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Scots court restores offshore fleet

RSPB challenge to Neart na Gaoithe, three other projects is overturned

Scots court restores offshore fleet image

Scottish judges have overturned a ruling that quashed consent for a 2.3GW quartet of offshore wind farms in Scotland.

The Court of Session ruled today in favour of developers and the Scottish government at Mainstream's 450MW Neart na Gaoithe, Red Rock's 784MW Inch Cape and SSE/Fluor’s 1050MW Seagreen Alpha and Bravo.

An earlier court decision had found in favour of an RSPB Scotland case brought on the grounds of impacts on protected seabirds.

“The reclaiming motions will be allowed and the cross appeals refused. The Lord Ordinary’s interlocutors of 18 July 2016 will be recalled,” said the court, essentially overturning the ruling from last year.

Neart na Gaoithe holds a Contract for Difference (CfD) and now is on course to be built with an eye on operations early next decade.

Project manager David Sweenie said: “This is a major step forward for Neart na Gaoithe, which is the only project out of the four offshore wind projects in the Forth and Tay to hold a CfD. We plan to move quickly with all our partners to bring this project to construction, and deliver the vitally important jobs and investment that it will create.”

He added: “We have worked closely with a range of partners on the project, including the RSPB and we look forward to continuing to do so as we take the development forward.”

Turbine numbers at Neart have since the original consent application been cut from 125 to 64.

Both Inch Cape and the two Seagreen projects are also being prepared for future CfD auctions. The former is developing a revised turbine layout which could reduce numbers from 110 to 72, as first reported exclusively in subscriber-only newsletter reNEWS.

RSPB Scotland director Stuart Housden said: “RSPB Scotland is, of course, hugely disappointed by today's judgment. While we fully support deployment of renewable energy, this must not be at any cost. 

“Combined, these four huge projects threaten to kill thousands of Scotland's internationally protected seabirds every year, including thousands of puffins, gannets and kittiwakes. 

“We will now need to take some time to consider this judgment in detail and consider its wider implications before commenting further.”

A spokesman for Red Rock said: “Red Rock Power welcomes the court’s ruling which supports the continued development of a £2bn investment in Scotland’s energy infrastructure.

“Red Rock Power also acknowledges the important and continued role that RSPB has in protecting our internationally important wildlife.

“We will therefore continue to work collaboratively with the RSPB and all stakeholders to refine the project design to ensure that the project can be delivered whilst minimising environmental impacts.”

Check through the day for more reaction to the decision and next week’s subscriber-only newsletter reNEWS for comprehensive analysis of what it means for the Scottish and UK offshore wind sectors.

Image: Neart na Gaoithe is due to feature Siemens 7MW turbines (Siemens)

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