Green groups have welcomed the development of the world's third largest offshore windfarm on the Moray Firth but RSPB says it will damage seabird populations.
Scotland's environmental charities are split in their reaction to the announcement that the world’s third largest offshore windfarm is to be built on the Moray Firth.
Friends of the Earth Scotland said the 326 turbine windfarm, which will actually be made up of two developments from Moray Offshore Renewables Limited and Beatrice Offshore Windfarm Limited, is “great news for renewables in Scotland”.
WWF Scotland also welcomed today's announcement of formal consent from environment minister Fergus Ewing’s for the two adjacent offshore windfarms in the outer Moray Firth.
However, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) said the developments could put populations of puffin, gannet, kittiwake, herring gulls and great black-backed gulls in the area at risk.
As a global leader, Scotland can create green electricity, reduce climate emissions and generate new jobs - Richard Dixon
Announcing the go-ahead for the projects, Ewing said: “Scotland has the potential to lead the development of an exciting, new renewables industry as offshore wind moves into deeper waters. Offshore renewables represent a huge opportunity for Scotland; an opportunity to build up new industries and to deliver on our ambitious renewable energy and carbon reduction targets.
“These wind farms alone could generate gross value worth up to £2.5 billion over their lifetime and generate up to 4,600 jobs during peak construction and up to 580 once in operation.”
Dr Richard Dixon, director of Friends of the Earth Scotland, said: “This is great news for renewable energy in Scotland. Harnessing the huge energy in winds around Scotland’s coast is a major step forward in the fight against climate change. These two schemes alone could provide 40% of Scotland’s peak power needs on a windy day.
“As a global leader, Scotland can create green electricity, reduce climate emissions and generate new jobs.”
However, while RSPB Scotland claims it recognises the need for offshore windfarms in tackling climate change, it says the scale of this development represents too great a threat to Scotland’s internationally important seabird populations, with turbine collisions and displacement from feeding grounds being key risks.
It claims some seabird populations in the area are already pressure and in dramatic decline, and the developments could tip them even further over the edge.
Aedán Smith, head of planning and development at RSPB Scotland, said: “It is disappointing Scottish ministers have decided to take such a risk with Scotland’s internationally important populations of seabirds."
We will be looking closely at the details of the consent over the next few days but we believe a smaller development could have provided very significant amounts of renewable energy with much less risk to marine wildlife.”
WWF Scotland said developers should work with environmental groups in a bid to minimse the threat to birds and the marine environment.
Gina Hanrahan, climate and energy policy officer at WWF Scotland, said:"This means there must be a clear commitment to post-consent monitoring and the sharing of all data to enable other developers to quickly learn and refine their future plans.
"Climate change is the biggest threat facing our oceans and seas globally, and is already impacting on Scotland’s marine environment. It’s therefore vital that we find ways to harness the clean energy that marine renewables, such as offshore wind, can provide.”