A wind farm developer is set to pay out £3m to an island community without a single turbine being built.
Engie is being forced to compensate islanders on Lewis after it abandoned plans for a £200m wind farm there last year.
Up to 800 people living in the Loch Seaforth and South Lochs areas will benefit after a 30% cut is paid to the council’s Western Isles Development Trust – the equivalent of around £2500 per person.
The French firm scrapped the Eishken estate scheme after the installation of a cable to export electricity from the island was repeatedly delayed.
But it still has an obligation to the Muaitheabhal Community Wind Farm Trust (MCWFT) and a deal has now been agreed for Engie to make a final payment of £1.92m on top of £1m already paid.
Iain Maciver, MCWFT chairman, said: “The prospect of securing this significant payment, without exposing the community to any financial risk, is now a reality. Engie have to be commended for the way they have dealt with us, honouring their obligations in the process.
“Of added encouragement is the prospect of another developer now stepping in to complete the wind farm.
“Fundamental to that happening is the long awaited subsea link to the mainland needed to unlock the island’s energy resource.”
Engie, formerly known as GDF-Suez, previously made a £20m deposit to secure its place on the long-delayed subsea cable.
Steve Riley, president for the Engie’s UK region, said: “It was disappointing that we were unable to pursue the wind farm project due to a number of external delays. It is important to us that we honour our commitments to the local community and we are pleased to have reached an agreement with the trust.”
The 39-turbine development would have been the largest in the Western Isles with enough electricity to power 100,000 homes, over ten times more than required locally, but without the £750m energy link cable and associated infrastructure there is no way of exporting the energy.
EDF also owns the right to build a further 26 turbines on moorland on the neighbouring Pairc estate.
The MCWFT and the WIDT aim to use the money to fund economic, educational, cultural, environmental and social projects.
Applications are expected from village halls, historical societies and Gaelic language schemes as well as initiatives to encourage young people to remain on the islands.
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