Fourteen years ago, five determined renewable experts launched ambitious plans to bring offshore wind to Europe’s oil and gas capital.
When Jeremy Cresswell, Morag McCorkindale, Iain Todd, David Roger and John Black from Aberdeen Renewable Energy Group (AREG) first conceived the idea, little would they know how long it would take, let alone the media attention it would bring through opposition from the current US President Donald Trump.
But despite his attempt to scupper the development in 2013, the Aberdeen Offshore Windfarm, or the European Offshore Wind Deployment Centre (EOWDC), was completed by Vattenfall this year and will officially open on Friday.
“It’s amazing when you think about it”, said former AREG chairman Mr Cresswell. “Despite all the trouble, all the headlines, the project was achieved and landed.”
Former development project manager Iain Todd said: “Three or four years is what we were thinking at the time.
“I don’t think there’s anyone around this table that thought it would take more than ten years.”
Following the announcement of the development President Trump launched a court battle claiming the Scottish Government hadn’t followed due process while planning the wind farm.
He was concerned the mammoth structures would blight the view from his Balmedie golf course and his objections ended up delaying the project by nearly four years.
Yet AREG believes that the wind farm oddly benefitted from the delay and the publicity the current president brought to the development.
David Roger, former communications lead for Vattenfall, said: “Trump’s involvement actually catapulted the project into something that no one could really have predicted in terms of media interest.
“Very few people around the world knew that a wind farm was being proposed off the coast of Aberdeen. It garnered media interest on a global stage. It changed the dynamic – I don’t think any project has had the scrutiny this one has had.”
Indeed, given the massive media microscope under which President Trump put the development, there was genuine concern that the whole thing would begin to unravel.
Mr Creswell added: “It was a stressful period. All credit to Vattenfall – they stuck around. They could have walked away. It would have been easy for them to have done so, but they didn’t and ultimately the project prevailed.
“While things were being worked out in the courts, Vattenfall was still working on the project.”
What certainly contributed to the project’s success was the tireless groundwork and public consultation gathering that was done in advance by the team .
Mr Roger added: “We started the first proper conversation with the public in summer 2005. I counted them up and there were 32 public engagement events. There was an incredible amount of conversation with the people of the north-east.”
Morag McCorkindale said: “Overall, people were very supportive. Even people from the oil and gas sector turned out to support it.”