Hunterston

  • Category: Renewables
  • Energy type: Offshore wind
  • Project type: Project

SSE Renewables has successfully led the decommissioning of the last remaining test turbine at the Hunterston National Offshore Turbine Test Facility today in North Ayrshire as Scotland prepares to embrace the next chapter in the development of its offshore wind capabilities and expertise.

Following six years of testing, the 6MW Siemens turbine was safely brought down to the ground with minimum local disruption in an operation by lead decommissioning contactors, Keltbray, and under the supervision of SSE Renewables. The operation involved a controlled felling using explosive charges. 

The Hunterston National Offshore Turbine Test Facility has been instrumental over the past 6 years in providing key data and testing technology which enabled the deployment of 84 turbines at Beatrice Offshore Windfarm in the Moray Firth. At 588MW and built in depths of up to 60m in the North Sea, 13km off the coast of Caithness, Beatrice is Scotland’s largest offshore wind farm, and the fourth largest in the world. Beatrice was officially opened in July by HRH Prince Charles, Duke of Rothesay. It is generating enough green energy to power 450,000 homes every year and save around 8 million tonnes of harmful carbon emissions over its expected 25-year lifetime operation, playing a crucial role in the UK’s efforts to combat climate change.

Commenting today, Jeremy Williamson, Director of Operations for SSE Renewables, said: “Today marks the closing of one chapter and the beginning of another as we embark on the next exciting phase of Scotland’s renewable energy revolution. Scotland has been at the forefront of innovation in renewable energy for the past two decades, and the Siemens turbine at Hunterston has played an important role in that innovation. Without the learnings that we took from Hunterston, we may not have been able to develop Beatrice Offshore Windfarm in the way that we did, which today is the fourth largest in the world.  

“While it is always with a twinge of sadness that we see a piece of engineering such as Hunterston decommissioned, we can also look forward with optimism to the exciting opportunities that lie ahead for the renewables sector in Scotland. 

“In the last week, SSE Renewables has secured a UK Government contract that will enable it to develop our Seagreen offshore wind farm project in the Firth of Forth. At 1,075MW it will, when it is completed, become Scotland’s largest wind farm. And like Hunterston, it will also afford new opportunities for innovation and learning, and further help to reinforce Scotland’s and Britain’s leadership role in the global offshore wind sector.

“Finally, I would like to thank everyone involved in the decommissioning at Hunterston today for their role in ensuring that the project was completely safely and with minimum stakeholder disruption. It has been another excellent example of teamwork.”

Ross Cowie, Hunterston Project Manager at SSE Renewables, said: “I’m very pleased that we have been able to safely complete the decommissioning of the last remaining test turbine at Hunterston. Our original intention was to dismantle the components of the turbine by crane. However, a suitable method of doing so safely could not be established. As a result, it was agreed by all parties involved in the project that the safest method possible for decommissioning the unit in the timeframe required under planning conditions was to utilise a controlled felling.”

Over the coming weeks the turbine will be dismantled and removed from site as part of ongoing works to decommission the overall facility and, where possible, components will be processed for re-use.

More information

Project information

Consented in February 2012, the Hunterston Offshore Wind Turbine Test facility, located in North Ayrshire, is the UK’s first onshore test site for offshore wind turbines. Construction works commenced in March 2013 with RJ McLeod appointed as the Principal Contractor for the project. SSE is working closely with supply chain partners Siemens and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Europe, Ltd following construction to test their latest turbine technology on two of the berths at the site. To date, no turbine manufacturer has committed to testing on the third berth, which was due to be operated by Scottish Enterprise who committed part funding from the National Renewables Infrastructure Fund towards the project. 

In January 2017, an application to extend the five year life of the site for a further two years was submitted to North Ayrshire Council. The purpose of this application was to facilitate completion of the test period and allow SSE to assist with the continued development of offshore wind technology in Scotland.  In light of the decision of North Ayrshire Council to delay a decision on a time extension for the Hunterston Test Facility, SSE Generation Ltd submitted a planning appeal, on Friday 21 July, to the Scottish Government.  Pending the decision from the Scottish Government, the site ceased generating electricity on Friday 13 October as the original consent granted by North Ayrshire Council expired on this date.  

