The Scottish Government has approved planning permission for two council-owned wind farms in Orkney.
The six, 149.9 metre (491 ft) high turbine projects at Quanterness, just outside Kirkwall, and at Wee Fea, in Hoy, are part of Orkney’s Community Wind Farm Project.
A similar development is under consideration on Faray in the North Isles.
Planning applications for the Quanterness and Hoy projects were submitted in January 2020 and September 2020 respectively.
Orkney Islands Council had asked Ministers to make the final decision for the developments due to their potential national significance.
An application for the Faray development was submitted in June this year and has also been called in by the government.
After considering written submissions, a reporter recommended the Quanterness and Hoy applications be refused, but ministers disagreed.
The council says the proposals could generate significant income and community benefit for Orkney, allowing key services to be preserved and enhanced.
The developments will also allow the council to join other local developers in making a case for a new interconnector between Orkney and the mainland.
A decision on the future of the project will be taken once the outcome of all three planning applications is known.
John Mundell, interim chief executive of Orkney Islands Council, said: “We welcome today’s announcement by the Scottish Government who in the planning process have clearly understood the potential economic benefits of ‘Orkney’s Community Wind Farm Project.
“We have one final ‘Orkney’s Community Wind Farm Project’ application currently with the Scottish Government and we await a decision in due course.”
Significant contribution to net zero
In letters approving permission for the two projects, ministers said they consider the contribution they would make, if permitted, to the interconnector needs case to be significant.
The interconnector requires 135MW of new projects to trigger its go-ahead.
The islands currently have three consented projects, with a combined capacity of 45MW.
Orkney’s Community Wind Farm Project, which would total 86.4MW, is regarded as vital towards meeting the target.
A report earlier this year said the transmission link could be worth more than £800 annually for each islander over the next 45 years.
It said the cable and renewable energy developments would boost economic activity in the islands by between £371 million and £807 million.
That equates to average annual benefit to each of Orkney’s 11,261 households of between £730 and £1,591, or £371-£807 a year per person.
A Scottish Government spokesman said: “Ministers have granted permission (subject to conditions) for wind farms on land near Quanterness and on Hoy in Orkney, on the basis that they are justified by their benefits, including their contribution towards the case for a new electricity interconnector to export renewable energy from Orkney to the Scottish mainland.”
He said Ministers cannot comment beyond what is set out in the decision letters.
He added: “A reporter has been appointed to examine the Faray application and they will provide a report and recommendation to ministers in due course.”