Green light for Lewis wind farm
Plans to build the largest onshore wind farm in Europe have been approved by a committee of Western Isles Council.
Lewis Wind Power proposed to build 234 turbines over three estates on Lewis, costing a total of £411m. There were more than 4,000 objections to the application, which has been passed by the council’s environmental services committee. Objectors have warned about the environmental impact of the development.
The construction phase would see the provision of 133 full-time equivalent jobs. The decision goes against the recommendation of planners who said the project should be rejected as it would disrupt the scenic beauty of the area.
It is expected to have a more difficult passage when it is considered by the full council on Tuesday evening. Each turbine would be 400ft high and they would be built on three estates – Stornoway (74), Barvas (63) and Galson (97).
Among those objecting, Richard Lindsay, head of Conservation at the University of East London, warned recently the wind farm could have a devastating impact on the internationally important peatland site and the environment as a whole.
He claims Lewis Wind Power Ltd has also hugely underestimated the area of carbon-rich peatland which could be affected. ‘We build wind farms in order to reduce carbon emissions, we then build our wind farms on peat,’ Mr Lindsay said.
“Yet peatlands represent the one land-based habitat that is a major long-term carbon store.
‘By building the wind farm on peat, we release this carbon store as carbon emissions to the atmosphere.’
Those in support of the windfarm projects say they will bring much needed jobs to the Isle of Lewis and will boost the local economy. Councillor Keith Dodson said: ‘This is an opportunity to breathe new life and prosperity into the islands.’
The community-owned Stornoway Trust Estate would receive £2.1m per annum for the landowners and the same amount for crofters. Local communities would get £750,000 a year and the Western Isles Development Trust £702,000.
If the Stornoway trust took up the offer of having a 20% stake in the ownership of the turbines, a total of £25.75m could be brought in per annum.
A new report by the Scottish Wind Assessment Project (Swap) has revealed almost half the UK’s hydro-electric plants receive lucrative subsidies originally intended to assist the development of new sources of renewable energy.
Most of the operations are in Scotland and have been generating green electricity profitably for many years.
The Swap document reveals that the government’s Renewables Obligation scheme means consumers pay up to £80m a year over and above the market price for electricity generated by hydro plants.
It said most are 50 years old and generate very little ‘new’ electricity and claimed, as a result of the legislation, the UK’s overall hydro-generation capacity has gone down rather than up for the first time in a century.