Fears for Fife economy following offshore windfarm hitch

© DC Thomson

Doubts over multi-million-pound plans to build four offshore windfarms in the Firths of Forth and Tay have prompted fresh fears for the future of the Fife economy.

Engineering firm BiFab would have been in the running for the contract to build jackets for the giant structures for the Neart na Gaoithe windfarm east of Fife Ness, as well as three others off the Angus coastline.

Together, the turbines would have created enough electricity to power more than 1.4 million homes every year.

The Scottish Government has confirmed it will appeal a court ruling quashing planning approval, but the fate of the entire project remains unclear.

RSPB Scotland had challenged the consent amid fears the turbines would kill too many birds.

Fife councillor Tom Adams, chair of the Levenmouth area committee, said the uncertainty is bad for businesses, particularly in Methil where unemployment is already above the Scottish average.

Mr Adams has also expressed concern that Scotland could be facing an energy crisis if the government’s renewable energy policy falls flat in the wake of recent power station closures.

“Where do we go with our energy policy in Scotland given the RSPB has put all offshore wind farms on hold indefinitely?” he asked.

“And what happens to Methil? A lot of our hopes were based around building the jackets to put the turbines on if the company was successful in winning the orders.”

Mr Adams claimed people were in limbo as the fate of the project hangs in the balance.

“We’ve heard for the last 10 years that Methil will greatly benefit from renewables but nothing has actually happened,” he said.

“There are a lot of things hingeing on it, including a new college campus in Levenmouth where people can learn skills related to the renewables industry.”

With the closure of Longannet power station in Kincardine still fresh, Mr Adams said he was worried.

“Given that in the last six weeks coal power stations have put virtually nothing into the national grid, where is our energy going to come from?” he asked.

A government spokesman said: “Ministers have begun the process of appealing Lord Stewart’s judgments. Due to ongoing legal proceedings, the Scottish Government will not be commenting further on this case.

“In terms of our overall approach to renewables, ministers remain absolutely committed to protecting our marine environment, while working to ensure we can realise the full potential of renewable energy projects across Scotland – including offshore wind.”