Plans to build the world’s third-biggest offshore windfarm in the Moray Firth could be under threat from a bird protection charity.
RSPB Scotland is considering mounting a legal challenge after the Scottish Government last week backed plans for two neighbouring projects off the Caithness coast.
The windfarms by Moray Offshore Renewables Ltd (Morl) and Beatrice Offshore Windfarm Ltd (Bowl) are expected to create more than 5,000 jobs and be able to power more than a million homes – while boosting the Scottish economy by £2.5billion.
But RSPB Scotland wants the 326-turbine development to be cut to almost half its size to reduce what they believe is an unacceptable level of threat to protected seabirds.
Aedan Smith, the charity’s head of planning and development, said a judicial review was an option, and added: “The risk to seabirds is just too great. We don’t have offshore windfarms in any environment like this at the moment. There are no windfarms with this density of seabirds elsewhere in the UK.”
“Part of the problem with the two sites is the huge amount of uncertainty about what the impacts are going to be. If it goes ahead as it is, it seems to be a case of crossing our fingers and hoping the seabirds are not affected.”
The charity lodged a formal objection to the proposals, calling for them to be scaled down to reduce the risk of the birds being killed by the turbine blades, or by losing their feeding ground.
Mr Smith said discussions were still ongoing within the charity and with legal advisors, and that a decision on whether to press ahead with the legal challenge would be made in the coming weeks.
A Morl spokesman said: “Our proposals have been developed following extensive survey and modelling work in consultation with the appropriate statutory and non-statutory stakeholders to minimise environmental impacts and can reduce greenhouse gas emissions and mitigate climate change.
“We would note that the RSPB point out that the effects of climate change on the wildlife and wild places we know and love can already be seen.”
Bowl said that in a study, the windfarm “was not found to cause any likely significant effects” on the seabird populations recorded at the site.