Global renewables entrepreneur backs community-owned wind schemes

editorial image

One of Scotland’s most successful green energy entrepreneurs has backed community ownership as the way forward for wind developments in the Islands.

Steve McDonald, who co-founded Sgurr Energy which he then sold to Wood Group, has been involved in technical advice to companies all over the world in how to develop and build wind farms.

His company’s past projects include Whitelee, the UK’s largest onshore wind farm on Eaglesham Moor, and Salkhit, the first wind farm that was ever built in Mongolia.

Their projects also included Beinn Ghrideag — Point and Sandwick Trust’s community owned wind farm just outside Stornoway — and Steve believes this award-winning wind farm, which puts 100 per cent of its profits back into the local community, is “the perfect model” of development.

Steve said: “I’m a big supporter of community schemes because it keeps the money in the Highlands. We’ve always been big pushers of community owned schemes.”

His comments come as the deadline looms for objections to the Scottish Land Court about Lewis Wind Power’s Section 19 application to develop on the common grazings around Stornoway with or without the consent of the crofters.

The clock is ticking loudly for four island townships in particular — Melbost and Branahuie, Sandwick East Street, Sandwick North Street and Aginish — which made applications to the Crofting Commission nearly a year ago for wind turbines on their parts of the common grazings.

Their turbines would be sited in virtually the same place as LWP’s proposed turbines.

If the Land Court finds in favour of Lewis Wind Power — a private consortium owned by energy giant EDF and engineering firm Amec-Foster-Wheeler — the crofters applications will be moot as they will have lost the rights to develop in these place for 70 years.

The deadline for anyone wanting to send an objection over the LWP scheme to the Land Court is Thursday, August 24. The Section 19 application was advertised in the Stornoway Gazette on July 27.

Making clear his opposition to the LWP scheme, Steve challenged anyone to “tell me why” it would be “a good return on investment to the UK taxpayer” if the UK government was to finance the interconnector — the subsea cable that is needed to export power from any further renewable developments, at a cost of around £800million — if the bulk of the profits would go overseas.

He added: “As a taxpayer I would prefer that my money was recirculated instead of going abroad and you wouldn’t get away with this anywhere else (in the world).”