Western Isles’ wind energy - another viewpoint

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The case for Comhairle nan Eilean Siar to consider another option for wind energy development in the Islands has been highlighted this week by Councillor, Angus McCormack.

Taking to social media, Cllr. McCormack highlighted his viewpoint and put forward some suggestions for a better way forward.

Presenting his case on Facebook, he said: “The argument for the interconnector for the Outer Hebrides rests on convincing Ofgem of a needs case – essentially that there is sufficient demand for space to warrant 600MW of cable. Ofgem insist the current position of consented capacity along with cfd from the upcoming auction only merits 450MW.

“The present consented wind farms are Stornoway, Uisenis and Tolsta and the current operational wind farms may be added in. The Comhairle is arguing that ‘pipeline’ wind farms should also be part of the mix.

“Stornoway is owned by Lewis Wind Power (LWP). Uisenis was owned by LWP but on the day that Ofgem visited Lewis, LWP pulled out of Uisenis.”

BUY IN TO WIND FARMS COULD COST UP TO £100M

He continued: “The Comhairle had allegedly struck a deal with LWP to allow a buy in, after construction, of up to 30% of the Uisenis Wind Farm.

“I am told that a Heads of Agreement exists between LWP and the Comhairle. I am not allowed to see this document. But where does it stand now?

“The Comhairle has agreed to go into a joint venture with The Stornoway Trust which has an agreement with LWP to buy in to the Stornoway Windfarm, once it is completed, up to 20%.”

Cllr. McCormack went on to explain that if the Council were to buy in to these wind farm developments it could cost up to as much as £100m.

He questioned: “If the Comhairle is going to be prepared to borrow to such a scale, why would it do so in a project where it will be the inferior shareholder with no say in the company? No say in investment, but crucially, no say in determining the profits to be paid. Minority shareholders must settle for what they get.

“Far better to invest £100 million in constructing the Comhairle’s own wind farm.

WHY NOT BUILD ITS OWN WIND FARM INSTEAD?

“Why does the Comhairle not erect the putative Arnish Community windfarm and use some of the profits from that to help all the local community wind farms, no matter where these are sited in the islands, to consent?

“Invest some more in assisting Scottish and Southern Energy Networks (SSEN) to strengthen further the distribution network and come to an agreement with SSEN on the enhancing of the present interconnector link.”

Mr McCormack expressed his concern that it seemed the Comhairle’s vision for renewable energy development is too focused on the multinational company approach.

He concluded: “There is a great opportunity here for the Comhairle in partnership with the community.

“COMHAIRLE IS WAY BEHIND IN ITS THINKING ON RENEWABLES”

“Support for the community’s aspirations to be involved in renewables has been vested in Community Energy Scotland. In Lewis that means one part time officer who is seriously underfunded. In Orkney there are four CES officers and more are being recruited.”

“What the Comhairle needs to do is set up a Community Renewables Unit, staff it and fund it to ensure that all aspiring community projects are brought to consent with an appropriate link to the grid.

“This unit should be well funded, and eventually will be funded from the proceeds of the Comhairle’s own wind farm. In Orkney the council is looking to build three wind farms. The Comhairle is way behind in its thinking on renewables.”

Detailing a plan for a better way forward, Mr McCormack said the Comhairle should consider: Setting up a Community Renewables Unit; Resolve the Distribution Network Issue; Engage with the crofters; Set out a case for an upgrade to the present interconnector, this interconnector to be for community renewables only; Seek to build its own wind farm and abandon any joint venture with the Stornoway Trust.

COUNCIL’S RESPONSE TO COUNCILLOR’S WAY FORWARD ON RENEWABLES

When asked to comment on the points highlighted by Councillor McCormack a spokesperson for Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, detailed: “At this stage there are two critical elements for the future of renewables in the Outer Hebrides: the outcome of the Ofgem consideration on the inter-connector Needs Case and the success of developers within the Contracts for Difference auction.

“The Comhairle remains focused on working with developers, the Stornoway Trust, Scottish and Southern Energy, Highlands and Islands Enterprise and other critical stakeholders to make positive arguments around these two fundamental issues.”