A wave of outrage has met the news that energy giant EDF, through partner ‘Lewis Wind Power’, is considering increasing the size of its turbines to be located in Lewis.
The turbines would be up to 200 metres tall – far higher than the original proposals which have planning consent for turbines up to 150 metres - the 200m turbines would dwarf any other structures that exist on land in Scotland.
Currently EDF, as part of ‘Lewis Wind Power’ with project partners Wood Group, have planning permission for 91 turbines in Lewis.
Of these, 45 turbines are approved for their Uisenis Wind Farm, which is due to be built on the Eishken Estate and approaches the border of the South Lewis, Harris and North Uist National Scenic Area. The other 36 turbines would be sited in the Stornoway general area of mainly common grazings land out on the Pentland Road.
This Stornoway Wind Farm is already controversial, being the subject of more than 200 objections to the Scottish Land Court.
It is also under fire because a group of crofting townships want to develop their own wind farm projects on sites leased by EDF from the Stornoway Trust – but which form part of the townships’ own common grazings.
A statement released by Lewis Wind Power on Monday said that they were “exploring potential changes to its proposed wind farms at Stornoway and Uisenis”.
The company explained that these initiatives are intended to make sure that the company looks at all the potential ways to boost the projects’ chances of winning future auctions for low carbon electricity.
Original project consents remain in place, but two additional options are being explored:
The first option would be to keep all aspects of the existing layouts and planning consents, but to seek a variation to allow the project to use larger generators within each of the wind turbines.
The second option is to seek a fresh planning consent for larger turbines and a revised layout. This may mean fewer turbines being built but may also lead to an overall increase in installed capacity.
Taller turbines may mean greater efficiency:
The company is considering turbines of up to 200m at Uisenis, up from 150m at present and all the same size.
At Stornoway the company will be assessing the potential for tip heights of up to 187m on some turbines, an increase on the 145m models outlined in the current consent, with smaller turbines closer to the town.
However the news, which was broken on Monday via local blog-site: www.hebrideswriter.com, written by journalist Katie Laing, has been met with heavy criticism.
Island residents have been forthright about the latest proposals being a step too far and concerns have been raised about the giant turbines eating up spare grid capacity, the overall impact on the environment and fears that Island tourism would be badly impacted.
Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, the Stornoway Trust and Western Isles politicians MSP Alasdair Allan and MP Angus MacNeil all came under fire in regards to the issue on social media.
The process to consider the new proposals began on Monday with a meeting led by the Scottish Government’s energy consents unit at Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, with representatives from Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, LWP, Scottish Natural Heritage, the Scottish Environment Protection Agency and the Scottish Government.
Will Collins, Project Manager for Lewis Wind Power (LWP) addressed the points raised by those against the changes.
He told the Gazette: “A number of developers across the country are looking at using the latest turbine technology as they seek to reduce the cost of wind power for consumers, and we want to assess the potential for us to consider using larger turbines in order to make the projects as competitive as possible.
“If we do decide to proceed with higher tip heights then we would need a fresh planning consent meaning that all local people and businesses would be consulted on the detail of our plans and have the opportunity to put over their views – positive or negative – to us as the developer and also directly to the Scottish Government.
“If we were to move to larger turbines we are likely to use fewer of them, meaning there may not be huge changes to the overall capacity of the two schemes, and thus no real impact on the amount of spare capacity on the grid connection to the mainland.
“The key point remains that without our two schemes there will be no interconnector to the mainland and no further community projects connected to the grid.
“I think that most local people, businesses and organisations want the same thing - to see major renewable energy development here on Lewis and to secure the jobs and the economic benefit that our two wind farms would deliver. This is about ensuring we look at all the options to secure that.”
PROS AND CONS
The intricacies of these large-scale proposals are only now beginning to hit home with the majority of Islanders, who may have been persuaded by one set of arguments, only to now have doubts raised when hearing that the long-term benefits are actually quite poor in comparison to other Island schemes.
Understanding the pros and cons appears to be a maze that even our community leaders and political representatives seem unclear about, recently a Channel 4 News feature highlighted some of the issues.
In the programme’s interview with Comhairle Leader, Roddie Mackay, he appeared to be unconcerned about the EDF proposals and admitted that the Council had made no independent assessment of the best way to get the vital subsea interconnector in place in order that energy produced in the Islands can be exported to the mainland.
PROVIDE VIEW TO GOVERNMENT
Talking about this week’s proposal to site larger turbines in Lewis a spokesman for the Comhairle, said: “We note that LWP is discussing scoping for a revised Environmental Impact Assessment.
“If a revised project emerges that will be dealt with under Section 36 of the Electricity Act in the normal manner.
“The Comhairle will review the proposals and will provide a view to the Scottish Government who will ultimately determine the proposals.”