One of Scotland’s most controversial wind farms, on the Hebridean island of Lewis, has been given the green light – more than a decade after the developers first sought to build on the island.
The Scottish Government yesterday finally gave its approval for a £200 million, 36-turbine project. Developer Lewis Wind Power claimed it will generate electricity needs for 90,000 homes, create more than 150 jobs, bring £48 million to the local economy and save 250,000 tons of CO² a year.
The developer, a joint venture involving engineering firm Amec, EDF Energy and the Stornoway Trust, has been striving to get a wind farm up and running for more than a decade, first drawing up plans for a £500m, 181-turbine development at Barvas Moor at the north end of the island.
After years of objections from conservationists and environmentalists, the project was finally rejected in 2008, leaving the company to look elsewhere for its long-awaited wind farm.
Finally, after identifying land west of Stornoway, proposals were lodged in 2010, this time for a 42-turbine development, known as Stornoway Wind Farm.
That was approved by energy minister Fergus Ewing yesterday after the company agreed to reduce the size by six turbines following concerns from RSPB and Scottish National Heritage (SNH).
The groups had originally objected to the development, fearing an impact on protected golden eagle populations and red-throated diver habitats.
SNH had also voiced concerns over the potential affect on the Lewis Peatlands special protection area.
However, the two agencies withdrew their opposition when the developer reduced the size of the wind farm, which is situated one-and-a-half miles from Stornoway, removing six of the most contentious proposed structures.
Mr Ewing said: “I’m delighted to consent the Stornoway wind farm, which will represent a significant boost to the economy of the Western Isles and create jobs during construction and in the longer term. Once it is up and running, the wind farm will save thousands of tonnes of carbon dioxide each year.”
The minister added: “I am particularly pleased that the developer was able to work with SNH and RSPB to develop proposals which allowed this wind farm to go ahead while minimising effects on Lewis’ important natural heritage.
Supporters of the scheme also hope it will lead to the laying of a subsea interconnecting power cable to the mainland, which is key to a series of other planned wind farms on the island.
Western Isles MP Alasdair Allan said: “Today’s news holds out the prospect of a 130 megawatt wind farm, a development which would certainly justify an interconnector from the Western Isles to the mainland, benefiting not only this but other renewables projects on the islands.
“I want to see this project bring the maximum possible benefit to the islands, something which I have mentioned in the past to the developers.
“The contribution made by this scheme will provide an opportunity to use the power of the wind to tackle the high fuel bills experienced by islanders, high fuel bill which are of course in part the consequence of the winds.