The 450MW Neart na Gaoithe offshore wind farm cleared its final hurdle this week, as Scotland’s Supreme Court rejected an appeal from the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds looking to stop the project.
The £2 billion ($2.63 billion; €2.26 billion) wind farm, which will be built over 80 square kilometres on a site in the Forth Estuary off the North Sea, was awarded planning consent in October 2014. In January 2015, RSPB challenged this over threats to local migratory seabird populations posed by the project.
The RSPB won its challenge in July 2016, but Mainstream Renewable Power, the developer of NnG, scored a victory this May when a Scottish judge overturned that decision. With the Supreme Court’s rejection of RSPB’s appeal, Mainstream says it is cleared to proceed with the construction, which is set to begin in 2018.
“After more than two-and-a-half years, two court hearings and two rejected applications for leave to appeal by RSPB Scotland, we can finally focus on delivering the very significant benefits this project brings,” said Mainstream chief executive Andy Kinsella.
RSPB director Anne McCall called the decision “extremely disappointing” and said her organisation is “taking some time to consider all other options remaining”.
The legal battle also jeopardised funding the project was slated to receive from Low Carbon Contracts Company, which runs the UK’s contract-for-difference programme. After the legal battle led to delays, LCCC sent a notice withdrawing the subsidy in March 2016. Mainstream disputed the termination, and in March 2017 an arbitral tribunal ruled in the developer’s favour.
Tuesday’s ruling also applied to the 600MW Inch Cape offshore wind farm owned by China’s State Development & Investment Corporation and SSE’s 1GW Seagreen project.
Wind power has seen dramatic growth as a clean energy source, with cumulative global installed capacity more than quintupling over the past decade. But one concern raised has been the impact the turbines have on migratory birds, hundreds of thousands of which are killed by wind plants each year. Even US President Donald Trump has pointed to wind turbines’ effect on birds.
According to the RSPB, the NnG plant will threaten puffins, gannets and kittiwakes.