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16 October 2014

Arnish Lighthouse

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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.
Posted on Arnish Lighthouse at 23:26


I think I heard of this project through the Hidden Lewis marketing organisation - we received an email of some sort telling us that we could object to this development, but only within specific boundaries ... The boundaries consisted of specific and personal quantifiable loss estimated to us or our businesses personally, only, and only within the actual areas you mentioned ... The marketing organisation which was offering this 'chance' said that it would not consider any objections outside of these boundaries ... The timescales involved for objections allowed very little leeway either ... On a happier note, there is a lot of talk about the North Lewis project, in particular, being the laughing stock of the 'dreaming spires' of those in the know, and holding the power, in Inverness or thereabouts ... They cannot believe that any such laughable proposition is actually being given rein ... For one thing, the upgrade to our road infrastructure which would be necessary to transport the turbine parts to their destinations (this would involve making our roads resemble something akin to a three-lane motorway), provides a first stumbling block which is simply not workable ... There are people now whose opinion is such that they are just waiting for the final penny to drop, and for the scrambled 'repositioning' dance to commence ... I for one hope that this is actually close to the case ... I would like to see more opinions of this nature, which would help change the mind of the populace, in the public domain.

soaplady from in the office, waking up

Will someone explain how these windfarms are going to work an economic miracle in the western isles.Even if the Arnish fabrication yard was up and running the contract to build the towers (not the turbines)would be short lived and on past evidence Islanders would not be flocking to take such short term employment.Can the first minister demonstrate the same enthusiasm for the tweed industry and for tourism the one industry that can keep the islands going. If windpower is going to be so fantastic why are'nt there hundreds of turbines being built on the mountains of the west coast of Scotland?

swampy from Derbyshire

That was, of course, part of the plan with forwarding these two schemes at the same time - to make Eisken look, in comparison to the LWP obscenity proposed for north Lewis, a relatively tidy little windfarm that people wouldn't really bother about objecting to. Fire away with a blunderbuss and you're bound to hit the target somewhere. But the Eisken proposal is almost as bad as the LWP one, and about as popular, despite the lower number of objections (still a huge number in planning terms). It is really difficult to conceive any government with a degree of sanity giving the go-ahead for the LWP windfarm, but then again this is New Labour. I think the Eisken windfactory will be given the go-ahead first, mainly to see how the locals react, then it'll be time for the 'real event' (as they see it). God help us all if things don't change seriously in local government come next May.

Clach an Truseil from Lewis

I find the blogs on windfarms fascinating and the lack of local democracy disturbing. But aren't you preaching to the converted on these blogs. Somehow your protests need to get noisier so that the decision makers feel more discomfort. The risk I see is that these farms will go ahead in a vacuum of really effective legal opposition. Bring on a Hebridean Gandhi?

Bunchrew Seer from Beauly Firth

I've just had a thought ( a rare occurence, but there again so is a Lunar Eclipse, not sure if they're connected though) The No. 10 petition thing, shouldn't the petition have gone to the Scottish Executive? As I read that they will be the ones to decide if it gets the go-ahead or not, as the case may be.

Tws from Nowindymillsnearthiscroft

Is Bunchie offering to wear a dhoti, to borrow a loom from Island Threads and take residence smack in the middle of Stornoway (when the weather settles for the better later in the year)? Will he stick to a vegetarian diet? Has Hebridean seaweed tofu been perfected yet? Or will he rely on provisions from the famous local butcher?

mjc from NM

mjc: No dotty, loomey dhoti plans for me personally on Lewis. We have our own problems over here where we might have to receive the output from Lewis and send it South via ghastly new high pylons. My protests will be on home territory. I do think, however, that conventional opposition won't suffice on this occasion - so radical action is needed!

Bunchrew Seer from Beauly Firth

A basic point is being missed surely? Maybe wind mills are not the prefered option for various reasons (but saying they spoil the view will cut no ice with us exiles, as has been said many times you cannot eat a view!) however the islands have few natural resources (tourisim will not sustain a significant population in the long term) so we need to exploit the wave,tidal and wind energy we have in excess. This can only be done by getting the interconnector built, If it does not exist the rest is pie in the sky. At present the only way to justify the cost of the interconnector is the windfarms, because wave power is uneconomical at present, so why not? We hear a lot about destruction of peat bog etc but the amount of damage that might be caused by the construction is peanuts compared with what used to be removed every year when the islands had a significantly larger population where every family needed to dig out maybe 50te every year to provide fuel for heat. Yet this is now seen to be a sustainable use of the peatlands where wildlife thrived. So lets have a debate about the merits/demerits of what is being proposed but please keep it real on BOTH sides of the argument please. Development is NOT the issue, ownershipship is. So work out how you maximise local ownership and you WILL aiximise local benifits AND minimise local impacts, that is what we should focus on, getting into navel gazing about birds, numbers of jobs etc just misses the point and ensures that local opportunities will continue to be missed.

