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Scots offshore wind ‘pretty much dead’, former minister claims

July 21, 2016

By Paul Homewood 


h/t stewgreen




Britain’s energy strategy was in a big enough mess already!

From the BBC:


A former energy minister has claimed "offshore wind in Scotland is pretty much dead" after a legal challenge against four major projects.

A judge upheld RSPB Scotland’s challenge to consent for turbines in the Firth of Forth and Firth of Tay.

Brian Wilson said the charity now "hold all the cards" over the schemes, which were to include hundreds of turbines.

The Scottish government said it remained "committed" to renewable energy but wanted to study the ruling.

And Energy Minister Paul Wheelhouse said Mr Wilson’s comments were "irresponsible, incorrect and ill-informed".

The four projects – Inch Cape, Neart na Gaoithe and Seagreen Alpha and Bravo – were approved by Scottish ministers in October 2014, and could power more than 1.4 million homes.

RSPB Scotland lodged a legal challenge, saying the turbines could have "serious implications" for wildlife, and argued that the government had breached legal requirements when making the original decision by not giving proper consideration to this.

Judge Lord Stewart ruled in favour of the charity, calling the consents "defective", meaning ministers will have to reconsider the planning decisions and address the points put forward by the RSPB’s lawyers.


‘Serious setback’

Former Labour MP and UK energy minister Mr Wilson, a longtime critic of the SNP’s energy policy, said the legal challenge was an "extremely serious setback".

He said: "On the face of it, offshore wind in Scotland is pretty much dead. The RSPB now hold all the cards.

"They were forced into this comprehensive action because the Scottish government delayed consent and then clustered these four wind farms together, so the RSPB went to court on the basis of cumulative impact.

"What they have to decide is if they want to kill all four schemes or prepare to take a more balanced view, but the ball is in the RSPB’s court without a doubt."

Mr Wilson said only the Neart na Gaoithe project had access to subsidies, and as such had been the only one likely to go ahead in the near future, and blamed the Scottish government for not dealing with the case more quickly.

He said: "They took five years to determine that application. They then delayed it further until after the independence referendum to avoid any controversy, and by that time three other applications had stacked up, and they consented all four together.

"If Neart na Gaoithe had been consented separately, then the RSPB probably would not have taken action against it. They could have lived with one, with a kind of balanced policy.

"But understandably once they were faced with four they were dealing with something entirely different, with a very large capacity."

Mr Wilson also said it was difficult to see how the "damning" ruling could be appealed, as it was "so comprehensively critical".


The Scottish government said ministers needed time to study Lord Stewart’s extremely detailed ruling before commenting further.

Minister for business, innovation and energy Mr Wheelhouse said the government remained "strongly committed" to offshore wind energy in Scotland.

He added: "Brian Wilson’s comments about the future of offshore wind are, in my view, irresponsible, incorrect and ill-informed. The offshore wind energy sector has a very bright future in Scotland – not least in terms of existing and new projects; most notably with the £2.6bn Beatrice Offshore Wind Farm which has reached financial close and is now being constructed using significant input from the Scottish supply chain.

"The Scottish government, the RSPB and renewables developers all recognise the importance of decarbonising our electricity supply and have all made very clear, following Lord Stewart’s judgement, that we will work together to ensure delivery of more offshore wind energy projects."

‘Rigorous assessment’

RSPB Scotland has insisted that it is "very much supportive" of renewable energy projects in principle, but only in the right form and place.

Lloyd Austin, the society’s head of conservation policy, told Good Morning Scotland that the group would expect "more effective environmental assessment to be done" if the government moves again for consent.

He said: "Renewable energy projects are absolutely needed to address climate change, and the key issue is to get them in the right place, of the right type, and managed in the right way, and to ensure that you have rigorous environmental assessment process to make sure that you do get them in the right place.

"It may be that some development in this area is possible, it may be that they need to be in other areas. The question is that the process of determining where developments take place needs to be rigorous and take into account the impact on wildlife."

Green MSP Andy Wightman said it was "so frustrating" that ministers had not made the decision in line with the rules.

He said: "The framework is in place to make these decisions, and they’ve failed to make the decision properly.

"The burden is on ministers to make these decisions appropriately and follow due process. Had they done so, the RSPB would not have been in a position to take judicial review – or if they had, they would have lost.

"It’s important that ministers pay close attention to this document, identify where they have failed in their decision-making process and are absolutely clear that they’re going to improve that process, and make sure that when they come to a judgement on whether to go ahead with these things that it’s a competent one that can stand up in court."

  1. AlecM permalink
    July 21, 2016 9:58 am

    I suggest that each bagpipe should be connected to the Scots’ Grid.

    That’ll solve their problem.

  2. Green Sand permalink
    July 21, 2016 10:08 am

    Well its an ill wind:-

    “Calm, mild weather hit ScottishPower profits in the first half of 2016 as output from the energy giant’s wind farms dropped by more than a quarter and households used less gas for heating.

    The UK division of Spain’s Iberdrola reported profits of £727m for the six months to June, down 8.4pc on the same period last year, on an EBITDA basis.

    The biggest drop came in the ScottishPower Renewables division, where profits fell 34.4pc to £116.6m, driven by a 26pc fall in wind power output……..

    ………Profits from ScottishPower’s retail gas and electricity division fell, primarily due to “milder weather conditions” as well as increases in green levies charged to energy bills.

    However, this was more than offset by an increase in profits in its fossil fuel power plant division, resulting in an overall 1pc increase in profits across retail and generation……..

