Wildlife charities fear a series of major offshore wind farms in the Firth of Forth will prove “deadly” to seabirds.
The Scottish Government has granted permission for hundreds of turbines in the Forth and Tay that could generate enough energy to power 1.4 million homes.
But representatives from RSPB Scotland and the Scottish Seabird Centre said they were worried about the potential impact the structures would have on marine wildlife.
Stuart Housden, director of RSPB Scotland, said the charity was “extremely disappointed” with the decision.
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.
“RSPB Scotland wants to see the development of offshore wind in Scotland but it must not be at such massive cost to our internationally important seabirds.”
The SNP administration set a target of meeting 100 per cent of Scotland’s electricity demand from renewable sources by 2020.
Consent has been granted subject to strict conditions to minimise the impact on birds and the environment.
Tom Brock, chief executive of the Seabird Centre at North Berwick, said the charity was supportive of the need to diversify Scotland’s energy production and focus on renewable energy.
He acknowledged the environmental and economic benefits of the scheme, adding that offshore wind farms can provide havens for some marine life.
But he urged developers to work with charities to minimise risk to birds and stop damage to “vital” wildlife tourism.
“The most obvious concern for us is the risk of seabirds being killed by striking the blades of the turbines,” he said. “Considerate construction can reduce the risk of this – for instance, by careful planning of the turbine height.
“When these wind farms are constructed, it must be done in a way which achieves maximum mitigation of the effect on Scotland’s precious seabirds such as puffins and gannets as well as other marine wildlife. Scotland’s wildlife is special and we must look after it for future generations.”
Friends of the Earth Scotland welcomed the announcement as a “big step forward”.
Director Dr Richard Dixon said: “Just these four developments could supply two-thirds of Scotland’s electricity needs with clean, green energy on windy days.”
Energy Minister Fergus Ewing said the wind farms could create up to 13,000 new jobs.
He 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.”
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