In January 2023, Council of Ministers supported the immediate progress to enable the 2026 delivery target for a 20MW onshore windfarm, as well as 10MW solar deployed across rooftops and car parks on the public estate to meet the target outlined in the Island Plan.
Manx Utilities reports identified in the timeline are available in the sections below.
In 2022, a survey of the entire Island (including public and private land) was carried out by Bureau Veritas, utilising the GIS maps which are publicly available in tandem with Manx Utilities’ 33kV and 11kV Transmission and Distribution networks. There are over 500 sites on the Isle of Man which are owned by the public estate. Note that this study was carried out in tandem with a study to identify suitable sites on public estate for the deployment of solar panels.
Bureau Veritas applied their own modelling to the GIS data to combine the locations with NOABL (a global wind data set) wind speeds for the Island as provided by Ronaldsway Meteorological Office, the prevailing wind direction (South West), access of a site to the prevailing wind direction, the locations of buildings, topography of the site, transport access and crucially the environmental and ecological maps which are publicly available.
Each of these areas are equally important however there are some hard constraints:
- Wind speeds must be >6 m/s to ensure the windfarm is commercially viable. Typically on the Isle of Man these are all upland areas.
- Wind turbines must be located a minimum of 500m from the nearest property in line with Technical Advice Note 8 (TAN 8) (England & Wales) to mitigate noise impact.
- Heathland should be avoided where possible due to the high net biodiversity value of the land; the upland areas which do not have heathland are typically all catchment areas for water.
- The local network must be capable of supporting a 20MW generation input.
Once these key areas are considered our iterative selection process has indicated there are three broad areas on the Isle of Man where windfarms can be accommodated. The public estate owns the majority of the upland areas, which are not heathland habitat because they are also catchment areas for reservoirs.
In January 2023, Procurement specialists, Bird & Bird, presented their Procurement Report on the Isle of Man Onshore Renewables Project. Bird & Bird partnered with engineering consultants, Mott McDonald for the project. The report identified the procurement and ownership routes which delivered the best value to customers of the Isle of Man. The report also provided a recommendation on the most suitable mix of renewables for the Isle of Man based on weather data and demand and resultant cost to customers. This report highlighted that the ownership route which resulted in the best value to customer was public ownership. It also recommended that the Isle of Man Government should commit to a 20MW onshore windfarm to meet its 2026 Target with smaller scale solar projects delivered through a Framework Approach across public buildings.
Bird & Bird highlighted that it would be necessary to utilise the onshore wind sites already identified to meet the 2026 Target.
Engineering consultants, WSP, were appointed in March 2022 to carry out a review of the Manx Utilities’ Future Generation Strategy and detailed network and commercial study to identify the limitations of the power system. This work was an extension of the work carried out in 2021 by the Isle of Man Government; the purpose was to validate some of the original outcomes and carry out more detailed network and commercial studies than had been completed previously. The report identified the areas with the greatest strength for the connection of renewables to the power system and highlighted areas of the power system where 20MW could be accommodated. It also highlighted regions of the power system where there was a risk to the network from renewable connections.
All sites identified by Bureau Veritas have access to areas of the network which can accommodate 20MW onshore renewables. More detail is available on page 17 of the report.
Environmental consultants, Wardell-Armstrong, were appointed in March 2023 to carry out the site-based feasibility studies for all three sites identified in the initial feasibility study.
The technical considerations relate to energy yield which can be delivered at each site, which is ultimately derived from wind speeds.
The feasibility studies cover the following areas:
- Aviation & Telecommunications
- Landscape and Visual Impact Assessment
- Air Quality
These surveys will provide the information we need to start the consultation process and it will also assist us in deciding which site will be taken forward to the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) stage.
Due to the strategic importance of decisions taken by Manx Utilities in relation to the decarbonisation of electricity supply on the Isle of Man, the Transition Programme has adopted the Operational Decision Making (ODM) process to support our decision making. Transition Programme Board to the Isle of Man and the high level of interest surrounding decarbonisation on-Island,
Two ODMs have now been completed for the onshore wind project to identify a site to take forward to the Environmental Impact Assessment stage.
An initial Operational Decision Making (ODM) exercise was held on 4th July to select a site to take forward to EIA on the information available. The ODM Team agreed that a third site, West Baldwin & Injebreck, should be ruled out on the basis it could not deliver on the 20MW target laid out in the Island plan
The ODM Team agreed to reconvene following completion of the Phase 1 report to select a preferred site from the remaining two options.
A second ODM was completed on 10th August following submission of the Phase 1 report.
The ODM Team decided that given the clear deliverability risk for Sulby, funding secured for the Environmental Impact Assessment was best spent at Earystane. None of the team members believed that Sulby would be deliverable by 2026 and given there was a clear recommendation from the consultants to select Earystane, it was unlikely that planning permission could be granted for Sulby.
The Environmental Impact Assessment stage will still consider alternative sites in support of the upcoming planning application, which will help to alleviate concerns about other possible sites.
It will not be possible to confirm that a 20MW windfarm at Earystane is deliverable until the completion of the Environmental Impact Assessments. The 12 month SODAR wind and noise measurements will begin in September 2023, which will provide some early reassurance in the EIA phase. There is no decision at this junction to progress with the delivery of a windfarm at Earystane, only to take this site forward to EIA.
In September 2023, the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) will commence. This piece of work will help us to identify how to mitigate the impact of our wind turbines on the local community and environment, as well as carrying out the design work. This work typically takes at least 18 months to allow for two seasons of bird and bat migrations. It also allows us to gather accurate wind speed data to ensure our turbine design will withstand the most extreme wind speeds at the sites.
More information will be provided as and when it becomes available.