On Tuesday 9 January 2018 SSE welcomed the consent for the two year time extension.

Following receipt of confirmation from North Ayrshire Council that the Conditions of Consent have been satisfactorily discharged, a 24 hour notice was submitted to North Ayrshire Council to confirm that Mitsubishi intend to re-start operations from midday on Wednesday 14 March 2018.   All operations will be in accordance with the new planning conditions.   

The development of the Hunterston test site has also been supported by invaluable funding from UK government departments – Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS). This funding forms part of the Efficient Offshore Wind Programme.

The Report by DTU Wind Energy, which can be found below under Important Documents, is aimed at assessing whether a lidar placed on the nacelle or the transition piece (TP) of an offshore wind turbine could be used for power curve verification instead of a met mast. This report presents the results obtained with both the TP lidar and the nacelle lidar  installed on an offshore wind turbine in the Greater Gabbard wind farm, located in the North Sea about 23 km from Lowestoft, Suffolk. The site, the measurement set up and the dataset collected are described within the first section of the report. The performances of each lidar are then discussed and finally the power curves measured by the two lidars are compared to the met mast power curve in terms of AEP and uncertainty. This work has been supported by funding awarded to Hunterston NOWTTF by the Department of Energy and Climate Change and the Technology Strategy Board’s Offshore Wind Component Technologies Development and Demonstration Scheme.

Hunterston’s wind resource, which replicates offshore conditions, coupled with its existing grid connection, make it an ideal site for the testing facility which has a key role in developing the UK’s offshore wind supply chain. The advantage of testing turbines on land is that it permits the manufacturer 24 hour access to make modifications and repairs, which is critical particularly for early series prototype turbines.

As a responsible owner and operator of renewable energy technology SSE takes all complaints relating to any environmental impact of its operations very seriously.  SSE has investigated a small number of complaints raised to date in consultation with North Ayrshire Council (NAC), and NAC have advised that there is no ongoing statutory nuisance pertaining to the site.  SSE and NAC Environmental Health  department have investigated noise levels and found that there is no correlation between the wind turbine operation and measured low frequency noise levels and also that the overall levels of low frequency noise measured would not be expected to cause adverse impact. NHS Ayrshire and Arran have also investigated the health concerns and concluded that there is no correlation between the complaints and turbine operation.

You can read a summary of noise surveys and complaints to date here. 

The facility will have a key role in developing the UK’s offshore wind supply chain by allowing manufacturers to demonstrate the reliability of the next generation of larger capacity turbines ahead of deployment offshore.

Press release

Hunterston turbine's final farewell

12 September 2019

After six years of operation and testing, SSE Renewables is set to conclude decommissioning of the Hunterston National Offshore Wind Turbine Testing Facility with the controlled felling of the remaining turbine. 

Hunterston’s unique offshore-like wind resource, coupled with its existing grid connection, made it the ideal site for testing new offshore turbine technology on land. After successfully concluding its intended role, the site will be handed back to landowner Peel Ports following the decommissioning. 

Director of Operations Jeremy Williamson said: “Our Hunterston testing facility was instrumental in enabling the deployment of offshore wind turbine technology for the UK’s offshore wind supply chain. 

“The site had a key role in providing key data enabling the deployment of the 84 Siemens Gamesa 7MW turbines at the recently completed Beatrice offshore wind farm in Scotland. Hunterston also allowed for testing under real-world conditions technologies which have since been deployed on offshore wind turbines across the world.” 

 The original intention was to dismantle the components of the Siemens turbine by crane. However, a suitable method of safely dismantling the turbine by crane could not be established. As a result, controlled felling has been identified the only feasible method for decommissioning the Siemens machine.  

Hunterston’s project manager, Ross Cowie said “We have successfully employed the felling technique in conjunction with Keltbray to bring turbines down at other sites in the past, so we have the knowledge and experience to fell this turbine safely.” 

The turbine is scheduled to be brought down by controlled explosion on Thursday 19 September subject to suitable weather conditions.

