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Array wind farm puts Lewis plan in shade

The RSPB is backing a project, which could lead to the construction of UK’s largest wind farm.

The consortium behind the London Array wind farm detailed today by Trade and Industry Secretary Alistair Darling, has altered plans for the 341-turbine scheme to limit harm to red-throated divers, a bird rarely seen in UK waters.

Surveying of the Outer Thames Estuary, off the north-east Kent between 2002 and 2005, found 7,000 of these birds which until then were thought to number fewer than 5,000 in the UK in winter.

As a result, the developers reduced the number of first phase turbines from 258 to 175 to accommodate this important population. The RSPB now believes that the birds will be safe.

Dr Mark Avery, Conservation Director at the RSPB said: “The co-operation of the developers has been exceptional and we are confident that the birds will not be affected by this first stage of the development. If monitoring shows that they are, then the developers have accepted that their plans for additional turbines will have to be dropped.

“We are very pleased that this wind farm is to be built. Renewable energy generation is crucial to tackling climate change and when wind farms do not cause environmental damage, the RSPB will be the first to support them.”

The London Array development contrasts sharply with plans for a 181-turbine wind farm on the Hebridean Isle of Lewis. That proposal, on land protected by EU law, is likely to affect a range of breeding and migrating birds including golden eagles, dunlin, corncrake, and red-throated diver.

The wind farm would be built on peat, a soil that stores huge amounts of carbon, and would require the excavation of five quarries and substantial infrastructure including almost 90 miles of roads, underground and overground cabling and nearly 140 pylons.

Anne McCall, Head of Planning and Development at RSPB Scotland said: “The approach of the London Array developers mirrors the constructive stance of many in the renewables’ industry. They have worked with us to resolve an environmental concern, which became apparent as a result of their own survey work.

“On Lewis, the developers knew from day one that the site was protected by law, that their proposal would harm large areas of peatland and threaten a range of breeding and migrating birds.

“The lesson here is to avoid designated sites from the outset. Doing that would save years of wrangling and enable renewable energy schemes to get off the ground far more quickly.”

A second proposal for Lewis was submitted last week.

Cath Harris | alfa
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