Porty & Leith Community Wind Turbine hits stumbling block in land negotiations

We are very dis­ap­poin­ted that our plans for the first urb­an com­munity wind tur­bine in Scotland have hit a stum­bling block after the landown­er, Scottish Water, changed their stance on the pro­ject at the start of this year.

Negotiations stalled after the private sec­tor com­pan­ies that man­age the PFI con­tract at the treat­ment works deman­ded that Scottish Water accept liab­il­ity for any acci­dents involving the pro­posed tur­bine on the site.

Although the risk of the wind tur­bine dam­aging the sewage works is extremely small, Scottish Water — which is 100% owned by Scottish Ministers —  have said they are not will­ing to accept the risk, even though PEDAL and Greener Leith would fund an insur­ance policy as part of the pro­ject.

Talks with Scottish Water and the com­pan­ies that man­age the Seafield site through a Private Finance Initiative began in February 2011. Despite receiv­ing sev­er­al writ­ten assur­ances from seni­or staff rep­res­ent­ing the organ­isa­tions involved that they would back a tur­bine on this site, it was not until 19th January 2012, nearly a year later, that Scottish Water changed their stance on the cru­cial land deal.

Representatives of PEDAL, Greener Leith and Scottish Water last met on 1st February 2012 in an unsuc­cess­ful attempt to resolve the issue. Since then, hav­ing already put in many hun­dreds of hours over many months to get the pro­ject to this stage, we have attemp­ted to lobby Scottish Government min­is­ters in a bid to find a way for­ward. 
 We’ve called on them to dir­ect Scottish Water to indem­ni­fy the PFI con­tract hold­ers from any risk asso­ci­ated with this pro­ject. Alternatively, the Scottish Government should cre­ate an indem­nity bond to cov­er com­munity renew­able pro­jects on land sub­ject to PFI. This could be covered in the future from the pro­ceeds from com­munity pro­jects that have benefited from it.

To date Scottish Water has not changed its stance on the pro­ject.

The extent of the influ­ence of private con­tract­ors over Scottish Water is unclear as the pro­ject requires a land deal that would last longer than the cur­rent PFI con­tract at Seafield – and the land, like Scottish Water, is ulti­mately owned by the pub­lic sec­tor. 

Proposals to build a single wind tur­bine on the site are the res­ult of long stand­ing col­lab­or­a­tion between PEDAL and neigh­bour­ing com­munity group Greener Leith. We already have fund­ing from the Scottish Government and British Gas Energyshare in place to take the pro­ject to plan­ning applic­a­tion and grid con­nec­tion. 


Expert opin­ion sug­gests that the Seafield site is the most pro­duct­ive site in the area. To date, our feas­ib­il­ity work has not uncovered any envir­on­ment­al or engin­eer­ing reas­on why the Seafield pro­ject could not pro­ceed. 

Eva Schonveld, Chair of PEDAL – Portobello Transition Town said:

 “We are par­tic­u­larly frus­trated that Scottish Water has taken a whole year to identi­fy these issues, dur­ing which a huge num­ber of volun­teer hours have been put into the pro­ject. Our feas­ib­il­ity work shows there are no tech­nic­al ‘show-stop­pers’ to build­ing a tur­bine here, we are the most sup­por­ted of nearly 1000 pro­jects across the UK that took part in the Energyshare com­pet­i­tion, and we have all the funds in place to take the pro­ject to plan­ning sub­mis­sion.

“We con­tin­ue to try to resolve the issue of liab­il­ity through nego­ti­ations and polit­ic­al solu­tions. It seems extraordin­ary that dozens of wind tur­bines oper­ate without incid­ent on sewage works around the world, but this can­not be done on pub­lic land in Edinburgh. We simply can­not accept that, which is why we are determ­ined to find a way for­ward.”

Charlotte Encombe, Chair of Greener Leith said:

“We are bit­terly dis­ap­poin­ted to have got this far only for the pro­ject to be stalled on what looks like a tech­nic­al­ity.
We are explor­ing every avail­able option to resolve this impasse, and will not give up on the pro­ject yet. We owe it to the thou­sands of sup­port­ers who voted for us on Energyshare.com, the hun­dreds of loc­al people who will bene­fit and our pro­ject fun­ders to try to find a way to break the dead­lock.”

Georgy Davis of Community Energy Scotland, a mem­ber­ship organ­isa­tion that rep­res­ents com­munity renew­able energy pro­jects in Scotland said:

“This is a dis­ap­point­ing turn of affairs for this inspir­a­tion­al pro­ject that is a res­ult of sig­ni­fic­ant com­munity efforts.

“The issue of indem­nity for third parties in rela­tion to land that has exist­ing infra­struc­ture on it is one that could be of increas­ing sig­ni­fic­ance for com­munity-led renew­able pro­jects par­tic­u­larly in the urb­an envir­on­ment poten­tially ham­per­ing the Scottish Government’s abil­ity to achieve it’s tar­get for renew­ables in gen­er­al and com­munity renew­ables in par­tic­u­lar. We believe the issue needs resolved.”

The two groups held a peace­ful demon­stra­tion at the pro­posed site yes­ter­day, 28th April. 

Large scale wind tur­bines can be found at indus­tri­al sites in oth­er coun­tries such as England, Holland and the USA. These include tur­bines at com­mer­cial ports, chem­ic­al plants, water treat­ment and waste water treat­ment works. Those to be found in oper­a­tion in England include 1x 1,300KWp tur­bine at Hull Waste Water Treatment Works and 2x 600KWp tur­bines at Mablethorpe Sewage Treatment Works. Further, con­sen­ted wind pro­jects at waste water treat­ment works are: Bristol (4x 3,000KWp), Newthorpe in Nottinghamshire (1x 3,300KWp) and Severn-Trent in Leicestershire (1x 3,400KWp).


The Scottish Government’s tar­get is to achieve 100% of elec­tri­city demand from renew­ables by 2020 and 500MW of com­munity-owned renew­ables by the same date. See their Electricity Generation Policy at http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Resource/0038/00389294.pdf for more inform­a­tion. To-date, com­munity owned renew­able energy pro­jects in Scotland have a com­bined gen­er­at­ing capa­city of 19MW, mainly in the form of on-shore wind and hydro.

More than 90 PFI or PPP pro­jects exist on pub­licly-owned land around Scotland, there­fore PEDAL and Greener Leith believe it is only a mat­ter of time before oth­er com­munity renew­ables pro­jects encounter sim­il­ar prob­lems.  

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