SSE cancels 94MW Scottish project

UK: Power company SSE Renewables said it will not pursue plans for a 96MW wind farm on the Scottish Western Isles, claiming environmental constraints make it unviable.

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In a statement issued today, the company said it has withdrawn its interest in the 94MW Pairc development on the island of Lewis. It said that a project of this size "is no longer feasible due to environmental constraints", citing bird collision risks in particular.

The project was due to use Siemens 3.6MW wind turbines.

Wildlife charity RSPB Scotland has long had concerns about the development of projects in the area. In 2008, plans for what would have been the UK's largest wind farm were thrown out by the Scottish government on environmental grounds.

Lewis Wind Power, a consortium of international engineering group AMEC and nuclear firm British Energy, applied to build 181 turbines totalling 650 MW over a vast swathe of the island of Lewis in the Western Isles.

Speaking about the decision on Pairc, SSE director of onshore renewables David Gardner. said: "We are strongly committed to developing onshore wind farms. But as a responsible developer we will only do so if proposals are environmentally sustainable."

The decision was welcomed by RSPB Scotland, which said the Pairc scheme could have harmed sensitive bird species including golden eagles, white-tailed eagles, merlin, black-throated divers, golden plover and dunlin.

"SSE should be commended on this responsible decision, which recognises the importance of this site for sensitive species," said RSPB Scotland head of planning and development Aedán Smith.

In 2007, SSE applied to the Scottish government for permission to build 57 turbines on the Pairc Estate. In February 2009, it submitted the scaled-down 26-turbine scheme to meet the concerns of consultees including Western Isles Council and Scottish Natural Heritage.

SSE Renewables said it still sees potential to develop a wind farm on the Pairc Estate and has agreed terms in principle to transfer its stake in the project to an unnamed local developer.

"While we will not be progressing with our proposal, we feel there is scope for a smaller development that could greatly benefit the local community," said Gardner.

Smith agreed that although much of Lewis is important for wildlife, "there is still scope to develop wind farms as long as they are well sited and designed".

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