A rare wading bird that nests on Shetland has scuppered plans for an ambitious wind farm proposal, after a judge ruled that planning permission should not have been granted.
The judge ruled that ministers had failed to follow an EU birds directive when considering the potential threats the Viking wind farm project would pose to the whimbrel.
The whimbrel, an endangered wader that nests almost exclusively on the island, breeds only in north Scotland when in the UK.
Slated for 2018, the project would see the installation of 103 turbines covering 50 square miles on Shetland’s main island, and is expected to power up to 175,000 homes, making it one of the biggest wind farms in the UK.
Lady Clark also found against Viking Energy due to the company’s lack of electricity generating licence, when the Electricity Act dictates developers should possess the legal authority to produce electricity prior to approval.
The Scottish government has announced its intention to appeal against the judgment, with a spokesman telling the Guardian: “Scottish ministers have decided to appeal against the judgment and will lodge that appeal in the days ahead.
“Ministers do not agree that the application was incompetent under schedule 9 of the Electricity Act, nor do they agree that they failed to take proper account of their obligations under the EU wild birds directive in the decision-making process.”
Energy industry sources told the newspaper it was “perfectly normal” for a power company to apply for a generating licence after being granted planning approval.
Although the majority of Shetland’s energy is currently produced by a subsidised diesel-burning power station, the island is also home to what is touted as the world’s most productive wind turbine. The turbine, named Betsy produces between 52 per cent and 59 per cent of its potential output, compared to the UK wind farm average potential energy output of 28 per cent.
Scottish Natural Heritage had opposed the venture due to the “high likelihood of a significant adverse impact” on the population of whimbrels and their habitat.
Teaming up with the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB), the campaigners have twice managed to reduced the number of turbines from 150 to 103.
Viking Energy has refused to comment until the judge had published her final decision in full.
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