Wind farm plan – what happens next?

The trust hopes the wind farm will be up and running by March 2014, as the value of Renewables Obligation Certificates (ROCs) issued by the UK government may fall in value after that.

The next step is the public ballot which will run until next weekend (October 27/28); if the vote is in favour that will be followed in November by an application for planning permission from Argyll and Bute Council.

Mr MacDonald said two-thirds or 66% in favour was the ‘perceived wisdom’ of the number of Yes votes required.

But some of the audience at Saturday’s meeting were confused about the function and importance of the ballot papers, which ask for a yes or no response to the statement “I support the building of Cove Community Wind Farm”.

And the environmental impact statement referred to in the meeting, together with the costs model, will not be available until after residents have voted in the public poll.

One member of the public said their views could be misrepresented: “We can’t vote until we have got all the information. If you are going to go to the planners you have got to go with a figure which reflects what people feel.

“£15m is a lot of money – I am in favour of it but I can’t vote Yes at the moment because we don’t have all the information.”

Mr MacDonald said ‘nobody here is forced to vote’, adding that the documents were still being audited so could not be made public at this stage, but would go on the website after the planning application was lodged.

A resident said that a comprehensive referendum should take place now, while another villager said : “Would it not strengthen your position if the vote was to be independently controlled and audited?

“There are too many of these leaflets going about and I don’t think that will give any credibility.”

Mr MacDonald said: “To us it is just part of a process. This is a long, long road. We have come a long way along it to get to this point.”

He added that delays could mean a fall in revenue for the community: “We do not have a lot of time. Time is a serious issue. If you lose another 0.1% of ROC for this community that is another £120,000 per year.”

The ballot sheets were distributed by volunteers to homes across Cove, Kilcreggan, Ardepeaton and Portkil last weekend, but do not state if there is one vote per household, and more were on seats at yesterday’s meeting.

They were collected at the meting and can also be handed in at Cove and Kilcreggan post offices.

The public can also comment on applications after they have been submitted to the council, but this process centres on planning issues rather than being a simple yes or no referendum.

The council advise anyone commenting on a planning application that their  comments may be made public, while the ballot papers ask for the postcode of the respondent.

18 Comments

  1. There was some rather woolly thinking by the objectors present; the vote is only a straw poll, it will have relatively little effect in the planning application, which is the point at which everyone gets to have a say. The CDT has neither the budget nor the statutory power to carry out a comprehensive or binding referendum; this vote really only serves to reassure the CDT that they aren’t on their own and have the backing of at least part of the community. The real proof will be provided by the support or otherwise offered at the planning stage; anyone can write a letter to support, comment about or object to the windfarm, and if they feel really strongly they can attend the council planning meeting and speak for or against it in front of the councillors who will then vote on the proposal.

    • Why do you think they were objectors? They didn’t say that.
      Are we sure Barbour is the only place it’ll be visible by the way? North Ailey? Craigrownie Gardens?

      • Actually now I think of it… Not all of them were against the plan from what they said.

  2. By objectors I mean those who seemed to get hung up on the vote and its veracity(or otherwise), not people who have decided to oppose the windfarm. Apologies for not being clearer.

  3. Not sure about the sightlines; the presentation mentioned that they’re visible from the former cove pier site, looking at the map I think they will be visible from parts of the Barbour road. There may be sightlines from North Ailey but if there are I think they will be mostly obscured by trees. They should not be visible from Craigrownie at all.

  4. At yesterday’s meeting, it was stated that the Community would not be liable for the loan to build the windfarm. This is money expected to be lent to the CDT – now, if I take out a mortgage, and I default, the bank can take possession of my property, and re-sell it. Therefore if the wind farm does not produce the required revenue to service the loan, it can be repossessed and sold – presumably to a developer, who could then expand it. I think the community needs to think long and hard. It also seems that 30% output per turbine could be rather ambitious.

    • 30% is a pretty normal figure to use; it’s what most windmills produce. While the Co-op are an ethical bank, I don’t think they stay in business by lending money to pie-in-the-sky schemes that will never give a return. There are also the manufacturers who have a vested interest in it succeeding; obviously they want to sell windmills, but they’ll go out of business just as quick selling them to schemes that don’t turn a profit and go bust all the time.

      I’m aware of windmill builders having financial difficulties and a few going bust, but I haven’t read of any windfarms going into receivership; given the polarisation of opinions on windfarms, I think such an event would be well covered by the media. If the CDT did go bust, it would be because the windfarm was badly planned and poorly sited; why would a business invest in something like that?

