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Wind farm developer quits Hebridean scheme

Serious concerns have been raised over the future of green energy projects in the Western Isles following the decision of a developer to pull out of a £200 million turbine scheme.

The French energy giant GDF Suez blames delays in the laying of a subsea cable required to carry electricity to the mainland for its decision to walk away from the planned 39-turbine project on the Eisgein Estate in the southeast of Lewis.

Work on the scheme, which would power 100,000 homes and generate £1 million a year in community benefit, was expected to begin last year.

GDF Suez, along with other developers, had been expected to underwrite the £750m cost of the cable without which hopes of transforming the Western Isles economy through the generation of green energy will be dashed.

Scottish Hydro Electric Transmission, part of power giant SSE, estimates it will be 2019 before the cable is laid.

Angus Campbell, leader of Western Isles Council, has been lobbying for the interconnector for years. He said: “This is a blow for the renewables industry in the Western Isles.”

But he added: “There are still huge opportunities in renewable development in the islands and I hope a successor company can be found for the Eishken project. Our aim would be to maximise the community ownership element of such a company.”

Michael Rieley, of the industry body Scottish Renewables, said: “We need to see meaningful regulatory and policy change to enable these vital ­connections. Without these necessary grid connections, Scottish islands, like Lewis, will be unable to realise their renewable electricity potential.”

A spokeswoman for SSE said: “It is widely recognised that there are a number of outstanding issues of a policy and regulatory nature which continue to affect the development of renewables on the islands, including the Western Isles.

“The Scottish Islands Renewables Delivery Forum, which is co-chaired by the UK and Scottish Governments, is seeking to address the outstanding issues.”