Jonathan: The wind farm project I’ve been working on since last January is now approaching a key milestone. Today I was at meeting with the client and the preferred contractor to discuss the drawings and other contract documents. After many difficulties and uncertainty over the course of the year, it looks like the final pieces in the jigsaw could fall into place early in the new year, and construction should start at the beginning of March. The project is for a 1Mw turbine, 44m rotor diameter in the far NW of the island. Quite a remote spot, and though just one turbine, requiring about 1km of access road, culverting of watercourses, fencing, crane hardstandings, an underground sub-station, nearly a kilometre of buried 11kV cable. The sheer size (above all length) and weight of not only the turbine components but also the construction plant (including a crane weighting 90 tonnes and a second crane not much smaller) requires a high quality road – 3.5m wide, gentle gradients, large radius curves, wide verges … a veritable motorway in Barra standards! Over the past year a lot of time and effort has been spent trying to get the turbine supplier to accept that transport by Calmac ferry and around the island roads is completely impracticable, and that the delivery needs to be made direct to the site by ocean-going barge. Eventually, though, our perseverence on that has paid off. The details of the barge transport are now a matter for the turbine supplier, but we’re expecting that the barge will be of the semi-submersible type, with a shallow draught and low cargo deck. It will sail from a European port direct to Traigh Sgurabhal, the sheltered beach on the east side of the Eolaigearraidh peninsula, immediately adjacent to the wind farm site. The beach has been surveyed, both on the surface and by geophysics (to check underlying rock profile). The beach will be profiled in readiness for the barge, which on on a tide just before spring highs will be winched into position, will take on sea-water ballast and then sit on the prepared beach. A ramp will be lowered to let the huge vehicles down onto a specially prepared road, which will go up a steep climb from the beach towards the turbine site. After erection of the turbine, the machinery will go back the same way. Simple? Well, if the weather is good, it should be straightforward enough. But we have to plan for when things go wrong! If the sea is heavy, and the barge can’t beach, then it costs around £10k a day in demurrage! If the first vehicle off the boat loses traction on the first steep climb up from the beach, then nothing else will get off the boat …. But most of the design and planning is done, and now the focus is shifting to the contractor, who has to look closely at what is required and work out a price for it all. Nearly there!