A leading conservation charity could take further action despite losing a high-profile legal battle over an offshore wind farm.
RSPB Scotland sought to block the £1.8 billion Neart na Gaoithe (NnG) project in the Firth of Forth over fears it would damage bird populations.
In 2016, judge Lord Stewart upheld a legal challenge brought by the organisation against this and three other schemes designed to power a combined 1.4 million homes.
RSPB Scotland hard argued that permissions granted by the Scottish Government were a breach of legal requirements. But last year an appeal judge overturned this in a move described by commentators as a “victory” for renewables.
Yesterday, EDF Renewables UK announced that it has secured consent from the Scottish Government for an “improved design” for NnG, which will see fewer, taller turbines installed almost 16km from the shore.
The changes reduce the number of units from 75 to a maximum of 54.
But, stretching to a height of 208 metres above sea level, they will be capable of delivering the same 450 megawatts of energy – enough to power 375,000 homes for a year – with generation beginning in 2023.
According to the company, the revised design makes use of “the latest advances in offshore wind technology”.
The firm’s project director Matthias Haag commented: “This is great news and we are excited to move forward delivering this milestone project for Scotland which will provide low carbon energy for decades to come.”
However, responding to the news, RSPB Scotland said: “There have undoubtedly been significant improvements to this project as technological advancements have enabled the use of fewer, bigger wind turbines and the predicted harm to seabirds has reduced as a result.
“However, Scotland’s internationally renowned populations of gannets, kittiwakes and razorbills still face unprecedented risks from this and other offshore wind farms in Scotland and elsewhere in the North Sea.
“We will therefore be considering the detail of this decision very carefully over the coming days.”
Calling for the industry and the Scottish Government to aid seabird conservation, the charity went on: “There is no question that more renewable energy is needed to tackle climate change, but the current approach to offshore wind risks creating a new environmental problem that could decimate our precious seabird populations.
“The offshore wind industry is now a major player in Scotland’s marine environment, with a long term stake in the sustainable use of our seas.”
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