Portobello & Leith Community Wind Energy Project — Frequently Asked Questions

8th November 2011

What are you proposing?

Two com­munity-led, not-for-private-profit organ­isa­tions, PEDAL – Portobello Transition Town and Greener Leith, are pro­pos­ing to devel­op a com­mer­cial scale wind tur­bine on land at Seafield Waste Water Treatment Works, Marine Esplanade, Edinburgh. The site is on the bor­der between Leith, Portobello and Craigentinny Community Council areas. The wind tur­bine will gen­er­ate elec­tri­city for sale to landown­ers Scottish Water or to the National Grid. If suc­cess­ful, this will be the first com­munity owned income-gen­er­at­ing wind tur­bine in a UK city.

Why are you proposing to install only one turbine?

A single wind tur­bine is pro­posed at vacant land next to the Final Settlement Tanks at Seafield Waste Water Treatment Works. Our con­sult­ants have sur­veyed the site and con­cluded that this is the best loc­a­tion for a wind tur­bine in the area. They have also con­cluded there is only room for one large tur­bine at this loc­a­tion, due to oper­a­tion­al use of the rest of the site.

How big will the turbine be?

A range of sizes are being con­sidered, but the tur­bine would be from 80 to 125 metres high (from the foot of the tower to the tip of upright blade) with a rated capa­city of between 500 and 2,300 kW. By com­par­is­on, the Cockenzie Power Station chim­neys are 149 metres high.

How will you choose what size of turbine to put up?

The size of tur­bine chosen depends on the views of the City of Edinburgh Council as plan­ning author­ity and stat­utory con­sul­tees like Scottish Natural Heritage and Historic Scotland. It also very much depends on the response from the loc­al com­munity: would you rather see a lar­ger tur­bine sav­ing big­ger amounts of CO2 and provid­ing great­er invest­ment in the loc­al com­munity, or a smal­ler tur­bine and more mod­est CO2 sav­ings and com­munity fund­ing? We’re all loc­al res­id­ents, so we want to listen to as many loc­al opin­ions as we can.

How much electricity might it produce?

The wind tur­bine is expec­ted to pro­duce between 1 mil­lion and 4.5 mil­lion kilo­watt hours of elec­tri­city each year, the annu­al elec­tri­city usage of 300 to 1300 aver­age homes in Edinburgh.

Is the site windy enough?

Meteorological data­bases show the site is likely to have enough wind to make a large tur­bine viable. We have car­ried out an ini­tial three months of wind mon­it­or­ing, how­ever we require data over a longer peri­od (around 12 months in total) before we can get a firm idea of the likely wind resource at the site.

How will you get permission to put it on the site?

Seafield Waste Water Treatment works pro­cess the waste water for around 900,000 people in the city of Edinburgh and sur­round­ing area. Stirling Water Seafield, the site oper­at­ors, and Scottish Water, who own the land, have been help­ful in assist­ing this com­munity pro­ject to-date. PEDAL and Greener Leith are in detailed dis­cus­sions with these organ­isa­tions with a view to gain­ing exclus­ive access to the site to devel­op the wind tur­bine. We are hope­ful that agree­ments will be con­cluded soon.

What stage is the project at?

Initial tech­nic­al work has been com­pleted and sug­gests the site is suit­able for a com­mer­cial scale wind tur­bine (one of few poten­tial sites in the Edinburgh area). This work examined site phys­ic­al and oper­a­tion­al con­straints, poten­tial for grid con­nec­tion, health & safety in con­struc­tion and oper­a­tion, flood­ing risk, poten­tial tur­bine deliv­ery routes, and likely impacts on radio com­mu­nic­a­tions, tele­vi­sion sig­nals, avi­ation, MoD oper­a­tions, plus shad­ow flick­er and noise levels. Six months of bird sur­veys have also been com­pleted.

The next stage is to com­plete a fur­ther six months of bird sur­veys at the site, fur­ther wind mon­it­or­ing work, and a full land­scape and visu­al impact assess­ment. Planning per­mis­sion is required from the City of Edinburgh Council — due to the time scales for the remain­ing stud­ies, this would not be sub­mit­ted before June 2012.

What benefits would the project bring?

The pro­ject would:

  1. Reduce car­bon diox­ide emis­sions from elec­tri­city gen­er­a­tion by between 400 to 2000 tonnes per year over the 25-year life of the tur­bine. The pre­cise amount will depend on the final size of machine chosen.
  2. Result in a com­munity owned pro­ject gen­er­at­ing sig­ni­fic­ant funds for loc­al com­munity ini­ti­at­ives. Initial estim­ates by our con­sult­ants are that sur­pluses totalling hun­dreds of thou­sands of pounds could be gen­er­ated over the 25-year life of the tur­bine.
  3. Be a vis­ible state­ment of loc­al sus­tain­ab­il­ity, show­ing our com­munit­ies are com­mit­ted to play­ing their part in tack­ling glob­al prob­lems and becom­ing more self-suf­fi­cient places to live and work in.
  4. Provide oppor­tun­it­ies for inspir­a­tion and edu­ca­tion, for loc­al people (includ­ing school pupils) and groups from else­where.

