Construction of a £2 billion wind farm off Fife will begin next year after RSPB Scotland lost a long running legal challenge against development.
The UK Supreme Court today denied the bird preservation charity’s application for leave to appeal an earlier ruling which found that permissions granted by Scottish Ministers for the proposed Neart Na Gaoithe (NNG), Inch Cape and Seagreen wind farms in the Outer Firths of Tay and Forth were valid.
The move paves the way for tens of millions of pounds of direct investment in the region and the creation of up to 2,000 construction jobs for the build-out of NNG alone.
“After more than two and a half years, two court hearings and two rejected applications for leave to appeal by RSPB Scotland, we can finally focus on delivering the very significant benefits this project brings to the Scottish economy and its environment,” Andy Kinsella, Chief Executive Officer, Mainstream Renewable Power said.
“Once constructed this £2bn project will be capable of supplying 325,000 homes – a city the size of Edinburgh – with clean energy.
“A study by the Fraser of Allander Institute shows the project will create 2,000 jobs each year during its four year construction period as well as hundreds of permanent jobs once operational. The project will bring £827 million directly to the Scottish economy over its lifetime.
“We are delighted with the decision and look forward to working constructively with RSPB Scotland to take the wind farm into construction next year.
“This project was consented by Scottish Ministers in October 2014 on the advice of Scottish Natural Heritage and Marine Scotland. We have been rigorous in our approach throughout the project, working with partners and supply chain businesses to find the best possible way to deliver the project. We look forward to seeing NnG up and running.
“We have taken advantage of significant advances in wind turbine technology allowing the number of turbines to be reduced from the 125 in the original design to a maximum of 54 today.”
RSPB Scotland – which brought the case over concerns that the wind turbine blades could harm seabird colonies including gannets, puffins and kittiwakes – has yet to comment on the ruling.
Earlier in the day, the charity gave cautious support to Crown Estate Scotland’s statement that it was preparing for a new offshore wind leasing round in Scottish waters.
“We have been heavily involved throughout the development of offshore wind in Scotland, providing constructive expert advice to try and help such renewable capacity happen in a way which avoids harm to Scotland’s globally important seabirds,” Anne McCall, director of RSPB Scotland, said.
“Our peer reviewed scientific research suggests that there may be limited additional capacity for fixed offshore wind turbines in Scotland, which tend to be located in the shallow waters relatively near to shore and our protected seabird colonies.
“However, it has identified that there may be huge potential in Scotland for deeper water technologies such as floating wind. In this nascent sector, Scotland now has an opportunity to be a world leader and transition skills and jobs from North Sea oil and gas if we pursue these technologies in a sustainable way.”