More than 2GW-worth of offshore wind projects in Scotland are in planning limbo today after a bird charity won a legal challenge against them.
Scottish government consents for the 784MW Inch Cape, 1GW-plus Seagreen Alpha and Bravo, and 450MW Neart na Gaoithe had been challenged by RSPB Scotland over their potential impact on seabird colonies in the Forth and Tay region.
The Court of Session in Edinburgh today upheld the charity’s case, annulling the consents and leaving the three projects facing a lengthy revision process if they want to get development back on track.
Scotland's energy minister Paul Wheelhouse said: “Scottish ministers note Lord Stewart’s judgement and will now carefully consider it and its implications."
Wheelhouse said Scotland "remains strongly committed to the development of offshore wind energy", and added: "We are keen to work constructively with both the RSPB and renewable energy developers to ensure the sector has a bright future in Scotland.”
Neart na Gaoithe – developed by Mainstream Renewable Power (MRP) has already suffered the lapse of its offer of UK government contract-for-difference (CfD) support while it waited for the judicial proceedings to be resolved.
The project was on the starting blocks apart from the RSPB challenge, and had lined up Siemens turbines and the German group’s offshore transformer modules for deployment at the wind farm.
An MRP statement issued after today’s judgment said: “We note the court’s decision. While this is a setback in our development plans for the Neart na Gaoithe offshore wind farm, we remain committed to taking forward this project.
“Neart na Gaoithe has the potential to make a significant contribution to both the Scottish and Westminster governments’ commitment to climate change and to an improved environment which is the vision of so many people and organizations,” added a spokesman.
“This £2bn ($2.6bn) project is capable of supplying homes in a city the size of Edinburgh with clean energy and we look forward to bringing it to market.”
A spokesperson for Seagreen Wind Energy – co-owned by utility SSE and EPC group Fluor – said: “Seagreen Wind Energy Ltd is disappointed with the judgement. We will review the findings in detail and, in consultation with our legal team, consider our next steps.”
Inch Cape has since earlier this year been owned by China’s SDIC Power, which bought the development from Spain’s Repsol. The project company has not so far responded to a request for comment.
Industry body Scottish Renewables said the ruling is “extremely disappointing”. A spokeswoman said: “These three important projects together would transform the scale of Scotland’s offshore wind industry.
“Given the very significant levels of investment, employment and clean electricity these projects would deliver, I am sure that the Scottish Government and the developers who are involved will now want to look at the judgement in detail and assess the ruling before deciding how best to proceed.”