Work on building a giant £200 million wind farm in the Western Isles may commence in spring if a new investor comes on board as anticipated.
Leading global independent electricity generation firm International Power is poised to sign a deal to buy the rights to the Eishken windfarm on Lewis within weeks, it is understood.
The London-based giant is said to be in advance negotiations with Nick Oppenheim who has secured planning permission to build 33 massive turbines on his private moorland estate in South Lochs.
The 104 megawatt scheme received planning permission from the Scottish Government in January 2010. An additional six turbines awaiting a planning decision which could increase capacity to 125 MW.
Two companies, Beinn Mhor Power and Crionaig Power, control the renewable energy venture sited 13 miles south-west of Stornoway. On his blog political commentator Angus Nicolson suggest s recent changes to these firms indicates a big deal is in progress.
International Power hope to conclude agreements by Autumn at the earliest and only then would the development go ahead.
Crucially, the energy giant would pay £60 million to underwrite its share in a proposed million sub-sea cable. The deal would help provide the critical mass and cash to secure the £400 energy link to export wind power from a group of windfarms on Lewis to the mainland.
High voltage overhead lines would carry the electricity across the moor to a huge convertor station perched above the crofting village of Gravir where a underwater link would come ashore near Ullapool.
As part of the community benefit under the planning bid, villagers are being offered four sites within the development to build their own scheme but have to raise around £15 million for their turbines.
The Muaitheabhal Community Windfarm Trust also needs to hand over about £11million of the community profits to a Western Isles Council-led development fund.
The private Eishken estate itself is excluded from any sale – so only the turbine sites, access and energy rights would be leased to an incoming operator.
The jobs could begin around March towards construction of tracks and roads which would allow access to build huge concrete foundations. The giant turbines up and ready to harness the wind by 2015.
Last year Mr Oppenheim told Hebrides News the annual £ 1 million plus benefit deal he struck with the community and Western Isles Council’s development trust would be honoured regardless of changes to ownership.
His attempts to build a giant windfarm on the Eishken estate has experienced a rough ride over the past seven years.
The original aim to erect 53 machines on Eishken were scuppered as about half were on a National Scenic Area (NSA). Following a public inquiry in 2008, plans were revamped with a slashed number of 39 generators all avoiding the NSA. The Scottish Government knocked out a few granting the go-ahead for 33 turbines.
International Power began life as National Power after the nationalised Central Electricity Generating Board was broken up. Five months ago, it was taken over by French worldwide energy conglomerate GDF Suez.
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