A study is to be launched into how the Western Isles can gain from renewable energy without environmental damage, it was announced yesterday.
Energy Minister Jim Mather announced the move in Stornoway where he said Western Isles Council would be involved in the study with environmental and business interests.
The study will be complete by autumn and will be separate from work being done by the council on guidelines for locating windfarms.
A ministerial decision is expected soon on a bid to build one of Europe’s largest windfarms on Lewis.
The 181-turbine scheme planned for Barvas Moor has sparked fierce controversy but the study announced yesterday will not look at individual planning applications or proposals.
The study will look at the energy potential of different scales of renewable energy schemes, and produce recommendations for action.
Mr Mather told an energy conference in Stornoway that the Western Isles had “vast and enviable” renewable energy potential.
“There must be renewable energy development across the isles if we are to ensure that the opportunities and benefits of a renewables revolution can be shared fairly across Scotland,” he said.
“At the same time, the Western Isles also enjoys an outstanding natural environment which is protected in places under European law.
“We must find a way to ensure developments proceed in harmony with environmental obligations.”
The study would investigate how renewable energy and other projects could deliver economic and community benefit while remaining consistent with conservation obligations.
“When completed, the study will set the stage for sustainable development to provide a base for economic, social and community renewal on the islands,” said the minister.
Western Isles Council, Scottish Natural Heritage, Highlands and Islands Enterprise and SEPA will help conduct the study which will be ready by the autumn.
Lewis Wind Power – the firm behind the plans for the Barvas Moor development – welcomed Mr Mather’s announcement.
Director David Hodkinson said: “We will work constructively with the Scottish Government and its agencies to ensure this report will result in lasting economic benefits from renewable sources.”
But campaign group Moorlands Without Turbines accused the conference organisers of failing to invite representatives of schemes other than LWP to the conference, and of failing to invite representatives of communities outwith Stornoway.
A spokesman said: “The rural communities of Lewis have been deliberately excluded from contributing to the debate.”
18 March 2008
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