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Scottish judges weigh offshore wind appeal after bird case hearing

Three Scottish appeals court judges are expected to deliver their verdict by mid-July at the latest in a legal action that has left 2.3GW off offshore Forth and Tay wind farms off the east coast of Scotland in limbo.

The Scottish government brought the appeal case last year against a July 2016 decision in favour of the bird charity RSPB Scotland in relation to the consenting process for the four offshore wind farm projects.

While Inch Cape (784MW) and Seagreen Alpha and Seagreen Bravo (525MW each) have yet to receive Contracts for Difference (CfDs), Mainstream Renewable Power’s (MRP) Neart na Gaoithe project (450MW) was awarded a £114.39/MWh contract in 2015, but has been unable to start construction.

The projects make up the bulk of Scotland’s remaining large-scale offshore wind ambitions. The delay has been a considerable blow for the wind industry which is hoping the  Scottish government appeal will be successful in enabling the projects to proceed.

The appeals hearing in the Inner House of the Court of Session in Edinburgh, was heard in late February by Lord Carloway, Lord Menzies and Lord Brodie.

The judges said at the conclusion of the five-day hearing that they would seek to reach a judgement as soon as possible, after receiving a substantial amount of evidence. Sources indicated their judgement is expected to take “some time” but to come by mid-July at the latest.

Scottish government appeals 2.3GW offshore wind court blow

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RSPB Scotland tells Recharge climate change is a major threat to birds and wildlife and it is therefore a major supporter of renewable energy, including offshore renewables.

However, it says it felt that “the risk posed to thousands of seabirds every year” from the four offshore wind farms was just too great. “With reluctance, it left us with no option but to challenge the decision through the courts.

“When good projects come forward that do not threaten wildlife, we are happy to support them, such as the recent proposal for floating wind. However, developments must be sited to minimise impacts on the natural environment.”

Utility SSE, which co-owns the Seagreen projects, told Recharge: “Seagreen Wind Energy supports the Scottish Government in the appeal of the Judicial Review decision issued in July 2016 relating to all four wind farm proposals, including the Seagreen Alpha and Bravo projects. Seagreen looks forward to the outcome of this process.”

MRP’s Neart na Gaoithe had already suffered the lapse of its offer of UK government contract-for-difference (CfD) support while it waited for the judicial proceedings to be resolved.

Neart na Gaoithe was on the starting blocks apart from the RSPB challenge, and had lined up Siemens turbines and the German group’s offshore transformer modules for deployment at the wind farm.

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