A proposed £200million windfarm for Stornoway, incorporating a potential community scheme, will be scrapped unless the government instals a crucial subsea cable to export the electricity, it has emerged.
Developer Lewis Windpower (LWP) warns that the giant energy project is not financially viable if the firm is forced to underwrite the cost of the interconnecter to link it into the mainland national grid.
Other large windfarm operators on Lewis are also refusing to fork out the high levy to fund the nearly £400million price of the cable which would run from Lewis to near Ullapool and carry renewable electricity manufactured in the isles through the grid.
Ironically, other upgrades in the same system are being paid for by the government purse.
Darren Cuming of French-owned EDF Energy – which partners Amec in the Lewis Wind Power (LWP) scheme – said: “This is a deadlock situation. The levels of income and other factors do not make it viable.”
He added: “Paying for the cable is a key issue. It will cost £393million and the regulator (Ofgem) wants developers such as LWP and Beinn Mhor at Eishken to fund the cable.
“We are lobbying for some solution where the UK and Scottish Government would unlock the energy potential of these islands by providing a sub-sea interconnector.”
He highlighted that the Stornoway windfarm was a “marginal project at the level proposed at the moment”.
He warned that if generators were charged to use the cable at the “same price at the moment then developers are unlikely to develop any large-scale windfarms on the isles.” The warning the development may be jeopardised follows the shock, last-minute announcement that Scottish and Southern Energy (SSE) has abandoned present plans to construct the cable.
The failure to resolve the export levy controversy is the reason SSE – which also plans its own giant windfarm at Pairc, Lewis – has ditched contracts to build it.
SSE said it would try again next year but that means the cable would not be ready until 2015 at the earliest.
Western Isles Council leader Angus Campbell said: “We call on the UK Government to step in and invest strategically in the Western Isles interconnector, obviating underwriting and securing the significant economic benefits that renewable energy will bring to these islands.”
He maintained the islands were being “discriminated against” as other national grid upgrades were paid by the government. He said the European Union should investigate the issue.
LWP wants to build 43 wind turbines on crofters’ grazings outside Stornoway. A community benefit fund would be established.
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