Revised plans to build a controversial Scottish offshore wind farm that was at the heart of a dispute with conservationists have been unveiled.
Consent for the Inch Cape scheme, set to be built 15km off the Angus coast, was granted by Scottish ministers in 2014.
It was one of four major offshore projects planned for the Forth and Tay that became embroiled in a protracted legal battle with RSPB Scotland, which claimed they would pose an unacceptable risk to seabird colonies.
Courts found in favour of the wildlife charity, resulting in permission being quashed. However, a subsequent appeal by the Scottish Government saw the decision overturned.
Now Inch Cape Offshore, owned by Chinese firm Red Rock Power, has submitted a new, scaled-back application to build the wind farm.
There will be fewer turbines – up to 72 – under the latest plans but they will be bigger and more powerful than originally proposed, standing up to 291m tall with a rotor diameter of 250m. Fewer export cables will also be required.
The 700mw scheme will have the capacity to power up to 615,000 homes – a quarter of all Scottish households.
The original permission remains valid, but the developers say the revamped designs will improve performance and reduce potential risks.
“New learnings and technological advances create an opportunity for us to improve on the original proposals,” said Ian Johnson, project manager for Inch Cape Offshore.
“This wasn’t something we were required to do, but felt it was important to integrate new advances where possible and consider what we’ve learnt since our existing consent was granted.”
Aedán Smith, head of planning and development at RSPB Scotland, said the charity is currently assessing the rejigged proposals.
He added: “The use of fewer devices is positive as not only is it leading to significant cost reductions for offshore wind, it should also help reduce impacts to wildlife, particularly seabirds.
“However, projects must still be carefully sited, away from protected species and habitats, to really help deliver truly sustainable, green energy.
“It is also clear that there will still be substantial impacts on Scotland’s seabirds from offshore wind.”
Inch Cape’s environmental impact report is available at various locations in Angus, Fife and East Lothian.
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