Plan for floating solar panels at Leith is sunk

An artist's impression of the floating solar panels in Victoria Dock. Picture: comp

An artist's impression of the floating solar panels in Victoria Dock. Picture: comp

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AN eye-catching plan to install Scotland’s first floating array of solar panels outside the Scottish Government building at Leith has been scuppered.

Green entrepreneur Tom King came up with the project, which he says would have produced enough renewable electricity to power the nearby headquarters of Forth Ports, or could have pumped energy into the national grid.

He had talks with Forth Ports, which owns the site, but despite earlier indicating it was willing to consider a lease, Mr King said the company had sunk the scheme by refusing to lease him the enclosed area of water at Victoria Quay.

He said: “It was going to be the first floating solar scheme in the UK. It would have been good publicity for everyone involved. The project in such a high-profile location would have been great PR for Forth Ports and Leith.

“There was no downside to it, so far as a I could see.

And he said the financial prospects looked attractive too. “We were talking about £350,000, but with a payback in six years,” he said.

Mr King, managing director of SRT Ecobuild, said Forth Ports had made clear from the start they were not interested in investing in the project, but had indicated they were at least willing to consider leasing him the water space if he was able to secure investment from elsewhere.

In November 2013, Forth Ports told Mr King in an e-mail: “Having looked at your proposition for the floating solar panels in Victoria Dock, I can confirm that Forth Ports would not be proposing to invest in such a scheme. Should you or another party wish to invest in this proposal, we may look favourably at options to lease part of the waterbody for such a scheme.”

Mr King said: “I was 
devastated when they refused the lease because I had put two years into this.”

In the meantime, another renewable energy company, Floating Solar UK, stole a march on Mr King and installed the UK’s first floating solar array at a reservoir in Berkshire last year.

The Victoria Quay floating array would still have been the first in Scotland and Mr King said he was now looking for other sites.

A spokesman from Forth Ports said: “This project with SRT did not go ahead but there are many other opportunities for Leith that are compatible with our ports business.

“We are focused on growing the port of Leith and have recently worked with Edinburgh City Council and Scottish Futures Trust on an NHT housing development at Western Harbour where there was an opportunity to help towards the regeneration of the local community.”

ian.swanson@edinburghnews.com