Plans by Lewis Windpower for a wind farm at Barvas Moor in Lewis have been refused consent on the grounds of incompatibility with European law.
Ministers have concluded that the proposed 181 turbine Lewis Wind Farm would have a serious impact on the Lewis Peatlands Special Protection Area, which is designated under the EC Birds Directive and protected under the EC Habitats Directive.
Energy Minister Jim Mather today re-iterated his commitment to renewable energy development in the Western Isles. The Scottish Government has already pledged to find a way to help the Western Isles share in the economic and community benefits of renewable energy, in harmony with environmental obligations.
Energy Minister Jim Mather said:
"I have considered this application very carefully. I have listened to representations from the applicant, taken the views of Comhairle nan Eilean Siar and considered the 10,924 objections and 98 letters of support. I visited Stornoway last month and heard at first hand a range of deeply held views. I have also taken ecological advice, and advice from the Scottish Environment Protection Agency and Scottish Natural Heritage.
"European legislation requires a specific procedure to be followed when proposals which could potentially affect Special Protection Areas come forward. I considered all the relevant issues and concluded it would not be possible to approve this application.
"The Lewis Wind Farm would have significant adverse impacts on the Lewis Peatlands Special Protection Area, which is designated due to its high value for rare and endangered birds.
"This decision does not mean that there cannot be onshore wind farms in the Western Isles. I strongly believe the vast renewables potential needs to be exploited to ensure that the opportunities and benefits of new development can be shared across the country in an equitable fashion.
"That's why we will urgently carry out work on how to develop renewable energy in the Western Isles, in harmony with its outstanding natural heritage. This work will result in an action plan for sustainable development on the islands and will be ready in the autumn.
"Nor does today's decision alter in any way this Government's unwavering commitment to harness Scotland's vast array of potentially cheap, renewable energy sources.
"We have already determined thirteen projects, including approval for the second and third largest wind farms in Scotland. There is 6.4 Gigawatts of renewable development either under construction or in existing or planned applications, well over twice the current installed renewables capacity of 2.8 Gigawatts.
"Even allowing for refusals we are well on the way to meeting our ambitious target to generate 50 per cent of Scotland's electricity demand from renewables by 2020. And emerging technologies will play their part - we are investing in the full range of clean, green energy, from wave and tide to biomass.
"I am confident we will reach our ambitious renewable energy targets and confident the Western Isles will play a part in helping to achieve that, to the benefit of the community and to the benefit of Scotland."
The Scottish Government has set a target to produce 31 per cent of electricity demand from renewable sources by 2011, and 50 per cent by 2020
Any proposal to construct, extend or operate an onshore wind farm in Scotland with a generation capacity in excess of 50 Megawatts (MW) requires the consent of Scottish Ministers under Section 36 of the Electricity Act 1989.
The Scottish Government's Energy Consents Unit is currently processing 35 renewable project applications - 27 wind farm and eight hydro projects.
One Gigawatt of renewable capacity is currently under construction. Current renewable applications to Ministers under section 36 of the Electricity Act amount to 3.4 Gigawatts, which, in line with processes for environmental assessment, public consultation and where appropriate public local inquiry, are all at various stages of the consents process and still to be determined.
The Energy Consents Unit has also provided pre-application scoping opinions for a further 2 Gigawatts of potential renewable development.
To give a scale of the potential energy quantities involved, 6.4 Gigawatts is well over twice the current installed renewables capacity of 2.75 Gigawatts and would be more than enough to power all of Scotland's homes. Installed nuclear capacity in Scotland is 2.4 Gigawatts.
Thirteen energy projects have now been determined by this Scottish Government. This includes consent for Scotland's second largest wind farm in Dumfries and Galloway, and Scotland's third largest wind farm in Perthshire.
In Scotland between 2005 and 2006:
Electricity generated by renewable sources (apart from hydro natural flow) increased by 46 per cent
In 2006, Scotland could have supplied 92.5 per cent of its electricity needs from non-nuclear sources
As a result of unplanned outages, nuclear's share of generation fell from 38 per cent to 26 per cent in Scotland
In October 2004, Lewis Windpower, a consortium of AMEC and British Energy, applied to construct and operate 234 wind turbines with a generating capacity of 702 Megawatts at Barvas Moor and other locations in north Lewis, on land owned by the Stornoway Trust and the Galson and Barvas Estates.
In December 2006, Lewis Windpower amended the application which reduced the number of turbines to 181, and the generating capacity to 651 Megawatts.
The Lewis Peatlands Special Protection Area (SPA) is designated under the EC Birds Directive. The SPA designation relates to the protection of golden eagle, merlin, red throated diver, black throated diver, golden plover, dunlin and greenshank, and many of these birds will be immediately adjacent to the wind farm development.
Natura 2000 is the EU-wide network of protected sites which represent areas of the highest value for natural habitats and species of plants and animals which are rare, endangered or vulnerable in Europe, and comprises sites designated under both the Birds and Habitats Directives.