LIBERAL Democrat peer Nicol Stephen has unveiled plans for his latest foray into the renewables boom in the shape of an offshore windfarm nine miles off the Aberdeenshire coastline.
The former Deputy First Minister has made several controversial attempts to bring wind power to the north-east, sparking a series of campaigns by residents to halt his proposals.
And last night critics raised concerns about the potential for environmental damage from the new scheme.
The project – a joint enterprise with Allan MacAskill, the brother of Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill – is likely to feature eight floating turbines which would be visible from a large stretch of the Aberdeenshire coastline.
Research is being carried out to determine the impact on views from beauty spots such including Dunnottar Castle and Balmedie Beach.
Tycoon Donald Trump has also been informed of the proposals, since it is possible the turbines will be visible from his golf course at the Menie Links.
The American businessman is refusing to spend any more money on his resort while he mounts a court battle to block the proposed European Offshore Wind Deployment Centre in Aberdeen bay.
Lord Stephen, the former leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats, and Mr MacAskill, are both directors of Kincardine Offshore Windfarm Limited – a company set up specifically for the groundbreaking project.
Mr MacAskill is also a director of the Aberdeen Renewable Energy Group, which holds the remaining stake in the offshore wind power centre at the heart of Mr Trump’s legal row with the Scottish Government.
The proposed windfarm would be visible “from many parts of the low lying Aberdeenshire coastline” as well as higher ground about 20 miles away from the site, a report into the project has found.
Visitors to some areas of the eastern Cairngorm National Park may also see the turbines, according to the study.
Developers want the 50MW project up and running within five years – up to three years earlier than the usual timeframe for such developments.
As a result, it is proposed to monitor bird life and marine mammals in the project site area over a year. Normally such data would be collected over a two-year period.
Graham Lang, chairman of Scotland Against Spin, said he had serious concerns about the project.
Mr Lang added: “As one of the architects of the original subsidy scheme for renewable energy, Lord Stephen has attracted considerable criticism for cashing in personally. Moreover his onshore wind applications have been notoriously poor in taking proper account of planning procedure, environmental impact and community feeling.
“The fact that the windfarm will employ a new untested technology is surely an argument for taking more, not less care, in investigating possible environmental damage.”
Mr MacAskill, director of Pilot Offshore Renewables, which has set up Kincardine Offshore Wind Ltd, said: “All developments are challenging and this one is no different.”
In a joint statement with Lord Stephen, he added: “Over the next few months we will be engaging in consultations with the community, key stakeholders and potential local suppliers.
“We believe that this, along with other offshore demonstration projects around our coast, will further Scotland’s position as a global leader in offshore wind.”
Lord Stephen was unavailable for further comment last night.