East Lothian Council could “piggy back” on a planned expansion of a Lammermuirs wind farm to help raise much-needed funds for the local authority.
That is the view of Councillor Willie Innes, council leader, whose Labour-led administration is examining the idea.
As previously reported by the Courier, the council’s Labour/Conservative/independent administration is exploring the possibility of installing wind turbines somewhere in East Lothian, then selling the energy produced to the National Grid – generating funds for the council.
It is one of three revenue streams being considered by the administration in a bid to help prevent cuts to frontline services like education and adult social care.
Mr Innes confirmed earlier this month that one of several sites being considered for the turbines was between Torness and Lafarge.
But after fears this week from a Dunbar community councillor that the area could become over-industrialised, Mr Innes and Labour colleague Norman Hampshire said that the proposed extension of Crystal Rig wind farm was the most likely site for such a development.
Will Collin, Dunbar Community Council member, quizzed Mr Hampshire on the issue on Monday, and said: “Councillor Innes really surprised me when he said that East Lothian Council was thinking about installing wind turbines… [in the] Dunbar and East Linton ward.
“We have continually said that there’s enough industrial development down the path of the A1 from here south, and here we have another possibility.”
However, Mr Hampshire said that the Dunbar site was not being considered – and the council was instead looking at Crystal Rig.
“There are currently wind turbines up there that the people in this area get very little benefit from,” he said.
“The majority of the profit from these goes well outwith East Lothian. It would generate in the region of £1 million per year that would go into supporting the revenue budget that would protect education and children’s services.”
Mr Innes previously told the Courier that the scheme could raise up to £3 million per year.
Both councillors’ figures have been challenged by the SNP Group, whose leader Paul McLennan claims the turbines would raise “absolutely nothing like” the figures stated by Labour.
Councillor McLennan told the Courier: “It’s a policy that’s speculative at best, a policy which isn’t supported by the Conservative council depute leader and local ward member Michael Veitch, and a policy which even members of the same Labour Party differ on how much it could raise.
“Just like the coastal car parking charges, this policy is not thought out; it’s policy being made up as it goes along and the two sides of the coalition differ on it. Residents deserve better.
“This is the administration desperately scrambling about to find monies to support a manifesto they admitted wasn’t costed and they know they can’t afford.”
Crystal Rig is owned by Fred.Olsen Renewables, which plans to expand the 85-turbine farm by a further 11 turbines in a third-phase development known as Crystal Rig III.
A spokesman for the company was unavailable for comment.
But Mr Innes said: “We know that there is going to be an extension of Crystal Rig, and we are just examining the possibilities.
“We would have to sustain the capital costs, but the revenue would come to the council. We haven’t got into the details of the numbers, but I believe that there’s going to be space for up to seven [turbines].
“I think that’s probably the easiest option – just to ‘piggy back’ on a proposal rather than having to identify a site independently.”
He added: “People can challenge [the figures] all they want, but our information from the industry is that that’s the type of revenue you can accrue from turbines.
“It just depends on how many turbines you put up. In the next month or so we should be able to speak about it in a bit more detail.”
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