Outrage Over EDF Plan for Offshore-Size Turbines in Stornoway and Eishken

01 May 2018

News that EDF are considering giant turbines, of the size normally sited offshore, for their proposed wind farms at Stornoway and Uisenis has been met with outrage on the Isle of Lewis.

The turbines would be up to 200 metres tall – the same size as those currently being built in the North Sea and far higher than any structures that exist on land in Scotland. There are no onshore turbines of this magnitude anywhere in the UK. 

EDF, as part of ‘Lewis Wind Power’ with project partners Wood Group, have planning permission for 91 turbines in Lewis.

(photo by Sandie Maciver of SandiePhotos Photography)

Of these, 45 turbines are approved for their Uisenis Wind Farm, which is due to be built on the Eishken Estate and approaches the border of the South Lewis, Harris and North Uist National Scenic Area. 

The other 36 turbines are the Stornoway Wind Farm ones – the turbines planned for the Stornoway General area of mainly common grazings land out the Pentland Road. The Stornoway Wind Farm is already controversial, being the subject of more than 200 objections to the Scottish Land Court.

It is also under fire because a group of crofting townships want to develop their own wind farm projects on some of these sites leased by EDF from the Stornoway Trust – but which form part of the townships’ own common grazings.

News of local reaction to the plan broke on the award-winning Hebrides Writer blog written by journalist Katie Laing.

Rhoda MacKenzie, spokesman for the ‘gang of four’ grazings committees who want to develop their own community schemes, said EDF’s new plans were “staggering”.

She also pointed out that these new ‘superturbines’ would mean there would be no room left on any interconnector for community schemes – as all the capacity would now be taken up by the Lewis Wind Power projects and the Forsa scheme in Tolsta. Bigger turbines mean more power and the take-up of more space on the cable. 

Lewis Wind Power announced their intention yesterday (April 30), on the day of a high-level meeting with representatives from Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, Lewis Wind Power, Scottish Natural Heritage, the Scottish Environment Protection Agency and the Scottish Government. 

Lewis Wind Power said they were “in the very early stages of exploring potential changes to its proposed wind farms at Stornoway and Uisenis”, which might mean they have to seek “fresh planning consent for larger turbines and a revised layout”.

They said: “The company is considering turbines of up to 200m at Uisenis, up from 150m at present and all the same size.

“On Stornoway we will be assessing the potential for tip heights of up to 187m on some turbines, an increase on the 145m models outlined in the current consent, with smaller turbines closer to the town.”

Calum Macdonald, former Western Isles MP and developer of Point and Sandwick Trust’s Beinn Ghrideag scheme, said: “The size of the proposed new turbines being considered by EDF is simply staggering.  

“These are the same size as the gigantic offshore turbines that are now being built in the North Sea. They are out to sea for a good reason which is that their enormous size is thought to make them unacceptable anywhere onshore, far less near a town like Stornoway or near an iconic location like Loch Seaforth.   

“It is baffling that EDF are considering such a massive change of plan at such a late stage, especially when they spent recent months lecturing local crofters that it was far too late in the day to have their plans for community turbines taken into account. 

“If EDF and the Council are giving any serious consideration to this new scheme, the first thing they should be doing is not talking to SNH and SEPA but talking to the crofters whose land it is. The crofting villages should be the first to be consulted and the Council should be supporting them instead of what appear to be completely unrealistic new EDF turbines.”

Rhoda MacKenzie said: “I’m just astounded. The big thing about the interconnector was that there was going to be 200MW left for community capacity.

“If they up the ante, which they are obviously going to do, there goes that 200MW, so this interconnector is purely for EDF, Wood Group and Forsa. They are on about the community benefit but weigh that up in terms of the losses.

“It’s going to have a detrimental effect on tourism. The largest wind turbines in the UK? I hardly think that’s going to bring people here.

“The island and the community have been sold out to multinationals who are now increasing their demands, of what they are wanting, because they see that they are getting what they want in every corner. Nobody, apart from a few councillors and Stornoway Trust trustees, has come up to me and said they are all for EDF.

“They mentioned having a meeting with the community to explain. Well, what for? Why are they bothering because nothing the community says is going to effect any change on what they do. They haven’t shown, to date, that they want to engage with the communities in any way, so why bother having these meetings?

“It’s just a tick-box exercise.

“I think EDF have boxed very clever and I think they have had things handed to them on a plate. It’s absolutely staggering.

“They knocked back the original scheme on the West Side because of the size but this development is slowly creeping up to the same size as the previous development was. They are taking it up to the very perimeter of the 600MW.

“The thing is as well, to date every dialogue we’ve had with Angus Brendan MacNeil and Alasdair Allan has been the same mantra – ‘oh, we’ll get the interconnector first and then there’s 200MW for the community…’

“Well where do they stand tonight on that?

“If they are putting an interconnector in here, it’s for EDF. 

“We don’t know that the Trust or the Council are going to have any income from this and we don’t want it at any cost.

“When it starts getting into superturbines, that’s intrusive. It’s intrusive for the people that live near them. It’s intrusive to the landscape. 

“They are now blatantly riding roughshod over us and there is nothing that anyone can do to stop them apart from political pressure.”

Hebrides Writer | http://www.hebrideswriter.com