A Leith-based renewable energy entrepreneur has announced that he has shelved ambitious plans to build an extensive array of floating solar panels at the Victoria Dock after owners Forth Ports backed out of a proposed deal.
The proposed solar array would have been the first in the UK, and could have produced enough renewable electricity to power the nearby Forth Ports HQ, the developers claim.
Despite this, Forth Ports reportedly first declined to invest in the project, and then when other willing investors were found to take the project forwards, Forth Ports then backed out of the whole process. The port operator then declined to sell the land he needed.
It is understood that Stewart Wallace, The Scottish Divisional Director at Forth Ports, said the firm was in the process of conducting a ‘strategic review’ of all its property and was thus unable to conclude a deal.
Tom King, Managing Director of SRT Ecobuild, the firm behind the floating solar plans told Greener Leith: “I am disappointed that Forth Ports refused to lease Victoria Dock to investors to construct the UK’s first floating solar array.
“Although FP’s recently agreed to refund a significant sum I had paid for an Option Agreement it does not compensate for the amount of time, effort and expenditure I incurred for planning applications, graphics, and videos to demonstrate the quality of the projects. I am still hopeful that Forth Ports may review this decision at some point.”
Mr King has been working on a number of projects in the docks area. He had also sought to buy land at Rennie’s Isle from Forth Ports with a view to developing floating homes, hotels and a ‘living laboratory’ to research low carbon living. He was also involved in plans to bring a farmers market back to the area.
But Mr King’s grand designs on Rennies Isle did not receive planning permission from the council, nor support from some local residents groups. Forth Ports have also declined to sell him the land he needed.
He says he has spent some two years working on various solar projects in and around Rennies Isle.
“I have put a significant amount of time, effort and expenditure into these projects and although EDC [City of Edinburgh Council] refused planning consent for the Scottish Living Laboratory HQ at Rennies Isle we decided to proceed with acquiring Rennies Isle, shore walkways and Malmaison Square from Forth Ports for other projects. These included floating holiday homes in the shore basin, floating solar arrays and bio matrix floating gardens which would both assist in reducing organic pollution naturally which would encourage marine and bird life to flourish.
“Other projects included renovating Rennies Isle bridge and adding lighting, refurbishing Malmaison Lighthouse for lighting shows projected onto the water and operating a weekly Farmers and Crafts Market. The company that operate two other successful markets also spent time and money on obtaining planning consent.”
Whilst Mr King is disappointed by the response he’s had from Forth Ports and the City of Edinburgh Council, this week councillors at the Finance and Resources Committee are expected to agree to lend £17m to a project that will see 138 more homes built at Western Harbour on Forth Ports land.