The spotlight on windfarm issues is being put centre stage once more as Energy Minister Jim Mather prepares to give a keynote address at an Energy Summit in Stornoway on Monday.
In regards to planning approval for windfarm proposals, Managing Director of Arnish yard operator Camcal, Jimmy Ferguson said that if the Lewis wind farm received planning permission, Camcal was guaranteed to fabricate around 170 towers and the foundation inserts, subject to conditions, which would create many local jobs and help secure the yard’s future.
At present, there are 25 people employed at Arnish, carrying out small contracts.
“At the moment, we don’t have the work at the yard, so the overheads continue to burn away,” he said.
Although Mr Ferguson is hoping for full approval of the island wind farm proposals, partial approval would be most welcome at this stage.
“If the Minister said that the wind farm north of Barvas moor was to be put on hold for the future but not deleted completely, that would be a good result for everyone involved, as long as those south of Barvas moor and those planned for Lochs and North Harris were given the go ahead, so that the quantity of turbines is there to justify the export cable,” said Mr Ferguson.
“Lewis Wind Power would still have the door open, and the proposed wind farm north of Barvas moor could be revisited,” he added.
He said that if there was a total rejection of the wind farm proposals for Lewis, the subsea cable would be likely to be put on hold and this might affect the small community schemes.
If the go-ahead was given, there would be even more opportunity to look at other projects because of the income derived from the development, he said.
At the moment, Camcal are hoping to secure a large order – to start building 49 huge towers at Arnish for an offshore wind farm in Turkey.
Mr Ferguson feels the order will still go ahead, despite delays.
He said: “The client is having difficulty in putting together the commercial package and this is delaying the whole process. We are still expecting something is going to come out of it, but it is taking a little longer than we would have hoped. We are working very closely with the client and if the current issues are not resolved, a substitute order will be forthcoming.”
Mr Ferguson added: “There are 25 people working at the Arnish yard at present, but if we secure the order for the towers for the Turkey wind farm, the workforce could be increased to 60. If the Lewis wind farm project is agreed, it would increase the workforce to over 100.”
With little work at the moment, Mr Ferguson is not only anxious to secure the order for the Turkey scheme, but also the proposals for Lewis wind farms.
“It would be a fantastic boost if there was positive news about the Lewis wind farm proposals going ahead fully, or partially,” he added.
The theme for Monday’s renewable energy conference at An Lanntair in Stornoway – the ‘Outer Hebrides Energy Summit’ – will be: ‘How do we best develop renewable and alternative projects for the benefit of the community and environment of the Outer Hebrides?’
In addition to Jim Mather, other speakers at the conference include Angus MacNeil MP, Alasdair Allan MSP, and representatives from SNH, RSPB, HIE, Lewis Wind Power, and Stornoway Trust.
Moorlands Without Turbines had been invited to the Summit, but declined.
They believed that the format proposed by the Council ‘means that what is on offer is not genuine community consultation’, they said.
“If the Council wish to ‘develop renewable and alternative energy projects for the benefit of the community and the environment’, they must get out of Stornoway and go into the rural communities into whose environment they wish to locate their schemes,” said Catriona Campbell of MWT.
Ms Campbell added, “The time for the Comhairle to consult on proposals is before they make their decisions. Quite simply, if they cannot persuade the host communities of the merits of their schemes, they should not go ahead. That would be democracy at work.”
MWT said that for over four years they had helped to ‘give a voice to other islanders opposed to the major windfarm proposals on the Isle of Lewis’.
“During this time, the communities affected and MWT have been effectively ignored by Comhairle nan Eilean Siar in the planning process,” they claimed.
“We therefore question the motive behind the current gesture, particularly as it is apparent that the communities of the Western Isles will yet again be under-represented at this event, as indeed are developers who have interests on the Islands, be they utilities or community based.
“We strongly support the principle that proper community consultation should provide the foundation for the development of renewables on the Western Isles. However, it is essential that any discussion is meaningful, not merely window dressing, and that the views of local communities actually have an effect on the direction of development.
“After very careful consideration we do not believe it would be appropriate for MWT to participate at this event under the circumstances,” they stated.
The Summit Conference registration is expected to start at 10.00am on Monday, followed by a welcome and introduction by Comhairle Convener Alex Macdonald.
Mr Mather’s keynote address is expected shortly after 11.00am
Highland and Islands Enterprise will give a presentation on ‘The Potential for Energy Generation in the Development of the Economy’ followed by ‘A Developer’s Perspective – Doing Business in the Outer Hebrides’ by Lewis Wind Power.
Around 12:15pm, Dr Geoff Riddington is expected to talk on ‘Key Outcomes from Recent Research into the Economic Impact of Wind Farms on Tourism’.
Then, at 12.30pm, Lews Castle College UHI will give a presentation on ‘Innovation, Research and New Technologies – We’re Delivering This Locally’.
Before lunch, Western Isles MP, Angus MacNeil, will address the conference on: ‘Energy and the Outer Hebrides: What Should We Aspire To?’
Around 2.15pm, Stornoway Trust will give a presentation, ‘Can Energy Generation Support Community Aspirations?’ followed by the Western Isles Development Trust’s talk on ‘The Potential Benefits and Our Proposals to Disburse These Benefits’.
Highlands & Islands Community Energy Company will outline ‘Community Energy Development in the Outer Hebrides – the HICEC Approach’ and at 3.00pm Scottish Natural Heritage’s presentation will be ‘Our Approach to Energy Development in the Outer Hebrides’.
Next speakers will be the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds on ‘Our Approach to Development Applications and the Constraints on the Outer Hebrides’ followed by Boreas Ecology with ‘The Environment and Energy: Do We Need to Adapt to Change?’
Western Isles MSP, Alasdair Allan will address the conference on ‘Energy: An Opportunity to be Seized?’
A Question and Answer session is planned for 4.30pm: ‘What Have You Made of What You Heard? Your Opportunity to Quiz the Speakers’
Finally, Comhairle nan Eilean Siar will address the conference on the conclusions, and the way forward.
By Donnie Macinnes
13 March 2008
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