Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Tea Party tycoon in battle to halt vital £150m Scottish offshore wind test centre

I'm your man...if I run: Donald Trump told hundreds of supporters at a Tea Party rally in Florida that he had the 'qualities needed for the White House and the conservative ideals necessary to seal the Republican nomination'

A climate-sceptic tycoon who has told a Tea Party rally he might stand for President has vowed to oppose a key part of UK plans to become a world leader in offshore wind power.

Last week, utility company Vattenfall, engineering firm Technip and Aberdeen Renewable Energy Group (AREG), together submitted a planning application to Marine Scotland to begin construction of a £150 million development - the European Offshore Wind Deployment Centre.

But US real-estate tycoon and developer Donald Trump - who last April told a cheering Tea Party rally in Florida he would be the ideal man to run for US President, and who is host of the US version of The Apprentice - has promised to fight it "on every possible front".

His organisation, which operates numerous casinos, hotels and golf courses worldwide - is building a controversial £750m development on the Menie Estate near Aberdeen on the North Sea coast and has previously objected to the wind farm.

His development - featuring a luxury hotel, Trump Boulevard, a golf academy, a second course and timeshare apartments - is obliterating a SSSI (Site of Special Scientific Interest) on 4,000-year-old sand dunes. It was only approved against bitter opposition from locals, in a controversial planning inquiry ordered by the Scottish Government in June 2008, at which Trump himself testified.

In June this year, bulldozers began work tearing up grasses from the dunes. Trump is spending up to £60m of his own money turning the dunes into the course, which is scheduled to open in a year.

In a statement, the Trump organisation said: "We are opposed to the siting of this wind farm and will fight the proposal on every possible front."

His objection is ostensibly to the view. Yet the turbines would be 1.5 miles away from the development, and the Tea Party is famous for its opposition to climate change and renewable energy.

The European Offshore Wind Deployment Centre

Eight years in preparation and containing 11 wind turbines - shrunk from an original 33 to address safety concerns from shipping agencies and the Aberdeen heliport - the planned wind farm and test centre would stretch across Aberdeen Bay.

It will form a major plank of Scottish and UK-wide efforts to win a share of the huge and valuable construction work which will follow the granting of consent for the Round 3 offshore wind farm zones which are expected to deliver up to 25GW of new offshore windfarm sites by 2020.

The project has already received significant support from the Scottish European Green Energy Centre and was awarded a grant by the European Commission of up to forty million Euros in December last year.

The Deployment Centre is being developed by Aberdeen Offshore Wind Ltd, comprising Vattenfall Wind Power UK and Aberdeen Renewable Energy Group (AREG). Technip will also play a major role in the delivery of the project.

In a classic example of the old technology fusing into the new, the EOWDC will tap into the experience of the 900 engineering companies in Aberdeen that have been associated with the offshore oil and gas industry.

When operational it will be a test bed for offshore wind farm developers and associated supply chain companies for the next generation of designs. It will also allow existing technologies to be monitored and receive independent validation and accreditation ahead of their commercial deployment.

For this reason, if the windfarm is delayed or halted by Trump it will be a major block to the UK's expansion plans for offshore wind.

Results from the research which the project would generate are regarded as vital in the drive to make the industry more economic, and to deploy the 7,000 offshore wind turbines deemed to be necessary to keep the lights on in the future.

EOWDC also has the backing of local business leaders - but so does Trump's development. And in some cases they are the same people - such as the Wood Group, founded by the oil services magnate Sir Ian Wood, and Aberdeenshire council itself, which approved Trump's resort and is a partner in the Aberdeen Renewable Energy Group (AREG).

Squaring up for the coming fight, the UK manager of Vattenfall, David Hodkinson, said: "We believe we have made a good case for the development, which places Aberdeen at the heart of the development of new technologies to serve the growing European offshore wind sector."

Niall Stuart, Chief Executive of Scottish Renewables, said: “Offshore wind is especially important as it has the potential to deliver more than 28,000 direct jobs in Scotland by 2020 and contribute up to £7.1 billion of investment to the economy, breathing new life into our manufacturing sector.”

But Trump is having none of this. "We are here to stay and I don't think it's a good idea to interfere with our investment," George Sorial, managing director of the Trump Organization, has told a local paper. "We are not going to support a project that compromises what we have done. We will use any legal means in our jurisdiction."

The fight will be long and aggressively fought, and will begin as soon as the schedule for the consultation process is issued.

A neighbour of Trump's development, David Milne, who lives in a former coastguard station at Hermit Point next to the golf course, has had his view over the dunes and the sea blocked by a 20-foot high wall and a row of trees as part of the construction of the golf course.

"How can a man who has just destroyed a site of special scientific interest and is in the process of despoiling an area of outstanding natural beauty with his golf course, comment on the view? It's laughable," he asks.

The conflict over Trump's own development is the subject of a revealing and hilarious documentary, You've Been Trumped.

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