GSK turbine ambitions knocked back again

GlaxoSmithKline ($GSK) has been thwarted yet again in its attempt to install renewable-energy infrastructure at its ingredient production plant in Scotland. Having already had its plans for wind turbines rejected, GSK turned to tidal power, only to have that proposal dismissed too. Yet the company is still trying.

The tidal turbine proposal was rejected by Marine Scotland on the grounds that the project might have damaged the sensitive site. Montrose Basin--just upstream from the GSK site--is protected on the grounds of scientific interest and the vulnerability of some local species, and this weighed against the turbine application. Ultimately, Marine Scotland was unconvinced by GSK's attempts to show that its project would not have a significant adverse impact on the ecosystem.

GSK has accepted the decision and is now working on yet another proposal. This time GSK is working with Marine Scotland to assess the feasibility of using bladeless tidal turbines, Montrose Review reports. Choosing a bladeless turbine model frees GSK from questions about the impact blades have on the ecosystem. Research projects have previously questioned whether the noise of blades harms fish, or if physical blows disrupt zooplankton. GSK felt that its turbine application dealt with such concerns, but in light of the rejection has decided to take blades out of the equation.

Having already been rejected twice, GSK is being particularly cautious with the latest application. GSK is proposing a one-turbine pilot project to assess the impact, with a view to adding another 5 machines if the test is successful. At full capacity, GSK predicts that the bladeless turbines would generate a little more than 0.5 megawatts (MW) of electricity. This is well short of the amount of energy needed to meet GSK's original goal of making the plant carbon-neutral. GSK wanted to achieve its goal using 5 MW from wind, 0.66 MW from tidal and 1.15 MW from a combined heat and power plant. The rejection of an application for two wind turbines thwarted the plan, though.

- here's the Montrose Review article