GAZETTE LETTERS - A DOSE OF REALITY

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With regards to the letter about wind farms in the Stornoway Gazette dated 24 May, I feel I have no option but to reply with a dose of reality.

When you actually look at the montages of the initial project and revised extended height the difference is absolutely minimal. In fact you could almost play “spot the difference” on them.

Everyone must remember that when the scheme was being planned it had to be outwith the SPA schemes. When the original application was approved by the Comhairle there were three representations in objection.

One from Lochs, one from an NGO and one from Tolsta.

Contrast that with almost 100 representations from individual Tolsta householders in support, plus support from the Community Council, the Grazings Committee and the Development Company.

This is a huge level of support from a small community. My sense is that the level of support still exists in the village.

With regards to revenue to “the village”, it is one of the best benefit offers that has been seen to date within the Islands, if not in Scotland.

The enhanced height will greatly supplement this. Over the life of the project the local community will benefit to the tune of many millions of pounds.

As we all know both the distribution and transmission networks are at full capacity.

Not one single additional MW can be developed in Lewis without a significant upgrade to the local transmission network.

In other words we need a new cable between the island and the mainland to allow new generation to be developed.

That new cable will be hugely expensive and needs large scale projects to repay the costs. Without a large scale project, including the Forsa project, there will not be a new interconnector to the Western Isles.

The only way that a small scale 9MW project can happen is if there is a new large scale cable upgrade.

Anyone who suggests otherwise is either seeking to mislead or does not understand how the grid system in the UK works.

The 600MW interconnector will ensure future grid capacity for community projects is available which has been a blocker for community development for many years now.

It is clear that future community projects are wholly dependent on a new connector which is in turn entirely dependent on the “big guns” delivering the MW to pay for the connector.

If Tolsta had taken the course suggested in 2013 which entailed wresting control of the 14 turbine project from 2020 (now Forsa), and tried to set up this project as a community scheme it would have resulted in astronomical costs having to be borne by “the village”.

The legal fees alone would have been massive. In fact, sundry costs excluding legal would have found us approx. £2m in debt by late 2017.

Also we would have to go out there and find an additional £100m+ to bring the project to completion.

It is highly unlikely that any bank or lending house would lend this sort of money to a small community with limited collateral.

The writer trots out the old adage used by opponents of wind development that it will reduce house prices.

There is no evidence that house price value decreases as a result of wind farm development.

The Forsa wind projects offer an opportunity for significant new revenues and new economic activity to come to Tolsta.

It offers us a real transformational opportunity.

I would urge everyone who has the future and the wellbeing of our village at heart to support Forsa and to make their positive views known when the project goes into planning.

It should be noted that the flyers distributed by Community Council offers another opportunity for people to express their support either by letter or attendance at a meeting on 19 June at the Tolsta Community Hall.

I firmly believe that the stance I and many others have taken is relatively risk free; this stance being to let the big boys take the strain for all the huge costs and then communities, Tolsta anyway, basically plug into their network with their own small scale schemes.

If a few communities were to do this we would soon load the cable up to the 600MW capacity.

The millions generated by the Forsa project and any small scale community schemes would bring more than enough wealth to enhance the quality of life in this village for many generations to come as long as this revenue is used honestly and morally.

Murdo “Red” Maciver

North Tolsta