The National Grid have dismissed claims by Lewis Wind Power and Stornoway Trust that only big renewables projects such as theirs will drive the case for the interconnector power cable linking the mainland to the Hebrides, saying they have “no preference on which projects drive the needs case” and have “an obligation” to treat everyone “openly and fairly”.
It follows claims made by the Trust and LWP (jointly owned by multinationals AMEC and EDF) that only their Stornoway project is being enough to secure the interconnector — a reaction to the Section 50b applications to the Crofting Commission by the townships of Melbost & Branahuie and Sandwick North Street to develop community-owned wind farms on their common grazings.
They want eight turbines and one, respectively, on their apportionments of the Stornoway General common grazing out the Pentland Road — and believe community groups are just as capable of bringing about the interconnector if they can bring forward a succession of plans which match the total output from LWP’s 36 turbines.
It is a claim supported by development advisor Calum Macdonald, who said LWP and Stornoway Trust’s argument over the interconnector is “a con” to distract people from how much less money will be returned to the community under the LWP scheme compared to community-owned ones.
Until the interconnector is built, estimated to cost up to £900m, there is no capacity for even one more turbine to be developed in the Outer Hebrides.
This high-voltage cable, estimated to cost up to £900million, would enable hundreds more megawatts of power to be transferred off the islands and into the National Grid — but needs to be partly underwritten by development companies due to its cost.
A spokeswoman for National Grid said: “We have an obligation under our Transmission Licence to treat all customers in an open and fair manner and we have no preference on which projects drive the Needs Case for the link and we are happy to discuss options for connection to or use of the Transmission System with any parties looking for a connection.”
Renewables expert Alan Mortimer, Director of Innovation at Sgurr Energy (part of Wood Group), has given a further boost to the smaller players, saying: “No single large project is essential for the Interconnector in the scenario where the turbines are replaced with community ones of the same capacity.
“All turbines regardless of ownership will be deemed to have some impact on transmission assets and therefore be liable to a share of the costs, thereby supporting the interconnector commercial case.”
Calum Macdonald said: “The argument that only Lewis Wind Power can deliver the interconnector is simply not true.
“That’s a con and they have put forward that argument because they know that the deal they are offering is much worse in terms of crofter benefit and local benefit than the community-owned alternative.
“If you replace 10 Lewis Wind Power turbines with 10 community ones, from the infrastructure point of view, it’s exactly the same.
“Community turbines do not undermine the case for the interconnector in any kind of way. In my mind, they strengthen it.”