  5. While being undecided on the proposal as a whole, I do not agree that this vote is simply a ‘straw poll’ as db suggests. While not legally (or anything else for that matter) binding, it is, nonetheless, going to become an important leverage within the planning application. Should it be returned as overwhelmingly positive, it is rather compelling and, therefore, more of a commitment than attendees were led to believe. There is no question that this application will be contentious and to have seemingly balloted and received a positive ‘mandate’ from the community is important.

    It is vital to remember that this project is not owned by the community, it is owned by the cdt. In addition, the messages were mixed when it came to proceeding should there be a negative response (34 per cent or above). The vice convenor in her introduction stated that if the community was not in support, then the trust would not proceed further. This was initially echoed by the convenor, though later (and on repeated occasions) he used the words ‘your objections will be taken into consideration’.

    It was made clear that, in the cdt’s opinion, consultation, let alone a ballot, was not something which was actually required. Effectively they’ve been nice enough to ask us. They do not have to take into consideration anything which was said. (And that can extend to a negative result.) They made it clear that they are the owners of the project.

    Confusingly they said that people could vote at their agm, but, unless they differ from most organisations, in order to vote (and actually make it count) you will have to be a cdt member. Anything else is just another of these fabled straw polls. Should planning be granted there is little way back…

    It is my impression that, regardless of community opinion as per ballot, the trust is going to plough on. And they’ll do it using plenty of emotive rhetoric delivered right into their laps by the hopeful offer of plenty of pound signs! I predict much future crying over the proverbial overturned milk

    • It may be of help if I lay out a few facts here. These are fairly simple and should not be conflated in the way SJS writes.
      1) The legal position is that the CDT would own the windfarm.
      2) The ballot is not mandatory but merely indicative.
      3) The CDT board will NOT proceed with the project if the community does not support it.
      4) The CDT board will take into account all comments whether positive or negative.
      These statements are not contradictory. I hope they are clear and of assistance to SJS.

      • So is it indicative of households, individuals, over 16s, over 18s, anyone who walked into the hall on Saturday or all of the above?

  6. It costs a whole £2 to join the CDT, so it’s hardly a closed shop. If you don’t like it, vote against it and write a letter of objection if and when a planning application is lodged.

  7. I see the directors’ report is now on the trust site and states thr Environmental Impact Assessment ‘is complete and will be published in August 2012’. Apparently not, we were told on Saturday. Is there a problem?
    Also the anemometer ‘continues to provide valuable data’. So why use the NOABL stuff which is out if date? Is it actually as windy here as we were told? The summer seemed calm with many days like a millpond, and the winter storms were actually too windy, surely?

    • The NOABL wind data is based on observations over the 10 year period 1975 – 1984 (that’s 28 years ago!) using data collected from only 56 stations across the UK. This data is not only out of date within our changing climate but makes many assumptions to arrive at a local average wind speed. Safe and reliable data must be collected locally.

      30 percent efficiency seems optimistic when many if not most onshore installations are failing to achieve their target output. Efficiency figures are available for UK onshore wind farms ranging from 23.5 to 30 percent

      I would like to see income figures for the worst case scenario and those based upon actual collected data, which, to be safe, should be the figures presented to the community.

      • One other point to think on – it is not the Dev Trust (applicant) who are given planning permission for this, it is the area of land on which it is sited which gains permission. Therefore if planning permission is granted,and if the Dev Trust decide not to build it, or the community instructs them not to proceed, a developer can come in and build (and possibly apply to extend it) – so we should tread very carefully with all stages of approvals to proceed.

      • going back to SF’s very astute comments – the anemometer has been in place since July 2011 approx – may we see the data from this published prior to even more public money being spent on submitting a planning appliation , as NOABL data is no longer available?

    • At the meeting it was said that the anemometer data is required by the lender and the windmill manufacturer, presumably for due diligence. NOABL is produced using computer software that combines Met Office data with Ordnance Survey map data, it seems to slightly underestimate the actual windspeed up to 10 knots and slightly overestimate above.

      They explained on Saturday that they had just received the final draft of environmental impact assessment from the consultants, but it was being checked for bloopers before putting it online; given its large size this may take a while.

  8. Whichever side of the fence sit, the transcript of Lyndsey Ward’s speech to the SNP Conference in Perth this year on the subject of wind power in Scotland makes interesting reading “http://www.caithnesswindfarms.co.uk/Address%20SNP.pdf”

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