Construction of four major offshore wind farms to provide energy to 1.4 million homes has been approved by the Scottish government

New offshore wind farms to power 1.4m homes but threaten seabirds

The Scottish government has granted consent for four major offshore wind farms that could generate enough energy to power 1.4 million homes.

The developments in the Forth and Tay regions will include hundreds of turbines said to be capable of producing up to 2.284GW of electricity.

It is estimated that the four wind farms combined will produce carbon savings of 135 million tonnes of CO2 over their lifespans.

The announcement has been welcomed by some environmental groups, although RSPB Scotland raised fears the turbines would threaten marine wildlife.

The Scottish government said consent has been granted subject to strict conditions to minimise the impact on birds and the environment.

The SNP administration has set a target of meeting 100 per cent of Scotland's electricity demand from renewable sources by 2020.

"Renewable energy is extremely valuable to Scotland's economy, to reducing our carbon emissions and in providing low-carbon energy supplies as well as jobs and long-term investment,” said Energy Minister Fergus Ewing.

"These wind farms alone could generate a combined gross value added of between £314m and £1.2bn in Scotland over their lifetime and generate between 2,567 and 13,612 jobs within Scotland during the construction period."

The granting of the consents means developers will be able to bid for an offshore wind contract for difference (CfD) under the UK government's Electricity Market Reform process.

Dr Richard Dixon, director of Friends of the Earth Scotland, welcomed the announcement as a "big step forward" but warned the "lack of enthusiasm" for renewables on the part of the UK government meant the wind farms may never be built.

"Developing our huge offshore wind potential on a large scale is crucial for meeting Scotland's ambitious climate and energy targets,” he said.

"Just these four developments could supply two-thirds of Scotland's electricity needs with clean, green energy on windy days. These schemes represent as much capacity as Scotland's current nuclear reactors.”

Stuart Housden, director of RSPB Scotland, said the charity was "extremely disappointed" with the decision.

He said: "If the models and assessments of potential damage prove accurate, these wind farms would be among the most deadly for birds anywhere in the world.

"RSPB Scotland wants to see the development of offshore wind in Scotland but it must not be at such massive cost to our internationally important seabirds."

The Neart na Gaoithe wind farm off the Fife Ness coastline would have a maximum of 75 wind turbines generating up to 450MW of power.

Eddie O'Connor, chief executive of the wind farm's developer Mainstream Renewable Power, said: "Today's announcement is of particular importance for Scotland because it is the first time a wind farm will be built in Scottish waters with the purpose of supplying Scottish homes and businesses with renewable energy. In fact, it will generate enough green power to supply more than all the homes in Edinburgh."

The Alpha and Bravo Seagreen developments would be located east of the Angus coastline and would consist of up to 150 wind turbines with a generating capacity of up to 1,050MW.

The Inch Cape wind farm, also to the east of the Angus coastline, would have up to 110 wind turbines generating up to 784MW.

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