EDF has bought a large offshore wind project near the coast of Scotland for more than €500m from developer Mainstream Renewable Power that marks the largest UK wind deal this year.
The project, which will cost EDF a further £1.8bn to complete, will ultimately generate 450 megawatts of energy, which is enough to supply electricity to 375,000 homes, and help the UK meets its emissions reduction targets.
The project, dubbed Neart na Gaoithe, which means “strength of the wind” in Gaelic, was delayed by several years because of a legal challenge concerning its impact on seabirds, but ultimately gained approval and won a government subsidy contract.
The deal follows similar investments by EDF, the French power company, which has pushed into renewables in recent years with big deals ranging from solar in Dubai to wind projects in Chile.
“This large-scale new offshore project demonstrates our strong ambition in being a leading global player in the offshore wind industry,” said Bruno Bensasson, who leads EDF’s new energy group.
The €500m price tag for Neart na Gaoithe reflects in part the value of the government subsidy contract attached to the wind farm, which was won by auction but is also at a higher price than other more recent contracts.
The fierce legal fight over the wind farm, which was spearheaded by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, stalled the project for several years, and at one point the court challenge went to Scotland’s highest civil court, the Court of Session.
At issue was the impact that the giant offshore wind turbines would have on seabirds, with the wildlife charity arguing that Neart na Gaoithe and similar wind farms nearby would kill thousands of birds a year, including species such as puffins and gannets.
However, the case was resolved in favour of the wind farm developers, and ultimately received full approvals, including grid connection agreements, and is expected to be fully completed by 2023.
Mainstream Renewable Power, the Irish energy company that developed the project, called it a “vital infrastructure project for Scotland”.
“We are very pleased to be bringing in such an established partner and supporter of the Scottish energy industry in EDF Renewables,” said Andy Kinsella, chief executive.
Scotland draws 60 per cent of its electricity from renewable sources, and is aiming for renewable generation to match 100 per cent of electricity consumption by 2020.