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Controversial plans to build wind turbines on the Isle of Lewis are finally coming to fruition, though there has been a massive anti – turbine campaign to stop this large development.

Protesters fail to block islands’ huge wind farm

THE first large-scale wind farm planned for the Western Isles has been approved despite a storm of protest.

Ministers passed plans for 33 massive turbines at the Muaitheabhal Wind Farm, on the Eisgein Estate, Lewis, five years after the application. The site will have the capacity to generate electricity for 55,000 homes – almost four times the number on the islands – and could lead to more wind farms on the remote Western Isles.

The controversial scheme, which has split environmentalists, has already triggered almost 4,000 objections and a public inquiry. Campaigners warn the 475ft structures will have a devastating impact on the landscape and its inhabitants.

The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds in Scotland is concerned over the threat to golden eagles. The islands boast the highest density of the birds in the world.

Estate owner Nick Oppenheim’s company, Beinn Mhor Power, and Crionaig Power Limited submitted an amended application last year after an earlier proposal for 133 smaller turbines sparked fury. It threatened to overshadow the island’s ancient Callanish Stones.

The six turbines nearest the stones were struck from the proposals, but the new super turbines are now expected to interfere with outlooks from Beinn Mhor, An Cliseam and Calanais.

Helen McDade, Head of Policy at the John Muir Trust, said: “It is ironic that this is being done in the name of climate change but the proposed development will be constructed almost entirely on peatland habitats, which act as a valuable store of carbon if undisturbed.  “This decision demonstrates wild land and landscape considerations do not have protection.”

Approval for Muaitheabhal comes in the same week the GBP 80million Baillie wind farm, near Thurso, in Caithness, was approved. It will supply power to the controversial Beauly-to-Denny electricity transmission line.

Holyrood Energy Minister Jim Mather said the Eisgein scheme, which could generate 118 megawatts, will provide 150 construction jobs. In addition, one per cent of its turnover will go to the Muaitheabhal Community Wind Farm Trust and a further 0.5 per cent will be paid to the Western Isles Development Trust.

Western Isles Council leader Angus Campbell said: “We should see this news as a driving force for the early upgrading of the interconnector power line to the islands.

“That holds the key to the development of future wind, wave and tidal projects.”


January 2010

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