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SSE submits Hunterston planning appeal to the Scottish Government

24 July 2017

SSE has submitted a planning appeal to the Scottish Government following the decision of North Ayrshire Council to repeatedly delay a decision on a time extension for the Hunterston Test Facility.

With the Hunterston site’s current planning application due to expire in October 2017 the decision to appeal this was necessary to offer the site an opportunity to complete its instrumental work in the offshore wind industry.

As the only functioning onshore wind test facility for offshore wind turbines in the UK Hunterston has helped put North Ayrshire and Scotland in a strong position to benefit economically from the technology as the sector develops. To date the site has generated a total of £4.1million GVA for North Ayrshire and £32.4million GVA for the Scottish economy.

Following the submission of the Section 42 Application in January, SSE and its appointed consultants, have worked diligently and engaged in dialogue with Council officials, statutory consultees and local residents.

Sean Kelly, Project Manager at SSE said: ““As the only functioning onshore test facility for offshore wind turbines in the UK, Hunterston has delivered a number of benefits for the industry and local community.

“We were disappointed with the decision of North Ayrshire Council to again delay the decision on a time extension for the Hunterston Test Facility, despite its own officials’ recommendation that the consent extension be approved. Our decision to submit an appeal to the Scottish Government is our only option to take the project forward given the time limit on the current consent. We believe that the site still has a lot more to bring, both to the industry and the local community, and we hope we will be granted the appeal.”

As a responsible owner and operator of renewable energy technology SSE takes all complaints relating to any environmental impact of its operations very seriously. SSE has investigated a small number of complaints raised to date in consultation with North Ayrshire Council (NAC), and NAC have advised that there is no ongoing statutory nuisance pertaining to the site. SSE and NAC Environmental Health department have investigated noise levels and found that there is no correlation between the wind turbine operation and measured low frequency noise levels and also that the overall levels of low frequency noise measured would not be expected to cause adverse impact. NHS Ayrshire and Arran have also investigated the health concerns and concluded that there is no correlation between the complaints and turbine operation.

The planning consent includes six planning conditions relating to noise. These conditions outline the overall acceptable noise limit, the action to be undertaken in the event of a complaint regarding noise levels and also the action to be undertaken in the event of any exceedance of the noise limits. An additional planning condition relating to noise has also been proposed by North Ayrshire Council.

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SSE seeks time extension for Hunterston offshore wind test site

17 January 2017

SSE is looking to extend the current planning consent for the Hunterston offshore wind turbine test facility in North Ayrshire by two years. The site, currently home to a 6MW Siemens offshore wind turbine and a Mitsubishi 7MW Sea Angel offshore turbine, is the only functioning national onshore test facility for offshore turbines in the UK.

The extension to the consent period would enable a full five year operating window and the chance to further refine the important data and findings following early stage project delays. The Hunterston facility has been instrumental in securing Scotland's place as an international leader in offshore wind energy research and development. To date the Hunterston project has injected £32.4m into the Scottish economy with £4.1m of this in North Ayrshire.

Sean Kelly, Hunterston Project Manager, said; “The Hunterston test site is a unique facility that we believe still has much more to give to the offshore wind industry. The team is hopeful that we can extend the site for another two years to complete its current testing and research programme.

“The Hunterston site has not only brought benefits to the offshore wind industry and economic benefit to the region, the communities close to the wind farm have also benefited from the Hunterston Community Fund which is providing £250,000 over the current five years of the project.”

During the existing testing period the facility has allowed Siemens to use the 6MW test machine to refine their 7MW turbine which will be deployed at the Beatrice offshore wind farm in the Outer Moray Firth as well as other UK offshore wind farms. Mitsubishi testing has included the Artemis hydraulic system which has secured employment and provided excellent data for future offshore turbine designs and projects.

Since the project’s community fund began in 2013, £183,180 has been invested in grant payments across 68 local projects.  The fund has been welcomed by a broad variety of local clubs, groups, festivals and schools to run events, buy new equipment and improve facilities.

If successful this extension to the test site will allow SSE to assist with the continued development of offshore wind technology as well as providing a facility with Siemens for training future offshore wind technicians.

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