Scottish government wins battle with RSPB over $14bn wind projects

Scottish judges today overturned a ruling delivered last year that would have halted work on four offshore windfarms worth a total of up to $14bn.

Wildlife group, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB), expressed "huge disappointment" at the ruling, saying thousands of protected seabirds would die.

The Inner House of the Court of Sessions backed an appeal launched by the schemes’ developers and the Scottish government against a ruling that they had gone ahead without adequate consideration of the wind farms’ impact on nearby colonies of seabirds.

The schemes in question were to be built in the Tay and Forth estuaries. They were:

  • Inch Cape, with an output of 784MW. This was recently taken over by Chinese giant SDIC;
  • Neart Na Gaoithe, a 448MW project owned by Irish firm Mainstream Renewable Power;
  • Alpha and Bravo, two linked projects with a combined output of 1.05GW projects owned by Seagreen, a joint venture between London-based utility SSE and US engineer Fluor.

Together the four arrays have an estimated inward investment value of between £7bn and £10bn ($9bn-14.3bn).

In a press statement issued today, David Sweenie, Mainstream’s offshore manager for Scotland, welcomed the decision.

He said: "This £2bn project is capable of supplying all the homes in a city the size of Edinburgh with clean energy. It will create over 500 jobs during construction and over 100 permanent jobs once operational."

Eddie O’Connor, the founder of Mainstream Renewable Power, said his company would now "move quickly" with the development of Neart Na Gaoithe (Gaelic for "speed and strength").

The objection to the farms had been brought by RSPB Scotland. Its director, Stuart Housden, said in a statement that the organisation was "hugely disappointed by today’s Inner House judgment".

He added that although the group supported renewable energy, the four projects threatened to kill "thousands of Scotland’s internationally protected seabirds every year, including thousands of puffins, gannets and kittiwakes. These could be amongst the most deadly windfarms for birds anywhere in the world."

Image: The proposed boundary for the Neart Na Gaoithe project (Mainstream)

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