Large scale community wind farm waiting in the wings

The site on Melbost and Branahuie Grazings.

The site on Melbost and Branahuie Grazings.

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Plans have been put forward for a large community-owned wind farm which could be an alternative if the Lewis Windpower project fails to go ahead.

A new company, the Point and Sandwick Community Consortium, has been set up by six crofting townships in the Point and Sandwick area and membership is open to all townships with rights to the Stornoway General grazings.

The Consortium has now submitted a planning application for eight 3.6MW wind turbines on the Melbost and Branahuie common grazings to Comhairle nan Eilean Siar.

The site is also an area on which Lewis Windpower - a joint venture between Amec and EDF Energy in partnership with Stornoway Trust) - wish to site turbines.

A spokesperson for the Community Consortium said: “If the proposed Lewis Windpower development does not get enough support from the crofters who have land in the Stornoway General, it will not be able to go ahead. If that happens, we will be ready with a community-owned alternative to take its place.”

He added: “We will not know the outcome of the Lewis Windpower Section 19 application to the Land Court until later this summer and possibly not until autumn.

“We are starting the planning process now so that the community alternative is ready should it be required.

“Melbost and Branahuie is the first proposal to go forward as they had already done some prior work on a planning application.

“We would be happy to assist any other township in the Stornoway General who wish to develop a community-owned scheme.”

The Consortium stress that the local community should get maximum benefit from any wind farm development on the Stornoway General and that crofting shareholders should have the final say over what is developed on their apportionments.

A spokesman for the Melbost and Branahuie Grazings Committee said: “We discussed this recently with our shareholders and it was decided unanimously to go ahead with this planning application so that there is a community alternative available should the Lewis Windpower proposal not find favour with our shareholders, or fail to go ahead for any other reason.”

The Point and Sandwick Community Consortium have the same aims as the Point and Sandwick Trust but the Consortium is a new and entirely separate organisation.

The Point and Sandwick Trust is prohibited by its Lease with the Stornoway Trust from helping any community projects which are seen to be in competition with the Lewis Windpower scheme.

The proposal is dependent on the construction of a new interconnector to the Western Isles but the Consortium are of the view that the planning application will enhance the case for the interconnector as it will show a wider demand.

The Consortium has had discussions with lenders both in the public sector and in the private sector about the proposal and say it is clear there is a ‘strong appetite’ from funders for large, well-run community owned projects.

They would also plan to allow individuals to invest along the same lines as the Galson Trust have done this year.