Strathy Wood

Tagged with: Casework status: Open Casework type: Energy Megasites: Strathy Site designations: Ramsar site Site designations: SAC Site designations: SPA Site designations: SSSI

Overview

Strathy Wood Wind Farm is an application for 13 turbines sited on peatland within Caithness and Sutherland Flow Country.

In 2013 E.ON submitted an application to the Scottish Government Energy Consents Unit for a wind farm of 26 turbines. RSPB Scotland objected to the proposals because of concerns regarding adverse impacts to protected birds and sites. The proposals would have resulted in the construction of turbines and access roads within the Caithness and Sutherland Peatlands SPA (which is a protected area for internationally important populations of birds) and Caithness and Sutherland Peatlands SAC (which is protected for its amazing peatland habitat).

In 2015 E.ON submitted further information to try and address the issues raised by consultees. They reduced the number of turbines from 26 to 18 and all turbines were removed from the SPA and SAC. However, SNH asked for further information and objected to the proposals. Although we welcomed the reduction in turbines, we maintained our objection due to the risk to protected birds and habitats.

Further additional information was submitted in July 2019. The proposals have now been reduced to 13 turbines, although the turbines are larger models. On 19 September 2019 we submitted a letter of objection maintaining our concerns regarding unacceptable impact on the Caithness and Sutherland SPA. The impact of the proposal in addition to the windfarms which were granted at Strathy South and Strathy North is especially worrying. The current application site is between the two already consented windfarms and would result in an almost continuous barrier for some key bird species, such as red throated divers.

In late 2019 the applicant submitted more information about what they think the impacts will be on red throated divers. They shared this with NatureScot, who then withdrew their objection in December 2020. Unfortunately, this new information has not allowed us to withdraw our objection and we still have concerns about how these birds will be affected by the proposal.

Map

Why is it worth fighting for?

The area proposed for the windfarm is extremely important for wildlife. There is an internationally important area for birds, the Caithness and Sutherland Peatlands SPA, adjacent to the site to the east, south and north. We are particularly concerned about the impacts of the development on red throated divers and hen harriers, which are species of conservation concern which the SPA was designed for. We are concerned that the turbines would create a barrier for red-throated divers moving from lochens to other areas. The cumulative risk of hen harriers being killed when they fly into the turbine blades is extremely high and could have an impact on the population of the area.

Due to the importance of the SPA for birds, developers must demonstrate that there would not be any adverse impacts on the protected site and its species, if they cannot do this, it is unlikely the application could be approved.

The development area includes areas deep peat and blanket bog which is a very important habitat (listed in Annex I of the Habitats Directive). It is also a very effective store for carbon, so when it is disturbed carbon dioxide is released into the atmosphere. Although wind farms produce renewable energy, areas of deep peat should be avoided.

 Dunlin with summer plumage in grass

How you can help

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.
Red-throated diver, adult swimming, Shetland Isles

Our position

RSPB Scotland is supportive of the development of renewable energy, but wind farms must be carefully sited to avoid negative impacts on sites and species of conservation importance.

We objected to windfarm developments at Strathy North and Strathy South which will potentially lead to collisions of birds using the area. Unfortunately, both these developments were consented by the Scottish Government.

We are concerned that the Strathy Wood proposals would also cause harm to protected sites and species and so have objected.

Timeline

  • October 2020
    RSPB Scotland confirmed that we maintain our objection in relation to red throated diver.
  • December 2019
    NatureScot withdraws their objection in relation to red-throated diver due to additional information they received from applicant.
  • September 2019
    RSPB Scotland maintained our objection to the proposal due to the likely unacceptable impacts on protected species and habitats.
  • July 2019
    Further information was submitted by the applicant (reduced proposed to 13 turbines).
  • April 2018
    Strathy South Wind Farm –33 turbines was consented at public local enquiry by Scottish Government.
  • July 2015
    We maintained our objection to a modified, 18-turbine proposal.
  • May 2015
    Further information was submitted by the applicant (This included the reduction of the number of turbines from 26 to 18 and removal of turbines in SPA and SAC).
  • January 2014
    We objected to a 26-turbine proposal.
  • November 2013
    The Applicant submitted an application to the Energy Consents Unit (ECU) for 26 wind turbines.
  • August 2011
    In our scoping response to a 28-turbine proposal we repeat our concerns.
  • September 2004
    We express concerns informally on a 20-turbine proposal here called Strathy Forest.