The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) in Scotland has published a map indicating that nearly all of Shetland is too sensitive to build wind farms.
The society hopes the map, which was presented to the British Wind Energy Association on Tuesday, will reduce the conflict between wind farms and birds of high conservation concern by urging developers to avoid the most important sites.
RSPB Scotland head of planning and development Anne McCall said the map was intended to help local authorities plan renewable energy projects, not hinder them.
And it did not necessarily mean the society would be objecting to all wind farm proposals in Shetland either.
She said: “The map was done by ourselves and Scottish Natural Heritage and the function of doing it was to highlight those areas where we had data for species we think are likely to be sensitive to wind farms.
“That kind of data we are asked for regularly by the development industry and they are going to need it following the new planning guidance that’s been issued by the Scottish Executive.”
Although only out in draft form at the moment the guidelines are likely to require councils to determine what contribution they will make to meeting Scotland’s renewable energy targets.
Current proposals would also require them to set aside broad areas of search for wind farms, as well as pinpointing the areas that should be off-limits.
She continued: “Part of this is about making the most up-to-date survey data available in a form that can be publicly accessible so developers can use it to their advantage.
“The map that we have produced is the most up-to-date data from a national survey and it only indicates where developers are likely to find sensitive species.”
Ms McCall added that the map was not intended to stand in the way of projects like Viking Energy, which is planning a large wind farm in the Lang Kames.
She said: “From the discussions we have had so far the approach being taken by Viking Energy is a very responsible one and every effort is being taken to iron out problems.”
Rhys Bullman of SNH added: “This extremely useful map utilises all the best current information that we have on the distribution of sensitive birds species throughout Scotland and will act as a useful aid to a broad range of users when determining suitable locations for renewable energy developments.”
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