The last crucial piece of planning permission for the largest wind farm in the Western Isles has been approved by the Scottish Government.
Six extra turbines, on craggy hill slopes to the west of Loch Mor Stiomrabhaigh and immediately north of Beinn Eisgein, on the Eisgein estate in Lewis takes the previously approved Muaitheabhal wind farm up to nearly 126 megawatts.
Work towards building the entire 39 turbine, £200 million scheme may start next year in anticipation of coinciding completion with the construction of a proposed subsea cable to export the electricity under the Minch to southern markets.
Neighbouring a giant wind development proposed by SSE on the Pairc moorland grazings, it could create a sprawling chain of enormous turbines.
Objectors warned Golden and sea eagles risked being killed by the huge 160 metre high turbines.
High voltage overhead lines would carry the electricity across the moor to a huge convertor station perched above the crofting village of Gravir.
Developer Nick Oppenheim has set up two companies, Beinn Mhor Power and Crionag Power, to progress the renewable energy venture sited 13 miles south-west of Stornoway.
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 finance around £15 million for their turbines.
Some 1% of the scheme’s revenue would be paid to a community trust Mr Oppenheim has established.
But, in turn, the Muaitheabhal Community Windfarm Trust is obliged to hand over about a third of its revenues – estimated at £11 million – to a Western Isles Council-led development fund.
It has taken over seven years to reach this stage. 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 and grant permission for 33 turbines.
The Scottish Government has now consented 50 energy applications since 2007.
Energy Minister Fergus Ewing said: “The Muaitheabhal extension will see extra capacity added to the existing plans and both developments will play an important part in helping Scotland reach its target of the equivalent of 100 per cent of electricity demand coming from renewables by 2020.
“Crucially, I am pleased to see local communities profiting from Scotland’s vast natural resources through community benefit agreements that will keep money in our communities.
The Scottish Government is currently considering another 40 applications of nearly four Gigawatts of renewables capacity.
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