Planning refusal for tidal turbines

GLAXOSMITHKLINE (GSK) has suffered a blow to plans to make its Montrose site carbon neutral after it was refused permission to install marine turbines.

The company had applied to Marine Scotland for a licence to install 15 turbines, which would have been placed either side of the South Esk bridge but the organisation said it would not issue a licence as the site near the mouth of Montrose Basin has been designated a special protection area, a site of special scientific interest and a special area of conservation.

A GSK spokesman said this week, however, that the company aims to find a suitable alternative more suitable to the site.

In December 2011 the company beat three other bidders to win a tidal energy contract from the Crown Estate, which owns the majority of the seabed within the 12-nautical mile limit of UK territorial waters.

It was part of a tendering process begun the previous April and effectively gave GSK permission to lease part of the riverbed for the project although at that stage there were several steps in the process before the marine element of the company’s renewable energy scheme could go ahead. Had the marine generation licence been granted, a further application would have to have been made to Angus Council.

In a letter to the company, Marine Scotland said the decision had been made on the site’s “high sensitivity”, the poor state of some of the qualifying species and difficulty in quantifying the likely significant effects.

It continued: “It is considered that you cannot ascertain with certainty that the proposal will not have a significant adverse impact on the environment and the local amenity.”

Each turbine would have had a capability of generating around 0.66 megawatts when the tide flowed in and out of the Basin, which would have been enough to provide around seven per cent of the power required by the local factory.

The GSK spokesman said that while the company accepts the decision, it is now working with Marine Scotland on alternative proposals which use bladeless turbines.

He said: “Although modelling undertaken on behalf of GSK indicated that the blades of the turbines would not have had an adverse environmental impact, GSK recognises that Montrose Basin is environmentally sensitive and accepts Marine Scotland’s decision.

“GSK is working with Marine Scotland on an alternative proposal which would use bladeless turbines harnessing technology supported by Scottish Enterprise which has been trialled and proven at the EMEC (European Marine Energy Centre) based in Orkney.

“The company intends to submit to Marine Scotland an application for a generation licence to deploy and monitor a single turbine in the river close to Montrose bridge. Should Marine Scotland grant the application and the trial proves successful, GSK would seek permission to install a further five turbines.”

He added that the six machines, which would cost around £5 million, would be capable of generating 540 kilowatts of electricity and be linked directly to the Montrose site to help the company meet its aims of reducing costs and its carbon footprint.

The scheme would be separate from its proposals for two 426-feet high wind turbines at the Cobden Street factory although both would form part of GSK’s wider carbon reduction plan and complement energy efficiency promoted and implemented on site and in the manufacturing process.

Plans for the turbines were refused by Angus Council in August last year after members of the development standards committee voted 9-2 against the scheme, on the grounds that it would have a significant visual impact on the local landscape. GSK is currently appealing the decision which is being examined by a Scottish Government reporter.