According to the report, the 75-turbine wind farm might generate as much as £800 million (0.6% of Scotland’s GDP in 2016) throughout the course of its development over the next three decades. Alongside this boost is the creation of around 2,000 Scottish jobs every year during its construction and 236 for every year the farm will operate (approximately 13,900 ‘person years’ of employment over the project’s lifetime).
The analysis into the economic effects of NnG was commissioned by its developer Mainstream Renewable Power (MRP), and was carried out by the University of Strathclyde’s Fraser of Allander Institute. MRP was given exclusive rights to construct Neart na Gaoithe (Gaelic for strength of the wind) back in February 2009, and is projected to cost the developer around £2 billion. At full capacity, NnG could generate as much as 450Mw, making it the sixth most powerful offshore wind farm in the world as of today.
Chief Operating Officer at MRP Andy Kinsella said: “We have always known that NnG, as a large scale energy infrastructure project, is important for the Scottish economy. The results of the Fraser of Allander Institute’s study show the full extent of NnG’s impact on the Scottish economy for the first time. The study confirms that NnG will support the creation or retention of large numbers of high skilled, high quality jobs in Scotland during construction and its 25 year operational lifetime.”
The farm is not without controversy. The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (Scotland) has filed a number of legal disputes based on the threats that wind farms pose to the habitats of birds. Conservationists said that Neart na Gaoithe in particular threatens puffins, gannets and kittiwakes. But the RSPB lost its legal challenge to take its case to UK’s Supreme Court in July this year, in a decision made by Scotland’s High Court. Alongside Neart na Gaoithe are a further 265 offshore turbines in three other projects planned for the Forth and Firth of Tay areas, which have been given the go-ahead by the Scottish Government.
The newly-formed NnG Offshore Wind Farm Coalition (a collection of businesses lobbying for the benefits of the project) has urged the RSPB to respect the decision of the High Court. Mr. Kinsella said: “The NnG Offshore Wind Farm Coalition, launched this month, has called on RSPB Scotland to abandon its legal action challenging this project and three others. Today’s report shows the full extent of the economic benefit to Scotland put at risk by this ongoing action. I would ask RSPB Scotland to listen to this call and allow the project to move forward into construction. In doing so, Scotland will reap both the economic and the climate change benefits of a green energy project capable of supplying the electricity needs of a city the size of Edinburgh while displacing 400,000 tonnes of CO² per annum.”