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Benefits of Wind Energy Are Mapped Out

Jan 31, 2009 - The Scotsman

A government study says onshore wind energy could offer great economic and community benefits for the Western Isles - less than a year after ministers rejected plans for Europe's biggest wind farm in the islands.

The report predicts that green energy projects can be key drivers for the islands' economy without harming the environment.

The study was commissioned by the government after it refused consent for a 181-turbine project in Lewis last April.

The results were welcomed yesterday by Western Isles Council, which has been promoting the islands as a green energy centre. It says Lewis could support bigger projects than those now planned by ministers because of its excellent natural resources.

The study says the best opportunities are south and west of Stornoway, with potential for a 150 megawatt (MW) wind farm in Lewis in addition to projects already planned.

Smaller, community-led wind development is more suitable in Harris, the Uists and Barra, it suggests, while there is marine potential of 105MW by 2015.

Inshore wave potential is around 30MW, with tidal potential of 75MW in the Sound of Harris, and much more in the offshore wave resource.

The report also suggests developing a local wind energy control centre and for developers to manufacture turbines at Arnish Point in Lewis to create jobs in the islands.

Jim Mather, the enterprise minister, said: "We want all areas of Scotland to be able to fully harness our vast potential for cheap, clean and green electricity.

"Maximising that potential brings economic and community benefits and the people of the Western Isles are no different in wanting to use their natural resources to build a sustainable economy."

Angus Campbell, the leader of Western Isles Council, said he was encouraged that the Scottish Government shared the authority's long- held view on renewable energy as an economic driver.

"It is good that the study is clear that 150MW of generation can happen in Lewis in harmony with environmental designations," he said.

"It is disappointing, however, that the report only identifies a potential of 150MW for Lewis, particularly given the excellent wind resources of the islands. That is a wasted resource at a time of economic challenge for the islands."

Mr Campbell also called for a speedy approval of a planned GBP 120 million, 53-turbine project at Eishken in Lewis. "Any other decision would be a bitter blow," he said.

The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, one of the objectors to the 181-turbine project, also welcomed the report.

Stuart Housden, the society's Scotland director, said: "Individual proposals will still need to be carefully sited and designed to ensure they do not harm the environment or adversely affect European designated sites."

Last week it was announced the world's largest wave farm would be built off Lewis. The GBP 30 million, 4MW Siadar Wave Energy Project will provide enough electricity to power about 1,800 homes.

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