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Pride and joy off Aberdeen, and never mind you-know-who

DISPATCHES | There were plenty of reasons to feel good about wind power at the opening of the EOWDC – and that's not fake news, writes Andrew Lee

“Emotional”, “proud” and “relieved” – words spoken after the delivery of many a major infrastructure project but resonating more than usual when applied to the European Offshore Wind Deployment Centre (EOWDC) in Aberdeen Bay.

They were heard often from the lips of senior officials from developer Vattenfall, its suppliers and project partners as they set sail on a ferry with Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and energy minister Paul Wheelhouse for the official inauguration of the 11-turbine, 93.2MW project.

For sure, deploying and integrating the cutting-edge technology featured at the wind farm was achievement enough. Project director Adam Ezzamel – surely the proudest man in Scotland during Friday’s ribbon cutting – explained that the pioneering installation of the EOWDC’s suction-bucket jacket (SBJ) foundations was one particularly big moment. “If you get your foundations wrong, you’re in trouble.”

Ezzamel and his senior colleagues at Vattenfall, CEO Magnus Hall and wind power head Gunnar Groebler couldn’t have looked more pleased, and who could blame them? They'd seen the successful delivery of a project featuring record-breaking turbines – two of the MHI Vestas V164s come in at 8.8MW – and the enthusiastic blessing of the First Minister, who posed for photographs with the turbines behind her with obvious delight.

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The event gave the admirably wind-friendly Sturgeon and Wheelhouse a perfect platform to espouse the benefits of the technology – “a single rotation can power a Scottish home for a day” was one often-heard line – and the work it creates in a region where oil and gas contracts are harder to come by.

But let’s be honest, the focus of much of the assembled press – what a certain US President might call the “fake news media” – was less on the turbines, the carbon-free power and the jobs than on the lengthy backstory of the project with Donald Trump.

Trump played a sort of Banquo’s ghost role at the feast of the EOWDC’s launch – but although he was never far from anyone’s mind, he no longer had the power to scare anyone involved.

The US President’s years-long but ultimately fruitless legal campaign to block the project may have left its mark on the wind farm, but there they were – eleven turbines in Aberdeen Bay on an even bigger scale than planned when Trump first set out to sink the whole enterprise over the perceived damage to views from his golf club.

The industry officials on the ferry played things with a straight bat. Hall noted that Trump was quite entitled to object and that his objection had been dealt with via the appropriate process.

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As they sailed around the bay the politicians couldn’t resist a more mischievous response, with both Sturgeon and Wheelhouse hoping that Trump, properly-briefed on the EOWDC and its many benefits, might become a convert to wind power.

Maybe it’s possible that on a future visit, the US President will place an arm round the shoulder of a golfer and murmur, “you see those wind turbines? We got the biggest wind turbines in the world right there, great wind turbines”.

Maybe, maybe not. But with the results of their labours – in the water and the courtroom – on full view off Aberdeen, the team behind the EOWDC probably won’t be worrying too much either way.

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