THE Ministry of Defence has lodged objections to plans to build an offshore wind farm in the Moray Firth – near the site where three RAF crewmen lost their lives in a mid-air collision.
Beatrice Offshore Windfarm Limited (Bowl), a consortium led by SSE Renewables, submitted an application to Scottish ministers in April to install up to 277 wind turbines off the Caithness coast in the area of the Beatrice oil field.
Last week, two trainee pilots and an instructor died after two Tornado GR4 jets from the 15 (Reserve) Squadron at RAF Lossiemouth plunged into the Moray Firth in the area. The operation to recover the wreckage of the aircraft is continuing.
Twelve organisations have already responded to the development proposal as part of the consultation process. They include the Moray Firth Sea Trout Project, the Association of Salmon Fishery Boards and the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society, which have objected to the development because of wildlife concerns.
The Ministry of Defence has now added its voice to the list of objectors, claiming that the £3 billion wind farm would cause “unacceptable interference” to radar systems at RAF Lossiemouth, which is home to three Tornado squadrons.
Defence chiefs drew up their objections to the Moray Firth green energy scheme before the Moray Firth collision tragedy.
They claim that the “desensitisation” of radar could result in aircraft not being detected by the radar and therefore not presented to air traffic controllers.
An MoD spokesman said: “The Ministry of Defence fully supports the government’s renewable energy policies and targets.
“However, wind turbines can have detrimental effects on MoD operations and assets. The MoD wrote to the Scottish Government on 19 June confirming an objection to the Beatrice Offshore wind farm development on the grounds it will be in line of sight to the Air Traffic Control radar at RAF Lossiemouth.”
He added: “The MoD ensures that any developments, both on and beyond the defence estate, do not adversely affect military operations and assets and continues to discuss the proposed development with the developer.”
A spokeswoman for Bowl said: “This is clearly an important subject and we are working with the Ministry of Defence to try to overcome any concerns they have in terms of the radar.”
Earlier this week, Rob Gibson the SNP MSP for Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross, accused the MoD of “sabotaging” the Scottish Government’s renewables targets by objecting to “everything”.