wanderer from mexico

Spot on wanderer. Unfortunatily the electricity markets are rigged against community / small scale renewables, becuase the large suppliers control the market and don't want to give up their profits. A classic example: I pay 10p / kWh for my electricity from SSE. If i set up a micro renewable (say a windmill) and try to sell my electricity back to the grid not only do I have to pay for a special electricity meter but they only buy the electricity off me for 5p / kWh or less. That is what we're up against and until a politician is bold enough to change our rigged "free" market to allow a level playing field community schemes will never be able to fully compete. Your absolutily right that wind farms should be community owned but it's not going to happen quickly. In the mean time we have to invest in renewables to make them viable, to improve their efficiency (already we need less mills to make the same power which is a good thing) and to recognize the vast potential in these islands.

SkyeMartyn from Dunvegan

In the end this all comes back to money dosn't it, these people who offer their land for rent to AMEC arn't doing it to save the environment or the world or to benefit the community, they just want the thousands of pounds on offer and that is all. They pretend it will be of benifit to the community to try and win people over but we will see. They obviously don't care that much about the community though do they as the opinion of the community dosn't seem to matter. AMEC didn't come here and ask if they could take advantage of the windiest place in Britain, they probably wouldn't have even thought of coming here because in the end the idea is just ridiculous. The Stornoway trust and the owner of the Eishkin estate offered this land up to be used themselves and stuff what the little people think. You only have to look at how the MP's who supposedly work for us actually just roll over and submit so as not to upset the people in charge here, who they are probably related to anyway, to see how much we and our little opinions matter. I think in principle renewables are a good way to go BUT can anyone tell me how shipping all that stuff over here, building new roads, concrete platforms, destroying existing carbon sinks and disrupting the largest area of PROTECTED peatland in europe,loads of quarrying, when other companies such as tarmac were already refused, miles of cable under the sea, miles of pylons or cable over land and the fact that these things need electric to work in the first place is going to be a positive gain to the world. That aside it has been proved that by the time you balance out the loss of tourism jobs against the very few jobs created by these projects for a few years there will be no more jobs for the islands, apart from the ones who will be paid for land rental ,which is included as jobs and there will still be no reason for our kids to stay here. And for the poor people who will have these giants on their door steps there will just be misery caused by moving shadows, constant low noise and reduced house prices in a place where house prices are lower than every where else in the first place. And where does helath and safety come into this? As well as above mentioned the blades will be enormous and the nearest dwellings are not out of reach of one of these flying off. It has nothing to do with their view being ruined and everything to do with quality of life, which we all have a right to. Aside from all this the Eishkin estate turbines cross the mountain tops which are believed to make up part of a neolithic landscape(sleeping beauty) together with Calanais standing stones as well as it being a designated area of scenic beauty and rare eagle flight path. Theres plenty of land near Stonehenge(Calanais is older and should be more important) but imagine the uproar if a wind factory of this scale was planned in the view and on the doorstep of that site. Does the Eishkin estate owner plan to include the fact he destroyed this important site in his visitor centre i wonder....LOL...come and be a tourist and visit the destroyer of real tourism!! . If tourism is not needed then why have a visitor centre?? If Lewis was actually going to benefit from this destruction as well then maybe it wouldn't seem quite so bad but the truth is we arn't going to get any of the power created from this, we won't even be gaining cheaper electric from this, it's all going down to southern england and for the amount of energy left after it's had to travel that distance is it realy going to be worth it?? And then there's the fact that these turbines are only good for 20yrs, when, according to the AMEC blurb they will come and remove everything and make it look just how it did before.....but only where it makes economic sense for them to do so....mmm, now lets think, small island, obviously going to cost a huge amount to remove structures and ship off the island and there going to make peatland look how it did before....well, i wonder if we will be the unlucky ones. But hey, what do we matter, we just have to live here and we shoul

tanith from point,lewis

Pity you couldn,t harness the wind politicians produce ,If you could source that ,the need for windfarms would melt beautifully into oblivion.And you could have a secondary product that would come in very handy for the vegatable patch ,starts with bull and ends with crap.

Thevitalspark from Point

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