  3. martinbrumby permalink
    July 21, 2016 10:19 am

    With the possible exception of Judge Lord Stewart, I say a pox on the lot of them (and a double dose for the BBC’s editorial team).
    Greenie fantasists and thieving conspirators every one.

    The only permission they should get for such a scheme would be absolutely contingent on them providing electrical power for (in this instance) 1.4 Million homes, without interruption, 24 hours a day, 365 days per year for a minimum of 25 years, without any subsidy and swingeing penalties for any shortfall.

  4. July 21, 2016 10:48 am

    It would be exciting to get 1.4 million home owners to sign up to receiving their electricity supply solely from offshore wind farms.

  5. David Richardson permalink
    July 21, 2016 11:54 am

    Well its nice to see that there are some real environmentalists in the RSPB, who are wanting to move away from its stance as the Royal Society for the Prevention of Birds.

    The RSPB have made a tidy penny out of supporting wind turbines, obviously deciding that CO2 is a bigger threat to birds than the whirring mincers.

    Are proper conservationists stirring now?

    Complaints about the proposed Dogger Bank wind farm and its likely effect on Cetaceans.

    Outrage in Germany that a species of bat which has the highest level of protection under law is being minced at the rate of 1000 per year – take about a decade to wipe them out.

    I am not holding my breath.

    I saw a map showing Sperm Whale strandings in Jan/Feb 2016 on north sea coasts – a total of 29. I don’t think that I was the only person who thought it was a map of wind turbines. Does the noise/vibration of turbines upset the whales sounding ability??

    • July 21, 2016 3:56 pm

      David Richardson asks:

      If there might be a connection between noise/vibration from wind turbines and whale behavior.

      There is no doubt that by the nature of their construction and location the turbines generate a resonant low frequency sound into the surrounding water. There is no doubt low frequency sounds travel very far in water. That is why whales use a lot of low frequency sound in their communication systems. These sounds can travel for many miles.

      Some species of birds use the resonant frequency of the wind over the waves of the ocean contrasted with the resonant frequency of the wind over mountain ranges to accomplish long distance migration. Obviously whales use low frequency sound as an assist in going about their daily lives.

      Whales are an intelligent species that are very hard for us to study in their natural environment. We do know they make choices on the basis of the sounds they hear in the water. When whales drive themselves out of the water in those spectacular leaps that we have all seen on t.v., it does two things. It knocks off sea lice and other parasitical life forms that collect on their skin and also sends a very large signal to other forms about their presence, much like birds chirping except it can heard for miles by interested parties..

      It is pretty hard to tell with whales how much of their natural behavior is instinctual and how much is very conscious choice. When they hear a whale splash do they think it is the announcement of a possible whale or are they able to deduce size, age, species, gender maybe even state of mind. We just don’t know. The environmentalists feel they do know that sonar testing by naval ships should be banned near whale populations because it forces them to change their behavior even though sonar operates at the least intrusive frequency as far as whales are concerned.

      Do the whales hear the turbines through the water and find it attractive, repellent or a nothing burger?. Do they think it is the biggest bunch of assembled predators ever assembled and panic, or do they think it is an unimaginably big bait ball forcing them to search in ever more unlikely places for this prey that they can overwhelmingly hear? Do they hear it at a signal from the biggest mama whale ever, telling the pod that there is danger all around so get the hell out as fast as you can in whatever direction you can? Maybe they think it a group of whales telling themselves that the bay over there has the best salmon buffet ever.

      The point is that yes there is connection between low frequency sounds and whale behavior. What behavior that any given sound produces in any given whale is unknown at the present time. All we know is that the whales hear the sound from the turbines, they hear it from very far away and use it at least as background information in making their choices. If they make a unusually large number of bad choices the closer they get to the sound, we can infer that it is, at a minimum, disruptive.

      While there are tens of thousands of birds available to exploit any vacancy left by a killed bird, there are not even hundreds of whales able to jump in and take over unclaimed territory. There is no shortage of suitable environment of sufficient sustainability for the whales. Just a shortage of whales. A thousand birds die landing in a tailings pond while migrating and there is an international outcry against the tailing ponds even though there are literally hundreds of millions of birds passing through the general area. Twenty five whales die out of a population of a hundred in the area and it is…..what are you going to do, that is just the price of what our group considers progress.

      • mikewaite permalink
        July 21, 2016 7:13 pm

        Interesting comments , Ron. They make one ask whether the amplitude and frequency of these vibrations have been systematically investigated by oceanographic or engineering depts from our universities .
        Not only could the results be of interest to biologists , but there may be a military interest in that the noise may “blind” some of the early warning sonar sensors that I assume we have in place close to sensitive naval areas.
        Could an analysis of the signals also provide early warning of the onset of turbine failure due to , say , wear or cracking of bearings in which case the management of these arrays would surely be interested.

  6. July 21, 2016 4:17 pm

    From the article: “RSPB Scotland lodged a legal challenge, saying the turbines could have “serious implications” for wildlife, and argued that the government had breached legal requirements when making the original decision by not giving proper consideration to this.”

    Fantastic!! It’s about time.

  7. July 21, 2016 6:12 pm

    This is really excellent news.
    Roll on the death of “unreliables”.

  8. July 22, 2016 10:56 am

    @David Richardson said “Well its nice to see that there are some real environmentalists in the RSPB, who are wanting to move away from its stance as the Royal Society for the Prevention of Birds.”
    Em ..not actually the RSPB, but “RSPB Scotland”

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