Green energy firms Infinergy and Boralex have taken the decision to seek to optimise their 21-turbine wind farm at Limekiln, south of Reay in Caithness in order to address a number of key issues. Scoping for a variation to the current Section 36 consent will be submitted to the planning authorities in the coming weeks which will seek to bring a number of improvements to the project, including a revised track design, allowing improved access during the construction works to the core path network and an increase in tip heights to align with the proposed Limekiln Wind Farm Extension.

Esbjörn Wilmar, Managing Director of Infinergy said: “Having started construction on site with tree felling and enabling works, it has become clear through dialogue with the local community that our proposed solution to the closure of the core paths on site during the construction works was not supported by local people, local politicians or the Highland Council.   An alteration to the track design looks to be the best solution which will allow us the keep the core path open during construction activities.  This will however require a variation to the current consent and as a consequence we will have to submit a Section 36C planning application.”

Taking the opportunity to apply for a S36C variation will also allow the project to address a number of other issues facing renewable developers, particularly in the north of Scotland. “The proposed change in the way grid charges are applied to existing and new transmission connected projects in the UK (the TNUoS charging review) will mean that projects furthest from where most of the electricity demand is in the south of the country will see a sharp increase in grid charges due. Projects in the far North of Scotland especially will see a severe negative impact. While we are looking to improve the track design, we are also looking to increase the energy yield from the windfarm by increasing tip heights in line with our Limekiln Extension project and applying state of the art turbine technology. It will allow us to generate more renewable energy with the same number of turbines, the same turbine positions and with the same or even a reduced environmental impact” continued Mr Wilmar.  “As we will be waiting for an outcome from the Limekiln Wind Farm Extension public inquiry, we have the opportunity to make this application which will then, if both are successful, be built as one development, reducing overall disruption during the construction stage. The increase in energy production, building the consented project and the extension project in one go and further optimizing the design the of site will also enhance the economics of the projects, offsetting some of the impacts of the proposed increase in network charges, but also the expected long-term reduction in power prices because of the Covid-19 impacts.”

Enabling works and onsite felling will continue this year to ensure the site is fully prepared, with the enabling works due to be completed by June this year.  Felling work will follow the completion of the enabling works, which will have provided the new haul roads required, and will last until the spring of 2022.  Delaying the main construction contracts will allow the forestry work to proceed unhindered and it is expected the operational date for the wind farm will now be late 2023 at the earliest.  Together with the Limekiln Extension project, the wind farm has a grid connection contract in place for 106 MW and discussions are progressing with National Grid for a revised connection date.

Located 2.8km South/Southwest of Dounreay Power Station, the proposal consists of 21 turbines and has, together with the Limekiln Extension project, a grid connection contract in place for 106 MW.  The wind farm will provide sufficient electricity to meet the needs of at least 39,500 homes based on the average generation mix of UK power sources.

Limekiln Wind Farm comes with a community benefit fund of £5000 per MW of installed capacity, equating to at least £440,000 per year or nearly £8 million over the lifetime of the development (based on 4.2 MW turbines). In addition, up to 10% of the project will be made available to the local community as a shared ownership opportunity, giving the potential to increase the economic value of the wind farm across Caithness.

Infinergy and Boralex announced the execution of a 50-50 joint venture agreement in October 2017, aimed at developing a pipeline of onshore wind projects, including the Limekiln Wind Farm project, essentially located in Scotland for a total estimated capacity of 325 MW.