A major energy company has pulled out of a controversial £200 million wind farm on Lewis because of a risk to golden eagles and other protected birds.
SSE wanted to put 125 turbines on the Pairc Estate in the south-east of the island, but a campaign by residents saw the proposals downsized to 57 turbines – each measuring 500ft – then to just 26.
Despite the concession, opponents argued the scheme still had the potential to harm sensitive bird species – including golden eagles, white-tailed sea eagles, merlin, black-throated diver, golden plover and dunlin.
SSE said it had withdrawn its interest in the site and had “concluded a project of this size is no longer feasible due to environmental constraints, particularly in relation to predicted bird collision risks”.
It is understood there is still potential to bring a wind farm with fewer turbines to the Pairc Estate, but SSE said it had no plans to progress with a smaller development.
David Gardner, SSE’s director of onshore renewables, said: “We are committed to developing onshore wind farms, but as a responsible developer we will only do so if proposals are environmentally sustainable.
“Our studies show that for the size of development we were proposing at Pairc this would not have been the case so we do not plan to progress any further. We do feel there is scope for a smaller development that could benefit the local community.”
Aedan Smith, RSPB Scotland’s head of planning and development, said: “We have been concerned about this proposal for a number of years.
“SSE should be commended on this responsible decision which recognises the importance of this site for sensitive species.
“We hope SSE and other wind farm developers will continue to apply similar consideration to other sites where there are environmental concerns.
“Although much of Lewis is important for wildlife, there is still scope to develop wind farms as long as they are well sited and designed. We withdrew our objection to a 36-turbine Stornoway wind farm, which is on a less sensitive part of Lewis, following efforts by the developer to reduce impacts on wildlife.”
The Pairc wind farm plan is central to a dispute between the landowner and the local crofting community, which is seeking to exercise its rights under land reform legislation to buy the common grazings that form part of the development site.
The community wants the land, with or without the wind farm, and ministers have approved their ownership bid. However, Barry Lomas, the Warwickshire-based accountant who owns the 26,800 acre Pairc Estate, does not want to sell.
He set up a 75-year lease with a subsidiary company which then signed a deal with SSE to erect a wind farm. He has claimed the land reform act breaches his human rights.
The Court of Session is now to decide the issue.
Plans to erect two 112ft-high wind turbines near the historic battlefield of Flodden have been rejected after a public outcry.
Concerns had been raised about the impact they would have on the area at Cornhill-on-Tweed, in Northumberland.
The Battle of Flodden in 1513 was one of Scotland’s worst military defeats – claiming the life of about 12,000 Scots, including King James IV.
|Wind Watch relies entirely
on User Funding