 15km.
The EWG is headed by the Scottish government and includes representatives from DECC, the MoD, Scottish Renewables, RenewableUK and a number of its wind energy developer members who are shareholders in the Aviation Investment Fund Company Ltd (AIFCL), which provided financial and technical support for the research work.
RenewableUK chief executive Maria McCaffery said the research will create fresh opportunities in a part of the country that enjoys excellent wind resources. “The AIFCL has played a pivotal role, investing over £100,000 in this initiative as well as providing technical expertise and resources for research,” she added.
AIFCL director Tim French chaired the Eskdalemuir Engineering Sub Group. He said: “It is a significant achievement reaching a resolution to the Eskdalemuir issue, as it has held back a substantial amount of wind energy for the past five years.
“The strong collaboration between all the members of the Group, together with excellent input from the technical consultants, Xi Engineering, have enabled us to challenge original assumptions and develop a much more scientifically robust approach to safeguarding Eskdalemuir.”