The Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) has now objected to plans for a large wind farm in Yell – saying building the turbines on peat bog would have a “negative impact on climate change”.
SEPA said in line with aims for Scotland to go ‘net zero’ by 2045 when it comes to emissions it must “act to protect areas of pristine, active blanket bog”.
The objection in principle to the Energy Isles wind farm is a shift from its initial consultation response last year, in which it suggested conditions be attached to any approval for the wind farm, otherwise it would object.
In the time since the first consultation response a refreshed climate change act was put into a law, which contains targets for reductions in greenhouse gases in Scotland over the next 25 years.
“In general we are supportive of renewable energy projects, but this is dependent on site specific impacts,” SEPA said in its new objection.
The agency said the proposed 23-turbine wind farm would be sited on “extensive, high quality blanket bog in excellent condition” which is “actively sequestering carbon from the atmosphere (ie taking it out of the air and storing it in the peat)”.
“The proposed wind farm would therefore lead to avoidable carbon emissions,” it added.
“SEPA and Shetland Islands Council have a climate change duty to deliver their functions in such a way as to support achievement of net zero emissions by 2045, and the interim targets.
“As such, unfortunately, we must now object in principle to the siting of the wind farm in this location and its associated negative impact on climate change.”
It added that construction on the site would “not be consistent with the statutory duty placed on public bodies under Section 44 of the Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009 (as amended by the Emissions Reduction Act 2019) to act in the way best calculated to contribute to the delivery of the net zero and interim targets in a way that it considers is most sustainable”.
SEPA also said the disturbance and extraction of peat involved in the construction would be contrary to Scottish planning policy and the Shetland local development plan.
It is the latest in a line of agencies and organisations to object to the revised plans for the Energy Isles wind farm, which has seen the number of turbines reduced from 29 to 23.
Shetland Amenity Trust, Scottish Natural Heritage, RSPB Scotland and the Shetland Bird Club have all recently objected.
The team behind the Energy Isles wind farm, led by Norwegian developer Statkraft, says when using a Scottish Government calculator the carbon payback time on the development would be around two years.
It says the permanent loss of blanket bog which would result from the development is 23.4 ha, which is a reduction on previous proposals from 30.61 ha.
A plan to restore around 70 ha of blanket bog has been put forward as part of the project.
The total volume of peat that will be excavated stands at around 327,000 cubic metres.
The developer proposes to store and manage active blanket mire habitat in seven borrow pits within the application site through re-use of peat excavated for the development and management of livestock grazing.
There is also an aim to restore and manage active blanket mire habitat in two locations on Yell, through local slope-reprofiling, seeding, and control of grazing and peat cutting.
Derek Jamieson from Energy Isles Limited said in August that “throughout this process the project has received strong support from local folk, but we’ve also worked very hard as a team to, where possible, address matters raised by consultees and the wider public so that our final submission reflects a project we hope the communities of the North Isles can be truly proud of”.
He previously said that “over the coming decades onshore wind power has a crucial role to play in helping to meet our climate change targets. The Energy Isles Wind Farm will play an important part in supporting this”.
As the proposed development is over 50MW in capacity the application is being determined by the Scottish Government’s energy consents unit.
The wind farm would have an installed capacity of around 160MW.
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