Hoy Wind Farm

Tagged with: Casework status: Open Casework type: Energy Habitats: Heathland Site designations: SPA Site designations: SSSI

Overview

RSPB Scotland is supportive of renewable energy, but we face climate and biodiversity crises, with huge losses of biodiversity happening in Scotland and globally. Although the current proposal six turbine development would contribute towards mitigating climate change by providing capacity to generate up to 28MW of renewable energy, the site is of great importance to nature. The predicted impacts are substantial and would result in an unnecessary and avoidable loss of species of conservation concern. The proposed development would also result in loss peatland habitats, itself a vital nature-based solution for to store carbon to help achieve net-zero emission targets. 

Hoy Windfarm.jpg

Why is it worth fighting for?

The area is exceedingly important for a number of iconic species of conservation concern. The proposed windfarm site lies next to the extensive Hoy Special Protection Area (SPA), Hoy Special Area of Conservation (SAC) and Hoy Special Site of Scientific Interest (SSSI). The first two designations recognise the international importance of the site for breeding birdlife and habitat respectively while the latter recognises the amazing geology as well as importance of the wildlife and habitats it hosts at a national level. Scapa Flow proposed Special Protection Area (pSPA) is also less than 2km away from the site. These protected sites reflect the unique and valuable wildlife that is present on Hoy.

The developer’s own assessment indicates that over a 25-year period there is a predicted loss of nine white tailed eagles, six hen harriers, 179 great skua and seven red-throated divers through collision. These numbers are concerning, especially when factored into the SPA species population modelling and when construction, cumulative and barrier impacts are also considered. In addition, there are predicted impacts from disturbance and displacement to these species as well as Arctic skua, curlew, and golden eagle. Hen harrier, Arctic skua and curlew are species on the red list of conservation concern while great skua are on the amber list. Arctic Skua, great skua and red-throated diver are also qualifying species of the Hoy SPA.

White-tailed eagle is also a nationally scare red list species. They only returned to Hoy in 2018 after a complete absence for 95 years. There is currently only one breeding pair this island, and although they nest some 5km from the application site it is within their territorial range. The predicted collision rate suggests a significant impact on this small local population.

Map

Take action for wildlife

A view of the loch at Abernethy
You might not realise it, but you have the power to influence local decisions to protect the wildlife around you. We’ve produced a Wildlife Action Pack full of information to help you make a difference.

Our position

The application by Orkney Isles Council (OIC) is for a six-turbine permanent wind farm development near Lyness on the island of Hoy, Orkney. It is one of three OIC proposed wind farm developments, all of which would contribute to the needs case for a new inter-connector between the mainland of Scotland and Orkney. While we understand this opportunity for the islands, we have serious concerns with the location and scale of impacts predicted for this development on Hoy’s wildlife.

Our concerns relate to the impacts of this proposal on a variety of key species and their habitats and therefore objects to the proposed development. The reasons for our objection include:

  • The predicted adverse impact to red throated divers which are qualifying features of the internationally designated sites Hoy Special Protection Area (SPA), and Scapa Flow proposed SPA.
  • The predicted adverse impact to Great skua which are qualifying features of the internationally designated sites Hoy SPA
  • The predicted adverse impact to the regional White-tailed eagle population
  • The predicted adverse impact to Hen Harrier population on Hoy
  • Predicted significant impacts on nationally designated sites including Hoy Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and South Walls SSSI Fringe Local Nature Conservation Site (LNCS) associated with loss of habitat and disturbance.
  • Predicted loss of high-quality peatland habitat.

We are also concerned that a permanent planning permission is being sought but the impacts have only been assessed for a 25-year period.

Wind farms can be an important part of mitigating climate change, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and meeting national renewable energy generation targets. We are however facing a parallel and linked loss in biodiversity. Action to combat climate change must not result in detriment to nature or significant greenhouse gas emissions. It is crucial that wind farm developments are carefully considered to ensure nature is protected and so that we fully realise the sustainability of renewable energy.

Timeline

  • October 2020
    Application called in (at OIC request) to be determined by Scottish Ministers
  • September 2020
    Application submitted
  • June 2020
    RSPB Scotland responds to the pre-application consultation noting the changes to the design (number of turbines reduced from 30 to six) but continuing to raise concern about the scale and location of the proposed development.
  • May 2018
    RSPB Scotland responds to scoping response raising concerns about the scale and location of proposed development (then 30 turbines) due to its proximity to designated natural heritage sites, potential impacts to birds (particularly red-throated diver, great skua, arctic skua, hen harrier, merlin, white-tailed eagle and curlew), and siting on peatland habitats.

 

Further reading

Key species affected

 

Useful links

 

Reserves affected

The site is near the Hoy RSPB reserve – the breeding territory of the white-tailed eagle pair.