Methil offshore wind farm may face RSPB challenge

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The conservation charity behind a court battle against offshore wind farms has “fundamental concerns” about turbines proposed near Levenmouth.

Court action by the RSPB Scotland was blamed for delaying development of the Neart na Gaoithe wind farm in the Firth of Forth by two and a half years.

The organisation is now worried about the impact of eight huge turbines in a demonstration offshore wind farm, the nearest a mile from Methil.

It said it “could not rule out” a further legal challenge to the plans of 2B Energy, which already has consent for two of the turbines and is to seek the go-ahead for a further six.

Charles Nathan, RSPB marine conservation planner, said the application and supporting environmental assessment for Forthwind would be examined in detail once lodged.

Although a smaller development, he said its impact had to be considered in conjunction with the four larger wind farms consented in the firths of Tay and Forth, also including Inch Cape and Seagreen Alpha and Bravo.

Additionally, he said, the Methil turbines would affect nearshore bird species, including ducks, divers, gulls and gannets.

He said: “There are large seabird colonies right along the coast which use the area for all their life cycle stages, feeding, foraging and nesting.

“In terms of the impact from turbines, they can be displaced from the area and there is an impact on colonies flying in and among the turbines themselves.

“We are supportive of the technologies the developer is proposing to demonstrate and it is a relatively small scale development but it has to be considered cumulatively with other activities in and around the Forth.”

Marc Murray, 2B Energy project manager, said consultation had already led to a reduction in the number of turbines proposed from nine to eight and a realignment to minimise impact on nearshore birds.

He said: “We have been talking to the RSPB over a number of years, from the very outset of the development proposals, and have developed a good working relationship with their team.

“We appreciate the concerns they have raised on our original proposal in the scoping report and are undertaking the required bird impact assessments to address the issues raised.

“These reports will be contained within our application due later this year and will address the issue of cumulative impact with the other Forth and Tay projects.

“We look forward to working with the RSPB through this process and we currently believe that a positive outcome can be achieved for the project without undue pressure on the local bird populations.”

RSPB Scotland had objected to the four wind farms consented by Scottish ministers in 2014, claiming they could kill thousands of seabirds each year, including puffins and gannets.

Its initial successful challenge was overturned following an appeal by the Scottish Government

Judges have blocked the charity’s bid to take its fight to the Supreme Court.

Mainstream Renewable Power, which hopes to start work shortly on Neart na Gaoithe, off Fife Ness, claimed the legal action set it back by two and a half years.

Fishing industry leaders have also alleged that a vital fishing ground could be lost to the Forthwind farm.