Montrose’s largest employer has been refused permission to install tidal turbines in the River Esk on environmental grounds.
Marine Scotland has turned down a licence application from GlaxoSmithKline to install 15 turbines at the mouth of Montrose Basin.
The regulator said it would not issue a marine licence due to the site being designated as a special protection area, a site of special scientific interest and a special area of conservation.
In a letter explaining the decision to GSK, Marine Scotland said: “The decision is based upon the high sensitivity of the site, the poor state of some of the qualifying species and the difficulty in quantifying the likely significant effects.
“It is considered that you cannot ascertain with certainty that the proposal will not have a significant adverse impact on the environment and the local amenity.”
The pharmaceutical giant planned to deploy Swanturbines devices on either side of Montrose Bridge in the multi-million pound proposal.
Each turbine would have been capable of generating around 0.66 megawatts when the tide flowed in and out of the basin enough to provide around 7% of the power required by the Montrose factory.
A spokesman from GSK said it accepted the decision and was now working with Marine Scotland on an alternative proposal using bladeless turbines.
He said: “Although modelling undertaken on behalf of GSK indicated that the blades of the turbines would not have had an adverse environmental impact, GSK recognises that Montrose Basin is environmentally sensitive and accepts Marine Scotland’s decision.
“GSK is working with Marine Scotland on an alternative proposal which would use bladeless turbines harnessing technology supported by Scottish Enterprise which has been trialled and proven at the EMEC (European Marine Energy Centre) based in the Orkneys.
“The company intends to submit to Marine Scotland an application for a generation licence to deploy and monitor a single turbine in the river close to Montrose Bridge.
“Should Marine Scotland grant the application and the trial proves successful, GSK would seek permission to install a further five turbines.
“The six machines would cost in the region of £5 million and be capable of generating 540 kilowatts of electricity.
“The turbines would be linked direct to the GSK Montrose site, where the green energy would help to reduce both the site’s carbon footprint and operating costs.”
The decision to refuse the application has been welcomed by RSPB Scotland’s marine conservation planner Charles Nathan.
He said: “Whilst GlaxoSmithKline’s vision of sourcing green energy to support their operations is commendable, Marine Scotland has made the right decision not to grant consent for a project sited in a highly environmentally sensitive area, where the potential impact on wildlife was significant.
“RSPB Scotland believes there is a need for greater focus on delivering sustainable offshore renewables but this should be restricted to the least sensitive sites.
“Hopefully, GSK can find a suitable alternative to deliver their own sustainability goals without posing a threat to local marine life.”
GSK is also seeking to install two wind turbines more than 328ft high at its Montrose plant as it seeks to reduce its carbon footprint.
The application was refused by Angus Council but GSK has lodged an appeal.