The Scottish Government has controversially approved a £225million wind farm in the Western Isles – raising fears of more turbines on Scotland’s remote islands.
Campaigners say the 36-turbine development on Lewis could set a worrying precedent.
But the project has been waved through despite concerns it will drive away tourists and anglers and take up almost 5,000 acres of community crofting land for decades.
Developer Lewis Wind Power (LWP) got permission for the wind farm, less than a mile from Stornoway, after it cut the number of turbines from 42 to 36.
However, John Mayhew, director of the Association for the Protection of Rural Scotland, said: ‘The crucial fact is that the wind farm relies on building a massive new i nterconnector cable to carry electricity to the mainland.
‘Once that cable is built, it will encourage more large-scale wind farm developments in the Hebrides, which is where the problems will really start.’
LWP is a partnership between French energy firm EDF and engineering firm AMEC, which four years ago sought to build a £700million 181-turbine wind farm near Stornoway.
Almost 11,000 people objected and the Scottish Government refused permission because of a feared impact on endangered birds. And last month Scottish and Southern Energy was forced to abandon plans for a 26-turbine wind farm at Pairc on Lewis because of possible risks to golden eagles.
However, RSPB Scotland and Scottish Natural Heritage dropped their opposition to the new farm after turbine numbers were cut.
Stornoway Angling Association has argued that visitors would stay away from the popular River Creed and warned of damage to tourism.
But yesterday the Scottish Government gave the go ahead.
Ron Peddie, project director for LWP, said: ‘From the very beginning we have sought to develop a wind farm based on the wishes of the local community.
‘Wherever possible we will seek to use the local supply chain in order to maximise the social and economic benefits for the islanders.’
The developer said the wind farm, which should have a lifespan of 25 years, will provide enough power for 90,000 homes. It will create 196 jobs in the Western isles and 181 in the rest of Scotland.
BiFab, a factory at Arnish on Lewis, is expected to build the turbine towers and the developer says £48million of materials and labour will come from the Western Isles.
The Stornoway Trust, a community group which owns the land the turbines will be built on, will take 20 per cent of the profits.
Chairman Murdo Murray said: ‘The development of this wind farm and wider renewables on the Western Isles are a once in a lifetime opportunity for our community.’