Massive windfarm on Lewis gets backing of local planners

Authorities in the Western Isles have given their backing to contentious plans for a wind farm in Lewis which has been the subject of a near decade-long battle.

Proposed Wind farm on Lewis
Proposed Wind farm on Lewis

Councillors will be asked this week to endorse the Lewis Wind Power development, which would see some of the tallest onshore turbines in the UK raised across open moors and peatland west of Stornoway.

The wind farm, which would feature up to 33 turbines ranging in height from 156m to 180m – appoximately the same height as St Paul’s Cathedral in London – was first proposed in 2011, and has been at the centre of legal action and controversy ever since.

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Now, Comhairle nan Eilean Siar has said it is supportive of the developmentand arguedthere would be “no public interest” in holding a public local inquiry .

The application has been brought forward by Stornoway Wind Farm Limited, a subsidiary of Lewis Wind Power Limited, a joint venture between EDF Renewables and Wood.

The original development was approved by ministers in 2012, but the amended proposal would involve turbines higher than those consented. Under what is known as a section 36 application, the developers are seeking the approval of the Scottish Government, which has in turn asked for the local authority’s view.

If completed, the revised wind farm would have an installed capacity of 184MW, capable of supplying electricity to nearly 230,000 homes (or a city roughly equivalent to Edinburgh) across Scotland a year, and it is estimated it could directly support up to 208 FTE jobs during its 25 year operational phase.

A new index-linked community development fund, meanwhile, would generate around £780,000 a year for the benefit of the local area, and the developers say it could generate up to £33 million annually to the local economy.

An artist's impression of the revised wind farm on Lewis. Picture: Lewis Wind Power Ltd

However, the council itself has admitted that given the openness of the surrounding landscape, the wind farm would be visible across Lewis and swathes of northern Harris, with “widespread significant adverse effects,” particularly on the “intimate scale and richly diverse character” around Stornoway.

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In a report due to be considered by councillors next week, Joe McPhee, the council’s head of economic development and planning, also said it was reasonable to anticipate that the wind farm would have an adverse effect on some bird species with several turbines earmarked close to breeding and roost sites.

But in the conclusion to the 78-page report, Mr McPhee notes the council is “supportive of the proposed development.”

Embargoed to 0001 Monday September 11. RSPB Scotland undated handout photo of a hen harrier. The species remains dangerously vulnerable despite a record number of fledglings. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Monday September 11, 2006. English Nature said the hen harrier was still threatened by persecution and the population was a 'pale shadow' of what it could be. See PA Story ENVIRONMENT Harrier. Photo Credit should read: Andy Hay/RSPB Scotland/PA.

RSPB Scotland, warned that it would threaten the rich bird life on Lewis, particularly a new population of hen harriers that has established in the area since 2015.

Robin Reid, the charity’s conservation officer on the Outer Hebrides said: “We are supportive of renewable energy development, as it is needed to combat the climate emergency, but proposals must be at a scale and located in areas where they do not have a detrimental impact on wildlife.”

It comes after the island’s existing community renewables projects were dealt a major financial blow following irreparable damage to a 20 mile-long subsea cable connecting the Western Isles to the Scottish mainland.

The link failed without warning in October. While Scottish & Southern Energy Networks has approved a replacement cable, it is not expected to be in place until the end of August.

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