The Scottish Government has granted approval for 33 windturbines to be constructed for the Muaitheabhal project. Each turbine will stand 450 feet tall, and their combined output (118 megawatts) is reported sufficient to power 55,000 homes. That is several times the number of homes in the Western Isles.
Objections from the John Muir Trust on account of visual impact of the machines have been sidestepped by reducing the number of turbines from 39 to 33. Reactions on BBC Radio Scotland Highlands and Islands this afternoon varied widely. The Scottish Energy Minister stated that this first major windfarm in the Western Isles would grant the islands their place in the renewable energy sector. Others asserted that the decision made a mockery of the recent Local Public Inquiry.
I have made my position on this issue patently clear, as being opposed. This is founded on the visual impact in combination with the effects on wildlife. It also strikes me that the Scottish Government is prejudiced, bearing in mind that one of its advisors on renewable energy is actually a high-ranking official within one of the power companies that will develop this scheme.
Comhairle nan Eilean Siar has hailed this announcement as a major boost for the Western Isles. In my perspective, they have fallen for the beads and mirrors flashed in front of them by the developers of the Muaitheabhal project. Yes, there will be a few million pounds a year for the Comhairle. But the major winners are the developers and the Eishken landowner.
Anyone who thinks that this will eradicate the islands' economic woes at a stroke is seriously at variance with reality. Job benefits will only last for the duration of the construction of the windfarm, and I wonder how many islanders will be getting a job out of it. Maintaining the windfarm only requires a handful of people.The islands' economy could arguably suffer through the windfarm, as it might deter visitors. They come here for an unspoilt wilderness, not to see an industrial estate.
I wonder what the European Union will think of this project, which will have adverse effects on wildlife; on a species of bird that are protected, and any threat to their habitat posed by such a scheme should by default lead to it being turned down. Not so, it would seem.
Once more, big money has spoken. It did so with the Beauly - Denny powerline upgrade, and has done so here. This is not for the benefit of the Western Isles. The Eishken Windfarm is a development to the islands' detriment.