Friday, 16 February 2007

Windfarm approved

The windfarm, proposed for North Lewis, has tonight won approval from Comhairle nan Eilean Siar. Councillors voted by 18 votes to 8 to approve the project, which will now to go to the Scottish Executive.

More than 3,000 objections were raised against the revised proposal, which was debated tonight. Prime objectors were the RSPB, who not only voiced misgivings over environmental issues but also over the numbers of jobs that the project may bring to the island. Local residents in Ness and the West Side feel that their heritage, enclosed in the moor, would be destroyed. I have made my own position clear in previous posts.

Even if the Executive approves the North Lewis windfarm, which is likely to be after the May elections for the Scottish Parliament, there are a number of considerable obstacles in its way before construction can commence.

A public inquiry has recently been launched into the upgrading of the powerline between Beauly, west of Inverness, and Denny near Stirling. This line will carry the electricity generated in Lewis (as well as other renewables projects in the Northern Isles) to the National Grid. If the inquiry finds against this upgrade, then windfarms in the Northern and Western Isles are in jeopardy.

Another problem is the so-called interconnector, the sub-sea link between Lewis and the mainland. Discussions are on-going whether this should go to Ullapool, Hunterston in Ayrshire or northern England.

Thirdly, a 6-turbine project along the Pentland Road here in Lewis is subject to a public inquiry, and this may yet place further obstacles in the way of the North Lewis windfarm, which passes very close to it.

It was stated that the Lewis Windfarm would only be pursued if 50% or more of the island's residents wanted it. No formal ballot has ever been conducted, so we'll never really know. I can't escape the impression that many people in the island will feel that they've had this thrust down their throats. Moran taing, a'Chomhairle.

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