Renewable energy chiefs have called on Scottish politicians to find a way forward after planning consents for four offshore wind farms were successfully challenged over environmental concerns.
Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) challenged the consents for the four proposed farms in the outer firths of the Forth and Tay, amid concerns that they could kill thousands of birds from protected wildlife sites such as the Bass Rock and the Isle of May every year.
Now the developers of one of the farms, the Neart na Gaoithe (NnG) offshore wind power station, have written a letter to The Scotsman newspaper, calling on the Scottish Government to act on the decision which calls into doubt a potential total capital investment into Scotland of £8bn.
The letter said: ”Those projects represent a potential capital investment into Scotland of £8 billion – more than £3,000 per home.”
NnG is a £2bn capital infrastructure project and the companies behind it, Mainstream, Marubeni Europower, Siemens and InterGen, say it will create hundreds of construction jobs and could eventually power a city the size of Edinburgh.
The letter to The Scotsman, signed by Mainstream Renewable Power executive director and group chief operating officer Andy Kinsella and also Siemens energy head of EMEA project and structured finance Wolfgang Bischoff, said: “We have invested in Scotland as we believe it should be an ideal location to deliver large-scale offshore renewables given its skilled employees, expertise in the power industry, and its natural high wind speeds. It is for these reasons that the judicial review decision is so disappointing.”
It went on to say: “It is now for Scottish ministers urgently to set out how they will address the result of the judicial review positively to ensure the opportunity is grasped, and to work with us and our partners to ensure that this nationally significant project is properly consented and brought into operation in the very near term. Doing so will reassure investors that Scotland is still a destination for inward investment.
“The global energy industry is watching how Scotland’s government acts over the coming days.”
The RSPB said it had been working with the developers and Scottish ministers for several years to try and reduce the harm to seabirds and ‘regrettably’ the legal action had been the only option.
A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “Scottish Ministers are in the process of considering Lord Stewart’s judgement and its implications and are actively seeking a course of action and outcome that optimises the potential for Scotland’s wind industry and our renewable energy ambitions.
“The Scottish Government remains firmly committed to offshore renewables, low-carbon technologies which offer a huge economic opportunity for Scotland and have a key role to play in our fight against the threat posed by climate change to our society and natural environment. Clearly, protecting Scotland’s marine environment is of paramount importance: it is at the heart of the Scottish Government’s approach to offshore renewable energy applications, and we have already pledged to work constructively with the offshore renewable energy industry and RSPB Scotland to ensure the sector has a bright future in Scotland. The Energy Minister looks forward to meeting key stakeholders in the days ahead.”
Meanwhile, RSPB head of conservation policy Lloyd Austin said: “Prior to the consents being granted we worked closely with the Scottish Government and windfarm developers, and we welcome their commitment, along with the Minister’s statement, to continue to work together to try to find a solution.
”Whilst RSPB Scotland will continue to robustly resist any projects which threaten Scotland’s best places for wildlife we also remain resolutely supportive of the development of renewable energy sources in Scotland. There is an urgent need to decarbonise our energy systems to tackle the causes of climate change which are a major long term threat to wildlife.”
He added that it is clear that carefully sited offshore renewables are likely to play a major part in Scotland’s future energy mix and it would continue to work with developers and Government to ensure wildlife is protected during these projects.