May 24, 2012

Plans for new giant £180 million windfarm

Hebrides News, 23 May 2012

Plans are being drawn up to build a second giant windfarm at Eishken on Lewis.

Uisenis Power, which is owned by Nicholas Oppenheim proposes to erect 30 huge turbines next to the 39 machines due to be built on his private Eishken estate in South Lochs, Lewis next year.

Mr Oppenheim has lodged a scoping opinion request – the first formal part of a planning application – to build the new windfarm.

Mr Oppenheim said things are at a very early stage: “We are just talking about it. As the owners of the Eishken estate we are putting forward the scheme.”

If planning permission is eventually won, the £180 million development would be offered for sale to energy conglomerate International Power – owned by French firm GDF SUEZ – which now owns the original £230 million scheme.

Two months ago the global electricity generation firm purchased the rights to the 140 megawatt Eishken windfarm. The company says on-site construction work will begin next year. The scheme is due to start produce electricity in 2016 soon after a proposed subsea link is expected to be finished.

Mr Oppenheim said: “Whetever International Power or someone else will take it over, only time will tell.”

He said: “We are looking at creating employment opportunities after the main windfarm is built in 2015.”

Mr Oppenheim said the community benefit “will be every bit as good, if not better” than the present deal to local residents.

RSPB Scotland warned the new development threatened eagles.

RSPB spokesman Stuart Benn said: “We are seriously alarmed. This could have a devastating impact on what is one of Europe’s best sites for golden eagles.

Mr Benn attacked the quality of the bird information that was used before the existing consent was issued.

He said: “We believe the bird survey techniques were inadequate and the results underestimated the importance of the site. This contributed to the very unfortunate decision to grant the existing consent. We are frankly amazed that the developer should want yet more turbines on this site.”

Mr Benn highlighted: “This area supports one of the highest densities of golden eagles in the world and is increasingly important for white-tailed eagles. We know that placing wind farms in the wrong place can be hugely damaging with many bird casualties.

“In one instance in Norway there have been many collisions of white-tailed eagles and the local population has been very badly affected. Are we really prepared to allow something similar to happen here?”

Mr Benn added: “This area supports around a dozen breeding pairs of golden eagles which produce a good number of chicks every year. The area also forms the nucleus of the recent expansion of white-tailed eagles in the Western Isles, following similar increases on Mull and Skye. Satellite-tagged eagles of both eagle species have been shown to use the area to forage over prolonged periods.

“We believe that siting yet more turbines in this area risks a serious long-term impact on the populations of our largest and most magnificent birds of prey. This proposal should be stopped in its tracks.”

Nicholas Oppenheim remarked that after ten years of RSPB opposition there are “now more eagles than ever around the place.”

Referring to depopulation and island unemployment he added: “At this rate there will be more eagles than people.”

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