The Scottish Government has called in a project for a community wind farm in Orkney which could help pay for key services and influence plans for a subsea interconnector to the mainland.
Orkney Islands Council had asked Ministers to make the final decision on whether to grant planning permission for the £30 million project due to its potential national significance.
The planning application is for six 150m turbines at Quanterness, outside Kirkwall, with proposed capacity of 28.8MW.
The turbines are of a size never before seen on Orkney, with all parties having to weigh the impact of that with the potential for major benefit for the islands.
It is one part of Orkney’s Community Wind Farm Project, which could also see council-owned wind farm developments in Hoy (with up to seven turbines and capacity of 34MW) and on Faray (up to eight turbines and capacity of 32MW).
Applications for the Hoy and Faray projects are expected later in the year when public consultation will be carried out. The council will also ask for these projects to be called in.
The developments will enable the council to join other local developers in making a case for a new interconnector between Orkney and the mainland, which has been identified in the national planning framework 3 as a national development.
It argues that a new interconnector would make a significant contribution in meeting national net-zero carbon emissions targets and would follow on from the Scottish Government and local authorities across Scotland declaring a climate emergency.
A study will be undertaken to determine the best way to connect to the grid, with cost being a major consideration.
The earliest that the sites could be in operation is 2024, due to the need for a new interconnector, but work on the sites could start one to two years earlier.
Sweyn Johnston, strategic projects director, said: “If the proposals at Quanterness and other sites in Orkney’s Community Wind Farm project are found through the planning process to be appropriate and the projects go forward, they could generate significant income and community benefit for Orkney.
“All profit would stay in the islands, enabling the council to preserve and enhance key services that local people value and depend upon and providing a foundation for communities to drive transformational projects of their own.
“All three developments are substantial, and the turbines are of a height not seen in Orkney before (almost 150m to blade tip).
“The projects therefore present a number of potential impacts and these must be weighed against the potential benefits from the project.”