What would you do with the surpluses?

That’s very much up to loc­al people: our only sug­ges­tion is that 100% of the sur­pluses (once run­ning costs are paid) should be used to fund com­munity pro­jects in the Portobello, Leith and Craigentinny areas. We have lots of ideas for the kinds of pro­jects that might be fun­ded: improv­ing green space, insu­lat­ing people’s houses, bet­ter cycle-paths, social enter­prises, job cre­ation schemes, and edu­ca­tion­al pro­jects are just a few. But we want to hear your views: what would you like to see the money inves­ted in? We’re plan­ning an extens­ive con­sulta­tion with loc­al people to find out what their pri­or­it­ies are: more details will be announced soon.

What’s the timescale for the project?

We’ve already com­pleted the ini­tial feas­ib­il­ity work, but we need to do more stud­ies and we also need to gath­er lots more loc­al views on the pro­ject and what people want to see it achieve. To identi­fy a pre­cise wind resource we need to put up a tem­por­ary met­eor­o­lo­gic­al mast on the site. The decision on wheth­er or not to take the pro­ject for­ward to plan­ning sub­mis­sion is likely to be made by May 2012; the plan­ning applic­a­tion for the tur­bine itself would be sub­mit­ted around June 2012 and, if approved, the tur­bine should hope­fully be up and run­ning in sum­mer 2013.

Who is supporting the project?

The pro­ject has been sup­por­ted from the start by Community Energy Scotland who provide tech­nic­al advice and admin­is­ter Scottish Government fund­ing for com­munity-led renew­able energy pro­jects. They provided a grant to pay for our ini­tial feas­ib­il­ity work and recently offered us a loan towards 90% of the fur­ther work we need to do before we can apply for plan­ning per­mis­sion. We have also received a small grant from Portobello & Craigmillar Neighbourhood Partnership towards the costs of con­sult­ing loc­al people on the pro­ject.

How does the project fit with Scottish Government policy?

The Scottish Government has set a tar­get for 100% of Scotland’s own elec­tri­city demand (about 16GW of installed gen­er­at­ing capa­city) to be gen­er­ated from renew­able resources by 2020. Within this, they have set a tar­get for 500MW of installed capa­city (or 3.2% of Scotland’s elec­tri­city use) to be gen­er­ated by com­munity-led schemes. So our pro­ject will con­trib­ute to that.

Who would buy the electricity, and where would it be used?

The power gen­er­ated will be sold to either the site own­ers, Scottish Water, or to a major energy com­pany via the National Grid. Scottish Water could pur­chase the elec­tri­city by off­set­ting the amount of power the tur­bine pro­duces against their energy bills; in phys­ic­al terms the elec­tri­city will enter the loc­al dis­tri­bu­tion sys­tem where it would be used with­in north and east Edinburgh.

Who will own and operate the wind turbine?

Once all rel­ev­ant per­mis­sions (e.g. plan­ning, grid con­nec­tion) are in place, a new organ­isa­tion will be formed to own and oper­ate the wind tur­bine. This organ­isa­tion will be jointly owned by PEDAL, Greener Leith and – we hope – a com­munity organ­isa­tion from Craigentinny. The Board of this organ­isa­tion will com­prise volun­teers drawn from these organ­isa­tions. Maintenance of the tur­bine will be car­ried out by a pro­fes­sion­al con­tract­or.

Will the wind turbine be noisy?

Noise pro­duced by wind tur­bines is typ­ic­al rel­at­ively low. It is quite pos­sible to hold a nor­mal con­ver­sa­tion dir­ectly below a wind tur­bine without rais­ing one’s voice, some­thing that can­not be done beside a busy road. Detailed noise assess­ment work under­taken in con­sulta­tion with Edinburgh City Council and involving back­ground noise mon­it­or­ing at nearby homes shows the pro­ject would meet rel­ev­ant noise lim­its.

How will the wind turbine be paid for?

We anti­cip­ate that 80 to 90% of the cost of installing the tur­bine will come from a bank loan. We will apply for grants and explore the pos­sib­il­ity of a com­munity share issue to fund the remainder.

How long is the financial payback?

The cost of con­struct­ing the tur­bine will depend on the final choice of tur­bine mod­el. The bank loan will be paid off over a peri­od of around ten years so as to allow for a size­able com­munity fund.

How long is the energy payback?

The energy pay­back of a mod­ern wind tur­bine — the time it takes to pro­duce the same energy used to man­u­fac­ture and install the tur­bine — is around 6 to 9 months. After that, low car­bon energy is pro­duced over the life of the machine, usu­ally 20 – 25 years.

What will the impact be on local views and the landscape generally?

