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Mainstream-backed Scottish wind project wins ruling

The proposed £2bn Neart na Gaoithe offshore wind farm was favoured in its dispute with the UK’s LCCC, but its developer is awaiting a ruling on an appeal over government consents.

A 450MW wind farm off the east coast of Scotland has cleared one legal hurdle after an arbitral tribunal ruled against the termination of a contract-for-difference issued to the project’s developer.

The £2 billion ($2.5 billion; €2.3 billion) Neart na Gaoithe wind farm is not out of the woods yet, however, as it awaits a ruling over consents issued by the Scottish government. Developers hope to reach financial close next year and begin construction in 2019.

Low Carbon Contracts Company, which runs the UK’s CfD funding, sent a notice last March withdrawing its subsidy after the project became tied up in a legal challenge over the impact the turbines would have on migratory seabirds. In some instances, LCCC can terminate deals if they fail to meet agreed timetables.

The project’s developer, Mainstream Renewable Power, disputed the termination notice, entering arbitration. LCCC and NnG issued a brief joint statement on Tuesday, saying the tribunal decided in NnG’s favour but offering little detail due to “confidentiality obligations”.

The project, which would see up to 64 turbines built on an 80-square-kilometre site 16km from the shore in the Forth Estuary, was awarded planning consent by Scottish ministers in October 2014, more than five years after MRP was awarded development rights. The following February, Neart na Gaoithe, Scottish Gaelic for “Strength of the Wind”, was given a CfD contract with a strike price of £114.39 in 2012 prices by LCCC.

But in January 2015, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds challenged consents issued by the Scottish government for NnG and three other wind farms in the Firths of Forth and Tay, saying the wind farms would kill thousands of gannets, kittiwakes and puffins due to their proximity to these birds’ colonies. RSPB’s challenge was upheld in July 2016, with a judge ruling that these consents were flawed.

An appeal of the judge’s decision was heard in Scotland’s Court of Session last month, and a decision is expected later this year.