Four huge offshore wind farms consisting of hundreds of turbines will be built of the east coast of Scotland after SNP ministers granted planning permission in the face of warnings about their “deadly” impact on seabirds.
The developments in the Forth and Tay regions will be theoretically capable of producing up to 2.284 gigawatts (GW) of electricity, enough for 1.4 million homes.
The Scottish Government said consent has been granted subject to strict conditions to minimise the impact on birds and the environment.
But RSPB Scotland said the proximity of seabird colonies meant it “inevitable” that birds would be killed by the turbines and warned the wind farms would be “amongst the most deadly for birds anywhere in the world.”
Large colonies of gannet, kittiwake, puffin and razorbill breed along the coastlines near the wind farm sites, including the 110,000 gannet colony at the Bass Rock and puffin breeding grounds at the Isle of May.
The Neart na Gaoith wind farm east of the Fife Ness coastline will have up to 75 turbines, generating 450 megawatts (MW) of power.
The Alpha and Bravo Seagreen developments combined will consist of up to 150 turbines, around 27-38km off the Angus coastline, and could generate 1050MW. And the Inch Cape wind farm, also off the Angus coastline, will total no more than 110 turbines, generating 784MW.
Announcing they had been given the green light, Fergus Ewing, the Scottish Energy Minister, said: “Renewable energy is extremely valuable to Scotland’s economy, to reducing our carbon emissions and in providing low carbon energy supplies as well as jobs and long term investment.
“These wind farms alone could generate a combined gross value added of between £314 million and £1.2 billion in Scotland over their lifetime and generate between 2,567 and 13,612 jobs within Scotland during the construction period.”
The SNP administration has set a target of generating the equivalent of 100 per cent of Scotland’s electricity demand from renewable sources by 2020. The decision to give the wind farms the go-ahead was welcomed by environmental groups.
Ronnie Quinn, lead for energy and infrastructure in Scotland at the Crown Estate, which manages the UK’s seabed, said the plans “further cement the UK’s position as a global leader in offshore wind”.
But Stuart Housden, RSPB Scotland director, said it was “extremely disappointing” to see approval for developments which “put so many thousands of Scotland’s seabirds at risk”.
He said: “If the models and assessments of potential damage prove accurate, these wind farms would be amongst the most deadly for birds anywhere in the world.”
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