Plans for a controversial mega-wind farm on the Isle of Lewis have been dropped following fears that golden eagles and other birds of prey would be killed by massive turbine blades.
The decision by Scottish & Southern Energy (SSE) to scrap its 26-turbine, 94-megawatt development at the Pairc Estate on the island was welcomed by RSPB Scotland.
The charity had predicted that up to 22 golden eagles, Scotland’s national bird of prey, could collide with the wind farm turbines over 25 years.
It also warned of the potential harm to other sensitive species, including white-tailed eagles, merlins, the black-throated diver, golden plover and dunlin.
SSE determined that, following environmental assessments and consultation with stakeholders, the project was no longer environmentally feasible, with a likelihood of birds striking the turbine blades.
David Gardner, SSE’s director of onshore renewables, said: “We are strongly committed to developing onshore wind farms, but as a responsible developer, we will only do so if the 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.”
However, he added: “We do feel there is scope for a smaller development that could greatly benefit the local community.”
Aedan Smith, RSPB Scotland’s head of planning and development, said: “This is very welcome news from SSE. 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.”
Mr Smith added: “We hope SSE and other wind farm developers will continue to apply similar thinking and 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.”
A spokesman for Scottish Natural Heritage said: “We recognise it was always going to be challenging to develop a wind farm on the scale SSE was talking about.
“But we are confident that a wind farm on a smaller scale in the area could be accommodated.”
Donald Murdie, of the Scottish Crofting Federation, said: “This leaves the door open to a community-based renewables development.
“We would be hopeful the Pairc crofters will press ahead with their buy-out plans.”
The Pairc Trust has the right to buy 20,000 acres of the 26,000-acre estate, on behalf of its 400 residents. But owner Mt Barry Lomas, based in Leamington Spa, does not want to sell and has launched a legal challenge against the move.
Golden eagles are on the Amber list of birds of conservation concern and are afforded the highest level of protection under UK law.
There are about 60 pairs of the eagles in total on Lewis.