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New wind farm plans slashed by half

Plans for a giant wind farm in the Western Isles have been slashed in size.
Uisenis Power, which is owned by Nicholas Oppenheim, originally wanted to build 30 huge turbines next to the 39 machines due to be built on his private Eishken estate in South Lochs, Lewis.
But a reduced number of just 12 turbines – near an eagles flying zone – are now being put forward.
An estimated eight sea eagles and a further four golden eagles would be killed by the turbines over 25 years, according to planning documents submitted by the developer.
It highlighted up to 50 turbines could have been accommodated if it wasn’t for the rugged, steep terrain, freshwater lochs, impacts on landscape and the National Scenic Areas.
In addition, concerns about eagles and other protected birds resulted in cutting the scheme down to 12 turbines.
If planning permission is eventually won, the development would be offered for sale to energy conglomerate International Power – also known as GDF SUEZ Energy International – which already owns the rights to the proposed neighbouring £230 million wind farm.
Preliminary engineering works for that initial 140 megawatt development was halted last year because the necessary subsea cable needed to export the electricity has been delayed.
International Power also holds the rights to build a wind farm on the next door Pairc estate.
Uisenis Power says that the building works on the latest wind farm on Eishken Estate will get underway after energy regulator Ofgem authorises the interconnector.
In its planning bid, the company stated the equivalent of 76 jobs would be created by the development which “will give a strong boost to the currently fragile economy of the Outer Hebrides and encourage young people to stay in, or return, to the islands for work.”
Employment would be maximised by ensuring the turbines are built on Lewis, if possible, it added.
The developer pledged a “commitment to employ local residents and use local companies wherever possible.”
The dozen machines, each 150 metres high, would generate 43 megawatts of electricity and offset around 57,000 tonnes of CO2 per year.
They are expected to generate a minimum average of £380,000 yearly in community benefit over 25 years – a total of £9.5 million at current prices.
The developer said around 80%, or £7.6 million, of the cash would be channelled through the Western Isles Council-led Western Isles Development Trust (WIDT) to be reinvested across the wider Outer Hebrides. A further £1.9 million would be spent locally by the Muaitheabhal Windfarm Community Trust.
It also proposes giving around £69,000 a year to a scheme to help make the “Outer Hebrides a centre of excellence for archaeological assessment and bird observation“ which would boost tourism.
The developer said the “environmental and economic benefits of the development can be considered to be matters of overriding public interest.”