Initial work on the impact of the tur­bine on loc­al views and Edinburgh’s city­scape more broadly show it will not be vis­ible from most of the Edinburgh World Heritage Site (the city centre). It will be vis­ible from Calton Hill, Arthur’s Seat, Craigmillar Castle and Craigentinny. The City Council has asked us to carry out work show­ing how views from Fife and the East Lothian Coastal foot­path will be affected, as well as a detailed study into impacts on Edinburgh’s cul­tur­al land­scape.

What will the impact be on the local bird population?

The chosen site for the tur­bine is close to three areas that are of recog­nised import­ance for bird pop­u­la­tions. We have con­trac­ted a pro­fes­sion­al orni­tho­lo­gist to carry out sur­veys of the bird pop­u­la­tion close to the site using meth­ods agreed with Scottish Natural Heritage. Surveys began in April 2011 and must con­tin­ue for a peri­od of 12 months. Once these are com­plete, we will be able to assess the pos­sible impact of a tur­bine on the bird pop­u­la­tion.

Would shadow flicker be an issue?

The pro­posed loc­a­tion near the coast means that shad­ow flick­er could only occur at a few nearby houses in the very early morn­ings over a few hours each sum­mer. Controls will be used if required to ensure shad­ow flick­er is elim­in­ated by slow­ing the tur­bine down dur­ing these hours.

Will it affect local television, mobile phone or radio reception?

Detailed assess­ments have been car­ried out to identi­fy the poten­tial effects on tele­vi­sion, mobile phone or radio recep­tions in the sur­round­ing areas. These show that no effects are likely.

Will it be safe?

In addi­tion to the usu­al tur­bine safety sys­tems, we pro­pose a sys­tem that would con­tinu­ously mon­it­or tiny vibra­tions with­in the tur­bine struc­ture. This sys­tem is able to identi­fy poten­tial faults before they mani­fest them­selves mater­i­ally, and so is able to achieve extremely high safety lim­its. It is effect­ive in mon­it­or­ing vibra­tions, crack form­a­tion and any build up of ice. The tur­bine would also lie in the least fre­quen­ted part of the site and, being close to the sea, icing would be expec­ted to be infre­quent.

How can I find out more about the project or show my support?

PEDAL and Greener Leith are keen to keep people involved as the pro­ject moves for­ward. We are plan­ning a series of events, stat­ic dis­plays and an on-line sur­vey, where people can find out more, ask for feed­back on spe­cif­ic ques­tions and show their sup­port. We also hope to have announce­ments through loc­al news­pa­pers, radio and TV at key points in the pro­ject. For the time being, our web­sites will con­tin­ue to provide updates – see www.pedal-porty.org.uk or www.greenerleith.org

You can also sign up to sup­port the pro­ject and give us the chance of secur­ing some of the fund­ing needed by regis­ter­ing as a sup­port­er on our Energyshare page at http://tiny.cc/porty-leith-wind

Where can I find out more about wind turbines in general?

You can find out more about the pros and cons of wind tur­bines at this FAQ web­site or by down­load­ing the Common Concerns About Wind Turbines report.

3 responses to “Portobello & Leith Community Wind Energy Project — Frequently Asked Questions

  1. “Surveys began in April 2011 and must con­tinue for a peri­od of 12 months. Once these are com­plete, we will be able to assess the pos­sible impact of a tur­bine on the bird pop­u­la­tion.”

    I won­der wheth­er the ‘pro­fes­sion­al’ orni­tho­lo­gist, whom you are pay­ing, will tell you how dam­aging tur­bines are to birds? What about bats? If you were told how destruct­ive to birds and bats tur­bines are, would you halt the pro­ject? There is plenty of evid­ence around to show that HAWTs kill bats and birds. Have you con­sidered an (enclosed) VAWT? Have you con­sidered any oth­er more envir­on­ment­ally sens­it­ive altern­at­ive?

  2. Good point Peter. The cost of con­struct­ing the tur­bine will very much depend on the final choice of tur­bine size. Our con­sult­ants have said any­thing between £1M and £3M is a good ball­park estim­ate for a tur­bine of between 500K­Wp and 2,300KWp capa­city. We will pay off these costs over a peri­od of ten years so as to allow for a com­munity bene­fit fund (estim­ated at any­thing from £100,000 p.a.). We could pay of the costs soon­er (per­haps over 5 years, depend­ing on the price we can secure for the elec­tri­city) but that wouldn’t leave any­thing for loc­al pro­jects in those years. The oper­at­ing costs will be low (insur­ance, main­ten­ance checks, taxes, etc) if things go smoothly and will be paid annu­ally over the 25 years lifespan of the tur­bine.

  3. Dear Pedal,

    In your­FAQS you men­tion energy feed­back but I won­der if also it is import­ant to say what the cost of con­struct­ing and oper­at­ing the tur­bine will be and the time that it will take to repay this from profit.

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