Renewable energy and wildlife conservation

Renewable energy and wildlife conservation

An article about the threat to the North Lewis peatlands is attached for you to read. As you can see the RSPB is keen to have help on the rejection of the plan to build a wind farm on what they have explained is a critically important bird habitat. Whatever your views on the difficult choices we face to combat global warming this article should be read and you need to decide which side of the fence you sit upon!

RSPB Scotland have released the following briefing:-

An application has been submitted for an industrial wind farm on the NorthLewis Peatlands SPA. We believe the proposal will have a damaging impact ona huge number of important bird populations including golden eagle,black-throated diver, red-throated diver, dunlin, merlin and greenshank.This is a site of International importance, will you write an objection tothe Scottish Executive to help us save it?

The RSPB’s Position on Wind Power and Other Renewables

The RSPB views climate change as the most serious long-term threat towildlife in the UK and globally. If we are to avert serious disruption tonatural, social and economic systems we need to act now to limit the use offossil fuels that release greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. We thereforesupport the increased use of wind power, as long as wind farms are sited,designed and managed so they do not significantly harm birds or theirhabitats.

The Development Proposal

The proposal by Amec and British Energy is for a 234 turbine, 702MW windfarm on the Isle of Lewis in the Western Isles of Scotland. The turbineswill be 140m high to the tip of the blade and be supported by a largeconcrete foundation (approximately 22mx22mx1.5m). The application alsoincludes 167km of roads, nine electrical substations, a control building,nine wind monitoring masts, 210 pylons supporting a network of overheadlines, five rock quarries, eight temporary compounds and four concretebatching plants. All this will take roughly three years to build.

Impacts On Birds

The Lewis Peatlands Special Protection Area (SPA) was classified under theEuropean Council Directive on the Conservation of Wild Birds (79/409/EEC);the site encompasses an area of 58,984 hectares. The qualifying species are:

  • Red-throated diver 80 pairs (9% British breeding population)
  • Black-throated diver 13 pairs (8% British breeding population)
  • Golden eagle 5 pairs (1% British breeding population)
  • Merlin 20 pairs (1% British breeding population)
  • Golden plover 1800 pairs (8% British breeding population)
  • Dunlin 3400 pairs (37% British breeding population)
  • Greenshank 140 pairs (10% British breeding population)

Of all the British SPAs, this has the largest population of golden plover atthe highest densities;it also has the largest population of dunlin. It isalso almost certainly the ‘best’ site in Europe in terms of golden ploverand dunlin.

The developers have attempted to define ‘critical’ areas within the SPA byidentifying those areas most frequently used by red-throated divers,black-throat divers, golden eagle and merlin – it is not possible to do sofor golden plover and dunlin because they occur in such high densitiesacross the entire survey area.

The Environmental Statement (ES) produced by the developer states that:

  • 50 golden eagles;and
  • 16 red-throated divers are at risk of colliding with the developmentthroughout its 25-year lifetime.

The ES also concludes that:

  • 352 golden plover territories;and
  • 314 dunlin territories could be displaced during the operation of the windfarm, hundreds more will be affected during construction.
  • Merlin, greenshank, whooper swans, greylag geese and corncrakes may alsobe affected by displacement, disturbance or collision.

The ES clearly accepts that for many of the species the level of uncertaintyis simply to high too reach any confident conclusions regarding impacts. Forexample, we know that large numbers of whooper swans regularly migrate overnorth Lewis and may be at risk of collision. We do not believe that such ahigh level of anticipated risk combined with such high levels of uncertaintyis acceptable in an internationally important site.

Impacts On The Peatland

Peat bogs act as an effective mechanism for fixing and storing carbon or’carbon sinks’. The bulk of carbon associated with peat bogs is stored inthe organic soil (peat). Construction on peat bogs can cause erosion of thepeat and a release of stored carbon. The network of roads, turbine bases,pylons and compounds across the site will lead to direct habitat loss, adisruption to the hydrology of the peatland, erosion and potentialpeatslides.

The ES concludes that 577hectares of SPA habitat will be lost or disturbedincluding 152ha of active blanket bog, a priority habitat under the ECHabitats Directive.

The Process

Because this development will affect a European site, the Scottish Executiveare required to consider a series of legal tests as set down in Article 6 ofthe EC Directive on The Conservation of Natural Habitats and Wild Fauna andFlora (EC Directive 92/43/EEC – The Habitats Directive) before consent canbe issued. From our analysis above it is clear that we believe the proposalwill have a significant and adverse effect on the integrity of the site(Test 1). If the Executive agrees, they must then consider whether there areany alternative solutions to this proposal – including other locations ortechnologies (Test 2). They must also consider whether there are ‘imperativereasons of overriding public interest’ which justify allowing such adevelopment (Test 3).

We believe that there are many alternatives to this proposal, which wouldcontribute to both the economy of the Western Isles and to Executiverenewables targets, without damaging an internationally important site.

An International Context

The success of this application would set a damaging precedent for allinternationally important sites. We need to make the Scottish Executiveaware that this application is subject to the widest possible scrutiny.

Further information and the Environmental Statement are available on thedevelopers website:

Please Act Now – We need your help

Please read this briefing or have a look at the ES on the web and send anobjection to the Scottish Executive before the 13 December 2004.

Objections received after this date may still be considered at thediscretion of the Executive.

Please send your objections to:

Lesley Thomson, The Scottish Executive, Consents and Emergency PlanningUnit, 2nd Floor, Meridian Court, 5 Cadogan Street, Glasgow G2 6AT


For further information, please contact:Anne McCall, Planning and Development Manager or Andy Myles, Head ofAdvocacy & MediaRSPB Scotland, 25 Ravelston Terrace, Edinburgh EH4 3TP Tel: 0131 311 6500Fax: 0131 311 6569Email: Registered CharityNumber: 207076 – August 2003

Thanks very much for taking the time to read this long post.

Colin Wilson –

2 December 2004