Plans to nearly double the size of a 39-turbine Highland windfarm could lead to protected eagles dying in the spinning rotor blades, it was claimed yesterday.
The RSPB said it is concerned by proposals to erect 30 additional turbines beside a windfarm due to be built on a Lewis estate. Bird charity spokesman Stuart Benn said: “We are seriously alarmed. This could have a devastating impact on what is one of Europe’s best sites for golden eagles.”
Uisenis Power, which is owned by Nicholas Oppenheim, plans to fit the 30 green energy structures – costing £180million – next to 39 machines which already have permission to be built on his private Eishken estate in South Lochs, next year. Mr Oppenheim has lodged a scoping opinion request – the first formal part of a planning application – to build the windfarm.
The RSPB spokesman attacked both the new and existing plan, saying: “We believe the bird survey techniques were inadequate and the results underestimated the importance of the site. This contributed to the very unfortunate decision to grant the existing consent.
“This area supports one of the highest densities of golden eagles in the world and is increasingly important for white-tailed eagles. We know that placing windfarms in the wrong place can be hugely damaging, with many bird casualties.
“This area supports around a dozen breeding pairs of golden eagles which produce a good number of chicks every year. The area also forms the nucleus of the recent expansion of white-tailed eagles in the Western Isles, following similar increases on Mull and Skye.”
Mr Oppenheim said that after 10 years of RSPB opposition to windfarms there are “now more eagles than ever around the place”. He added: “The community benefit will be every bit as good, if not better than the present deal to local residents.”
South Lochs councillor Philip Mclean said local residents need more details about the new plan. Mr Mclean said: “I feel the original scheme may have been unsuccessful if these extra turbines were included at the beginning.”
If planning permission is won, the development would be offered for sale to energy conglomerate International Power – owned by French firm GDF Suez – which now owns the original £230million scheme.
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