Subject to there being no successful appeal by RSPB Scotland, the recent Court of Session ruling in favour of Scottish Minister’s approval of four offshore wind farms totalling almost 2.3GW is obviously great news for the developers, for Scotland and for the environment.
Technological advancement in the last two years means that the Scottish developers can now consider using larger turbines, optimised installation methods and 66kV array cables, which is good news for the developers and energy consumers. Throw in the fact that the cost of offshore wind is dropping to levels where the economic argument can no longer be ignored, last week’s court ruling was indeed good news for all parties.
There is also victory in defeat for the RSPB, beyond the general environmental benefits for birds from lower greenhouse gases. Contrary to the gravy train rhetoric peddled by the anti-green community, developers in the UK spend tens of millions on pre-site development, much of which assesses the effect on wildlife, at their own risk with no promise of ever getting a Contract for Difference. The recent announcement that the Offshore Renewable Energy Catapult is working with the EDPR’s Moray East offshore wind farm on a tagging project to better monitor and understand the behaviour of bird species, is just the latest evidence of this.
For the duration of the RSPB ‘cumulative impact’ challenge, affected developers in the Forth and Tay have continued to monitor the potential effect on marine wildlife in a depth unlikely to be seen anywhere else on the planet. Lessons learned from these extra years of study can be shared with other developers and RSPB will no doubt welcome advances in our understanding of ornithological issues relating to offshore wind farms and the positive cumulative impact for birds globally.
The magnanimous reaction to last week’s ruling expressed by the Scottish developers pledging to continue working with RSPB should further support the idea that there has been no losers in this battle.