Ministers have refused to give consent to two proposed wind farms in the Highlands as they would have a “significant and unacceptable” impact on landscape.
Sallachy and Duchally Estates in Sutherland had proposed constructing 22 turbines. Energy giant SSE sought permission for 23 turbines at Glencassley Estate, near Lairg.
When considering the Sallachy wind farm, ministers decided there would be an unacceptable impact on the Assynt-Coigach National Scenic Area and the Reay-Cassley wild land area.
In considering the Duchally Estates application, ministers concluded there would be an unacceptable impact on the Reay-Cassley wild land area.
For both applications, ministers concluded that on balance the impacts of the proposed developments would not be outweighed by any wider policy benefit.
Scottish ministers said the projects would have had an “unacceptable impact” on wild land. SSE said it was “very disappointed” by the decision.
Energy minister Fergus Ewing said the Scottish Government had to “carefully balance” the benefits to be drawn from renewable energy projects and their impact on scenic landscape and wild land.
He said: “We have been clear that wind farms can only be built in the right places and planning policy sets out rigorous steps to ensure wind farms are sited appropriately and sensitively.
“I have considered these applications fully and recognise the efforts made by the applicants to mitigate the potential impacts of the developments.
“However, I have refused permission as the proposals would still have significant and unacceptable landscape and visual impacts in the local areas and these are not outweighed by any wider policy benefit.”
A spokesman for SSE said: “We are very disappointed with the decision by Scottish ministers to refuse consent for Glencassley wind farm. We will examine the decision in detail and consider all options for the project before commenting further.”
Stuart Brooks, chief executive of the John Muir Trust, said the refusal of consent for both projects was “tremendous news”.
He added: “We are particularly delighted that the Scottish Government is using the Wild Land Areas map to provide protection to Scotland’s nationally important wild land areas.”