A bid to build a £225 million giant wind farm outside Stornoway may be in jeopardy after it emerged Scottish Government conservation agency SNH wants nearly a third of the turbines removed.
Developers Lewis Wind Power (LWP) – a partnership between Amec and French government-owned EDF Energy – previously indicated it needs all the 42 machines to reach the 151 meagawatt capacity to make the scheme worthwhile and attract a huge subsea cable to export the electricity to the mainland.
A council planner’s report says SNH has lodged an objection because it fears golden eagles and red-throated divers would be badly affected and wants rid of around 13 turbines. It insists the developer has given insufficient information over the risks to birds and a proper assessment is required.
As SNH is a statutory consultee its objection may be a crucial factor when the Scottish Government makes the final decision.
The RSPB has similar concerns but says less than seven machines may have to be relocated.
Aviation interests also oppose the scheme because it could interfere with important radar equipment used for trans-Atlantic aircraft as well as the safety of flights for Stornoway airport. The military say it may affect a nearby weather radar.
Nevertheless, given their track record, Western Isles Council is expected to give in-principle backing to the scheme when it is debated over the next two weeks.
It will also urge the Scottish Government not to hold a public inquiry.
Only two individuals object to the scheme in stark contrast to thousands of people who opposed earlier plans to build a £700 million chain of 181 huge turbines on neighbouring land – a bid which was thrown out by the Scottish Government in 2008.
Senior planning officer Keith Bray highlights the development “as currently presented cannot be assessed fully by the Council.“
However, he stresses: “The area proposed for development by the Stornoway Wind farm is largely within a broad area of search for large scale wind farms in the Council’s Large Scale Wind Energy Developments Supplementary Guidance and therefore, in principle, the Council is supportive of large scale wind farm development in the general area.”
Discussions between SNH and aviation bodies over the risks are ongoing.
Some 87 local jobs could be created from the scheme and, if the Arnish yard lands the turbines tower order, the possible contracts would be worth nearly £48 million for the island.
A community fund, lease and compensatory payments are worth around £1.6 million annually and the community could buy up to eight turbines.
28 September 2011
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