Tuesday, 6 March 2007

Eishken Windfarm

I think everybody was so busy blustering about the North Lewis windfarm that they forgot about another windpower project in the island. Eishken.

The initial project was for 133 turbines in the north and west of the estate, which the estate owner magnanimously agreed to reduce to the puny number of 53. The towers are as tall as the proposed North Lewis ones, 460 feet. The project is also referred to as the Muaitheabhal windfarm, after one of the hills it'll be desecrating.

I am as opposed to this as I am to the North Lewis project. However, because nobody lives in Eishken, apart from those at the lodge, and only about 200 in South Lochs and 50 along Loch Seaforth, opposition has been very sketchy and ineffectual. There are three things wrong with the Muaitheabhal project, to lay the finger on just those amongst many others.

1 - The scenery will be spoiled, and not just that of the Eishken Hills. The Harris Hills, a hop and a step across Loch Seaforth, will also be overshadowed by the turbine towers.

2 - The population of wildlife, which includes eagles, stands to be harmed by the turbines. Even with a 60% reduction. Here, as well as in North Lewis, peat will be disturbed on steep hillsides, with no real indication about the impact that will have.

3 - Does the community benefit? Kinloch residents could join the Muaitheabhal Trust, and 6 turbines would be community owned. Those not joining the Trust would not benefit. Nice one. But does the community want the project? Methinks not, according to an unofficial, house-to-house poll. A secret ballot has never been conducted - here not either.

Scotland's First Minister, Jack McConnell, can't wait to give planning consent for the Eishken project. He stated today that there had been enough talk locally, and that it is time for action. Action being the economic regeneration of the Western Isles through renewable energy projects. He hinted that announcement on granting planning consent for the Eishken windfarm is imminent.

This stance by the First Minister augurs very ill for those who do not want the North Lewis project. Like local politicians, Mr McConnell seems to think wind energy will be the economic salvation of the Western Isles in general and the Isle of Lewis in particular. With all respect to Mr McConnell, that assumption is ill founded. If my reading of public opinion is correct, his stance on this issue generally is at loggerheads with sentiments in the island and could cost him dearly at the forthcoming Scottish Parliamentary elections on May 3rd.

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