Stornoway Wind Farm

Tagged with: Casework status: Closed Casework type: Energy Site designations: Ramsar site Site designations: SAC Site designations: SPA Site designations: SSSI
David Douglas (Conservation Scientist) heads up a team looking into the effects of a wind farm on Golden plover Pluvialis apricaria, Sutherland, Scotland

Overview

Although we objected to proposals, removing turbines & providing data in a format which allows predicted impacts to be verified enabled us to drop our objection.

We have objected to an application by Lewis Wind Power for a 42-turbine wind farm to the west of Stornoway, Isle of Lewis. However, the removal of a small number of turbines and the provision of data in a format which enables independent verification of predicted impacts, may allow us to drop our objection.

Update late June 2012: following the applicant's offer to remove the most hazardous six turbines, RSPB and SNH have withdrawn their objections to the remaining 36 turbines.

 

Map

Why is it worth fighting for?

The site abuts the Lewis Peatlands Special Protection Area (SPA), designated under the EU Birds Directive for its populations of breeding birds which include golden eagles, red-throated and black-throated divers. Fieldwork commissioned by the Applicant has confirmed that all these species - as well as white-tailed eagles - are found on the development site.

 Black-throated diver Gavia arctica, adult in breeding plumage taking off from water, Forsinard Flows RSPB reserve, Sutherland, Scotland

Our position

This is a very different (and less damaging) proposal from the one which was rejected by Scottish Ministers in 2008. However, we have objected as the information currently available does not provide the necessary certainty about the levels of impacts on the SPA. We are concerned about turbine collisions and/or the potential loss of available habitat if eagles and divers are displaced by the windfarm.

As a whole, the Western Isles support exceptional nature conservation interest and this is reflected in the large number and extent of sites designated under the EU Birds and Habitats Directives.

The islands also have substantial resources of renewable energy, but we have opposed several development proposals here because we considered them to be unacceptably damaging to the environment.

We recognise this particular site has been chosen as the result of a Western Isles-wide search for a large undesignated area best able to accommodate a windfarm. We agree that it may be possible for a windfarm to be developed on this site without unacceptable environmental impacts but this proposal falls somewhat short.

We have suggested that our concerns may be resolved by moving, or removing, a small number of turbines which appear to pose particular risk to divers and eagles, but have been unable to give more specific advice as the bird data have not been made available in a suitable format for analysis.

Scottish Natural Heritage has also objected, along similar lines to the RSPB.

Update: In June 2012, Lewis Wind Power (LWP) offered to remove the six turbines posing the greatest risk to golden eagles. After carefully considering the implications, and on the basis that this would roughly halve collision risk to golden eagles and almost eliminate disturbance effects on eagle habitat within the SPA, both RSPB and SNH withdrew their objections.

This will be a challenging site for LWP to develop, and both RSPB and SNH are seeking to work with LWP to ensure that robust monitoring and mitigation measures are put in place. Consent for 36 turbines on this site will have significant implications for assessing the contribution of other schemes to cumulative impacts of wind energy development on Lewis. 

Timeline

  • September 2012
    Wind farm consented
  • June 2012
    LWP offer to drop six turbines; RSPB and SNH remove their objections to the remaining 36 turbines
  • January 2012
    LWP submit additional information to support 42-turbine scheme
  • August 2011
    We object to application but indicate that a substantial windfarm could probably be accommodated on the site
  • June 2011
    LWP submit new application for 42 turbines on the Stornoway site, including on a small area from the 2004 application, next to the SPA boundary
  • January 2009
    Halcrow report is published, identifying Stornoway site as the best opportunity for large scale onshore wind farm development in North Lewis
  • August 2008
    RSPB writes to Scottish Government, concerned that study is to propose windfarms on, or likely to affect, SPAs on the Western Isles
  • May 2008
    Scottish Government commissions Halcrow study to identify renewable energy potential on the Western Isles
  • April 2008
    Scottish Ministers reject LWP proposals
  • December 2006
    LWP submit revised application for 181 turbines, mostly within the SPA
  • November 2004
    Lewis Wind Power (LWP) apply for consent for 234 turbines in north Lewis, mostly within the Lewis Peatlands SPA

Outcome

In June 2012, Lewis Wind Power offered to remove the six turbines posing the greatest risk to golden eagles. After carefully considering the implications, on the basis that this would roughly halve collision risk to golden eagles and almost eliminate disturbance effects on eagle habitat within the SPA, both RSPB and SNH withdrew their objections.

This will be a challenging site for LWP to develop, and both RSPB and SNH are seeking to work with LWP to ensure robust monitoring and mitigation measures are put in place. Consent for 36 turbines on this site will have significant implications for assessing the contribution of other schemes to cumulative impacts of wind energy development on Lewis.