We know how important renewable energy is for Scotland, the UK as a whole and the future of our planet. Action to combat climate change is vital for both people and nature and we will continue to support it. We will also however continue to fight for wildlife as it faces increasing and more complex pressures. Renewable energy provision and protecting nature can, and must, go hand in hand in a sustainable society.
The table below shows the consented, pipeline and pre-pipeline commercial scale wind farm projects in the Forth and Tay area. We are currently working on the Berwick Bank and Marr Bank applications, talking with the developer prior to them submitting applications and providing comments on the pre-application submissions relating to environmental impact (EIA) and habitats (HRA) assessments.
We are particularly concerned about the cumulative impact of offshore wind development. Each project places individual pressures on the environment and across multiple developments these pressures add up. It was for this reason that in 2015 we brought a legal challenge against the decision to consent the four Forth and Tay windfarms (Neart na Gaoithe, Inch Cape, Seagreen Alpha and Seagreen Bravo). The assessments estimated over a thousand gannets and hundreds of kittiwakes could be killed each year during the summer months alone and many hundreds of puffins could die as a result of losing important feeding areas. Though initially we were successful in our challenge, the ruling in our favour was later overturned following an appeal by the Sottish Ministers and all four developments were allowed to go ahead.
Although we were disappointed in this conclusion, we continue to work constructively with the developers and the Scottish Government to try to ensure that the major impacts of the consented projects on seabirds are mitigated as much as possible.
A lack of data and gaps in our understanding, especially of the long term impacts of offshore wind on seabirds remains a concern. We are pleased to be involved in the monitoring of the consented developments through the Forth and Tay Regional Advisory Group (FTRAG). This group was established as a condition of the four consented projects. It seeks to ensure that appropriate and effective monitoring is undertaken, aims to encourage collaboration in monitoring and provides advice to the Scottish Ministers on research, monitoring and the effectiveness of mitigation measures. We hope that the creation of such groups and discussing concerns will result in a better understand of and better outcomes for our natural environment.
We also we welcomed the recognition in the 2020 Sectoral Marine Plan that Scotland’s breeding seabird colonies are approaching environmental limits. All three sites allocated for further offshore wind development around the Forth and Tay area are subject to ornithological constraint. Two require completion of further regional-level surveys before development can proceed while in the third allocated site, development should not proceed until enough evidence on the environmental capacity for seabirds exists to reduce the risk to an acceptable level.