Scotland Approves Wind Farm At Muaitheabhal

Providing green electricity for 55,000 homes, nearly four times the number of homes on the islands, has been given the go ahead by Energy Minister Jim Mather.

The wind energy development will create around 150 construction jobs with further permanent jobs when operational. The applicant has committed to use locally sourced material, labour, transport and plant hire wherever possible to ensure maximum economic benefit to the Isles.

The wind power developer has entered into a formal agreement with the Comhairle nan Eilean Siar committing one per cent of turnover of the wind farm to the Muaitheabhal Community Wind Farm Trust, to enhance the ecological and cultural heritage resource of the Eisgein estate. Additionally, a further 0.5 per cent slice of turnover will be paid to the Western Isles Development Trust.

To improve the visual impact of the scheme, today’s consent removes six turbines from the application for a 39 wind turbine, 140 MW wind farm. The Minister has also imposed conditions to protect the natural environment and cultural heritage.

Mr Mather said:

“Since the first proposals for a wind farm on Lewis were put forward, I have maintained that the Western Isles must be able to play its part in harnessing and benefitting from our vast green energy potential. Today, we are making that reality.

“I am delighted that the application was able to be approved, bringing as it does substantial economic and community benefits to the islands. The development will use local companies and local labour and the community will receive a slice of profits for as long as the wind blows and the turbines turn.

“The scheme will create around 150 full time equivalent construction jobs and has potential to support existing businesses, create new businesses and offer new possibilities for the Arnish Point facility. It also provides a stimulus for the provision of a grid inter-connector to the mainland.

“In consenting this application I have put in place a series of conditions to protect the outstanding natural habitats and landscapes, improve transport and minimise disturbance to communities.

“The study the Scottish Government published last January showed that there could be further renewable energy development in the Western Isles. This could just be the start.”

The Muaitheabhal wind farm site is located on the Eisgein Estate, approximately 25 kilometres southwest of Stornoway. The site is bordered to the north and the west by Loch Seaforth and by Loch Sealg in the southeast. The site occupies approximately 78 kilometres squared.

In December 2004, Beinn Mhor Power and Crionaig Power applied to construct and operate a 53 turbine wind farm. Following an objection by Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH), a public inquiry was held in Stornoway in May 2008 and the report was received by the Scottish Government in September 2008.

Subsequent sets of further information supplied by the developers, including the Supplementary Environmental Information (SEI) were received by the Government in July 2009, which was subsequently subject to statutory consultation.

The SEI contained a revised layout reducing the proposal from 53 turbines to 39 turbines, each with a height of 145 metres and a generating capacity of 3.6 MW, providing a total generating capacity of up to 140 MW. The revision sought to address SNH objections by changing the layout and removing all turbines from within the boundary of the National Scenic Area. This is now reduced to 118 MW with the reduction of consented turbines to 33.

SNH supported the revised proposal subject to mitigation measures to address the potential impacts upon otters. This has been addressed in the conditions. Comhairle nan Eilean Siar supported the proposal.

Government Targets

The Scottish Government’s target is to meet 50 per cent of electricity demand from renewables by 2020. In 2008, 22 per cent of electricity demand came from renewables.

There is over 7 Gigawatts (GW) of renewables capacity installed, under construction or consented around Scotland, which will take Scotland beyond the interim target of 31 per cent of Scotland’s electricity demand from renewables by 2011.

The Scottish Government’s Energy Consents and Deployment Unit is currently processing 36 applications (22 onshore wind, 12 hydro and two thermal), amounting to 3 GW.

The Scottish Government has already determined 36 energy applications, including approval for 31 renewable and one non-renewable project since May 2007 – more determinations than over the whole of the previous four years, in which 19 projects were determined.