Heard that the Environmental Services Committee of the Western Isles Council has approved the revised planning application for the windfarm in North Lewis, stretching from Port of Ness to Bragar and Stornoway. The full council will discuss the proposal next Thursday. The windfarm will consist of 181 turbines, some 53 less than envisaged in 2004, but each with a higher capacity than at first. The application now goes to the Scottish Executive. The windfarm is hailed as a project that will bring hundreds of jobs to Lewis and making a contribution towards halting the advance of climate change.
Adversaries to the Lewis Windfarm say it will have a devastating impact on wildlife in general and birdlife in particular, and that the tons and tons of peat that will have to be excavated will offset any benefits in terms of carbon emissions. The effects on the landscape are not easily quantifiable, but the number of visitors that come to the islands to visit one of the last areas of wilderness in the UK, and to get 'away from it all' is substantial. Doubts have also been cast on the assertions of local jobs, whether it be at the construction phase or during the 25-year projected lifespan of the windfarm.
From a political perspective, it would appear that the windfarm does not enjoy widespread support in Lewis. It is most deplorable that no secret ballot has been organised amongst the island populace to gauge the level of support, and no such ballot looks set to be organised, as the Council is opposed to it. Unofficial ballots suggest opposition running at 50 to 90%. I take the liberty of saying that politicians are judged through the ballot box, and the MSP as well as the Councillors on the Comhairle face that test in the first week of May. I was curious to note that nearly half the sitting Councillors have expressed an interest in a severance package, which would give them a five-figure sum of money, provided they do not stand for re-election.
This week also saw the start of a public inquiry into the upgrade to the electricity transmission line from Beauly near Inverness to Denny near Stirling. The proposal entails pylons that stand twice as high as the current line. This link is important to renewable energy projects in the Western and Northern Isles, to carry the power generated to the National Grid. The public inquiry is expected to take a year.
An alternative to linking to the National Grid through Ullapool and Beauly would be a subsea cable from Stornoway to Hunterston in Ayrshire or even further south to powerstations in England. Initial misgivings from Scottish and Southern Energy, the electricity company involved, appear to have dissipated. The costs for the subsea cable run at about 1,000 million pounds.