Plans for a controversial giant wind farm planned for Lewis have been dramatically scaled down in a third attempt to gain planning permission and to secure a sub-sea cable.
Developer Nick Oppenheim met a wall of opposition and delays when he initially applied to build 133 of the world’s tallest wind turbines across his private Eisgein estate on the border between Lewis and Harris.
Then, he cut 80 machines and submitted a revamped scheme for just 53 turbines.
But a decision on that is not now expected until 2009 as the Scottish Government demanded a public inquiry to examine conflicts between the wind farm’s close proximity to a National Scenic Area (NSA) and the socio-economic benefits such as jobs and community compensation.
Now the number of turbines have been slashed again to just 16 which takes it under the crucial 50 megawatt threshold and allows the local authority to make the final decision.
Mr Oppenheim said the fresh application is a “back-up plan.”
He added: “We have not withdrawn the larger scheme. The 16 turbine application is a sub-set of the 53 machines and has been submitted in order to allow us to sign up to the grid connection and sub sea interconnector.”
He continued: “It would be a big shame for the community if the big scheme does not ahead. It will cost them dear, about £1.2 million a year.”
Mr Oppenheim said the plans for the bigger windfarm will still go to a public inquiry. But this is not expected to be concluded for another two years. The delay is preventing the signing of vital contracts for the establishment of a sub-sea cable to export the electricity to the mainland and onward via the proposed Beauly to Denny transmission line.
Under the 53 turbine development, the immediate Lochs community could finance and build six turbines on rent-free sites but are obliged to hand over the income from two machines to Western Isles Council.
The latest scheme would mean a maximum of only two community turbines being built with the local authority body taking about a third of the reduced revenue for reinvestment into local amenities.
Eisgein is just one of three massive wind developments which would see a chain of the world’s largest land turbines running the length of the island and along a major tourist route.
Sources suggest that the former Labour-led Scottish government baulked from giving Eisgein the go-ahead before the May elections in a desperate but futile attempt to retain the islands’ seat for the party.
Both opponents and advocates of the controversial giant wind farms are appalled at the decision for a public inquiry for the larger proposal.
Western Isles planners are expected to rule on the 48 megawatt, 16 turbine application in December.
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