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Western Isles wind schemes condemned

The John Muir Trust has condemned large-scale wind developments in the Western Isles as “uneconomic” and urged the government to focus green energy generation near the populations where it is most needed.

The charity issued its comments last night on the eve of the closing day of the public inquiry into the Beinn Mhor Power proposal for a 53-turbine windpark at the Eishken Estate in Lewis.

JMT’s head of policy, Helen McDade, said: “At the moment, large-scale wind developments in the Western Isles are costly, inefficient and hugely damaging for one of Scotland’s most spectacular areas of wild land.

“It is high time that the government woke up to the fact that we should be generating our power closer to home rather than artificially subsidising an otherwise doomed industry.”

The trust estimates that the power interconnector that is needed between Lewis and the mainland to link up the Beinn Mhor windfarm increases the development’s capital costs by at least 40%.

And it claims that although wind turbines are estimated to generate 15% to 20% more energy in the Western Isles than in Scotland’s central belt, the costs of transmission – including the lost energy from having to transport it such large distances – more than outweigh the advantage. The extra costs would be passed on to consumers.

JMT also believes that Scotland is on the way to meeting its renewable targets without large-scale windfarms being created in the Outer Hebrides.

Economist Professor Andrew Bain estimates that Scotland needs a further 2,000MW of wind power to meet the government’s target of 50% power from renewable energy sources by 2020. There is currently 1,600MW of green power under appeal, a further 3,000MW in the planning system and 2,500MW at the scoping stage.

The Press and Journal

22 May 2008