Brockwell Energy submitted an application to Scottish Ministers in September 2019 for the development of a wind energy project within North Kyle Forest in East Ayrshire.
Conceived following the collapse of coal industry, its creation recognised the major shortfall in funds available to undertake meaningful restoration across disturbed parts of the North Kyle site and the need to create funding to invest in regeneration in local communities impacted from the demise of coal.
The application for development consent was approved by the Energy Consents Unit (ECU) in December 2021. A second application to vary the consent in order to further optimise the wind farm was submitted in August 2022, and approved in March 2023. Ground investigation works were undertaken throughout 2022 following approvals from EAC, and will continue on a limited number of turbine locations to allow us to fully understand ground conditions in specific areas of the site. We have also been optimising the substation hub in the south east of the site, with Scottish Power Energy Networks due to take over that part of the site for full construction by them to occur.
Commencement of Development at the site was notified to ECU and East Ayrshire Council (EAC) in May 2023, and development commenced in early June 2023.
The project includes a commitment to restore parts of the site and assist in regeneration of the area.
The site location has the following favourable characteristics:
A good wind resource
Sufficient landholding to accommodate a viable wind project without subsidy
A position outside the boundaries of any statutorily protected environmental features
A location where adopted planning policies indicate wind energy projects are likely to be acceptable (“Group 3” location)
Land with brownfield characteristics and abandoned surface coal mining areas that could be utilised and improved
A large amount of existing infrastructure, including internal access roads and direct access from the public road
Potential for re-use of discarded rock related to previous mining activities
Potential for new internal sources of stone
Proximity to the New Cumnock substation to allow export of power
Secured land rights from the two landowning entities involved
Both applications were accompanied by an Environmental Impact Assessment Report (EIAR) that provides a thorough appraisal of likely significant positive and negative environmental effects of the development. The EIAR’s describe how the project has been carefully sited and designed to minimise significant effects. The main change for the first application was a request to remove 5 turbines from the original 54 turbine layout, leaving a 49 turbine project. The main changes for the second application were made to optimise the site, and included extension of the operational life by 15 years; relocation of two turbines T13 and T25; reconfiguration of onsite substation arrangement and inclusion of associated temporary construction compounds with associated felling; removal and relocation of temporary construction compounds; realignment of access track between T52 and T53; and removal of redundant track length. Further micrositing of various turbine locations has also been made with the approval of East Ayrshire Council.
This will be a sustainable development capable of delivering approximately 635 gigawatt hours (GWhr) a year of clean, green renewable energy. This is the equivalent of the annual electricity consumption of c. 163,000 homes and represents a significant contribution to Scottish Government’ targets for renewable energy.
There will also be decreased greenhouse gas emissions. The project would have an expected payback period for the carbon emissions associated with its construction, operation and decommissioning of 1.9 years, if replacing generation capacity from the ‘Fossil Fuel Mix’. It would save an estimated 217,419 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions to the atmosphere a year compared to a typical Fossil Fuel Mix of electricity supply.
The development would also contribute to the UK’s indigenous supply of energy, reducing reliance on imported energy.
Regeneration and Enhancement
The application includes a commitment by Brockwell Energy towards restoration and regeneration within and around the site. Since inception, Brockwell have committed that the project will deliver significant additional funding, over and above the standard community benefit, to support local communities and for the restoration of abandoned areas since the project was conceived, and have held on to those principles as plans for the site have evolved.
Approximately one third of the application site has been subject to surface coal mining, with much of this land unrestored and having no prospect of full restoration. The project presents a unique opportunity to assist in restoration of these areas and to help to bring land back into beneficial use – consistent with the policies and plans of the Scottish Government and East Ayrshire Council. The restoration has designed to be complementary and to enhance other current restoration ideas and preliminary designs.
The scheme also offers opportunities for enhancement of the wider area. These are described in a Regeneration and Enhancement Activities Statement accompanying the application. This illustrates how parts of the site could be restored. It is envisaged that detailed proposals would be developed in line with those parameters, in consultation with EAC and the landowners, and liaison with local communities.
The restoration would be secured by legal obligations and undertaken concurrently with construction and commissioning. The works have been valued at £5.2 million and would be a combination of ‘built-in’ benefits, flowing from construction work, and ‘additional works’ secured through a committed £2.6 million of funding from Brockwell Energy through the 9CCG (a group of representatives from nine community councils in close proximity to North Kyle) which has been set up by Brockwell to allow dissemination of funds under a rigorous corporate governance structure.
The restoration ‘built-in’ and ‘additional works’ would principally be focused in the former Chalmerston mine complex to complement restoration works valued at around £4.3 million that will be secured by East Ayrshire Council.
The opportunities for regeneration, improving the amenity of the area and improving access to North Kyle in the short, medium and long term are exceptional.
The restoration opportunities are consistent with planning policies and are well aligned to many of the objectives and aspirations of the North Kyle Forest Masterplan. The project has been designed to offer:
Provision of public access along around 50km of track to provide routes of varying distance
Habitat management improvements including encouragement of black grouse
Restoration of peat and creation of water bodies
Restoration of c. 97 ha of currently derelict land
Regrading of tips to improve appeal to forest users such as walkers and cyclists
Provision of signposting and interpretive displays to aid navigation and provide context
The project would use existing infrastructure across the site including, where possible, recovery of construction materials from previous overburden stores and the narrowing of over-widened coal haul roads.
The North Kyle Trust
Brockwell Energy have committed, from the very outset of the scheme, to form a North Kyle Trust with a commitment to initial boost funding at financial close based on £33,333 per installed megawatt (MW), to provide targeted additional funding to support existing initiatives and projects. On an installed capacity of 205.8MW this would create an initial £5.94 million of funding, which will start to flow as soon as financial close for the Proposed Development is achieved. This will accelerate the commencement of the delivery of community funding. Funding of £2.6 million from the £5.94 million package would be committed to restoration over parts of the site as described above.
This boost funding, completely separate and additive from the community benefit amounts described below, is truly innovative in nature as it presents an early injection of cash during the construction phase, exceeding best practice guidance and providing financial support for projects and initiatives close to the site. No developer has ever made a voluntary commitment at this level and this reflects the original founding premise of the scheme, that being to find a means of generating significant and meaningful funding to make a difference to local communities over a long and sustained period of time, both to improve the local environment and invest in the communities.
In addition to restoration, the boost funding could be used to support the aims of existing initiatives, such as the North Kyle Forest Masterplan, the Coalfield Communities Landscape Partnership, other existing local initiatives, and ongoing site improvement works, as well as new community-based initiatives that may arise.
Brockwell have also committed to provide community benefit funding of £5,000 per MW installed capacity per year (index-linked). Using the example of a 205.8MW development, this means the annual contribution to the fund would be £1.029 million. Over the 25-year operational lifetime of the proposed development this would equate, assuming annual inflation at 2% due to inflation to £32.95 million. This represents a major financial contribution and resource to underpin regeneration and investment locally. The annual payments of this benefit would commence following commissioning of the development and continue for 25 years.