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16 October 2014

Arnish Lighthouse

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Economy and environment

Windfarm towers, courtesy The Ecologist dot org
These two factors in island life are presently on a collision course.

The North Lewis Windfarm, which would see 181 turbines scattered over the 40 miles between Stornoway, Bragar and Port of Ness, has been billed as the salvation to the economy of the Western Isles. The developers of this windfarm, Lewis Wind Power, claim that it could bring 400 jobs to the islands. The project is worth £512 million.

On Tuesday of this week, a deal was struck between LWP and the current operators of the Arnish Fabrication Yard, who are working under the name Camcal. Under the terms of this agreement, the Yard would manufacture the turbine towers as a whole. This would generate work for 50 to 70 workers over a period of 5 years.

This is of course depending on whether the Scottish Government approves the scheme. One of the major objectors, the RSPB, has threatened to take the UK Government to court if the Scottish Government does give the green light to the windfarm. The RSPB alleges that the environmental impact study, a requirement for the windfarm planning application, was not carried out properly. If the European Court finds in favour of the RSPB, the UK government is liable for a multi-million pound fine.

It is probably more likely that a public inquiry will be held into the whole scheme.

A parallel can be drawn between a certain golf course development some 200 miles east of Lewis, sponsored by a certain billionnaire whose roots lie a few miles north of Stornoway. When this development was voted down by the local council a week ago, all hell broke loose in the local community, who found themselves deprived of a £1 billion business opportunity. The Scottish Government got involved, and the whole process is going to take rather longer than originally anticipated.

The parallel is about the influence of big money.

I have made my personal opposition to the windfarm clear in many previous posts. One of the reasons is the economic and monetary benefits for the Western Isles. Fifty to seventy jobs stand to be generated at Arnish for 5 years, which (objectively speaking) is a good thing. Other jobs will be generated through the construction of the towers on site. To my layman's eye, the promise of 400 jobs will never be met.

The compensation to the local community, £5 million per annum, is derisory, when compared to the amount of money that will be made by the developers. LWP stands to make huge gains, and represent a company with multi-billion pound assets. These factors have given them the leverage to sway councillors' opinions; it meant that they got away with an incomplete planning application - if the RSPB are anywhere near right. The environment comes a paltry last on the balance-sheet for big money.

The local council sold us down the river. I hope the buck stops at Holyrood.
Posted on Arnish Lighthouse at 22:09


Why is £5m per annum derisory? When do you think the developers will actually get pay back on their investment? The investment they have made in R&D as well as construction of the wind farms means that pay back or profit is along way off, if at all. All I hear is NIMBY’ism, as a nation we need to develop other sources for our growing energy consumption; Lewis has an ideal profile for wind generated power like other areas of Scotland and it makes sense to develop a wind farm here. But of you aren’t keen how about a nuclear power station or High Level nuclear waste depository? Ask the RSPB for the scientific research to support their opposition, it is all conjecture and a lot of scare mongering thrown in for good measure. The RSPB are not known for their unbiased opinions in the EIA process, why let facts get in the way of preserving their views! Instead of moaning why not try and help your community and the rest of Scotland, for a change. How much does Lewis contribute to Scotland’s economy and compare it to how much it actually takes from various government and European agencies. A little pay back would be nice, don’t you think? Where does the Isle of Lewis get its electricity from now?

Tom from Stirling

Tom: Stirling itself is surrounded by lofty peaks, such as the Wallace Monument, Castle and various hills. They're often very windy, being high and exposed places - therefore suitable for wind turbines. And better than Lewis-based turbines, as the power doesn't have to be transmitted long distances (with a subsequent resistance loss), thus is much more efficient for local Stirling use. So, as you are so passionate about them, how about being consistent and lobbying your local council and residents to put turbines in these places? Local turbines for local power; do let us know what kind of reaction you get, locally.

Windpower for Stirling from Top of the Wallace Monument

Tom, With all respect, I completely disagree with each and every point you make. Thinly populated places like the Western Isles tend to be the dumping ground for unpopular schemes, whether it be a nuclear dump (Sandray and Fuday, 1988), the superquarry (Lingarabay, 1980s/90s) or a windfarm. Large scale windfarms are being fought by local people ACROSS the Highlands. And the windfarm on hills north of Stirling is not exactly being cheered locally either, by my information. I reject and resent the suggestion that Lewis does not contribute towards the economy, and needs to put something back. Greed and crass stupidity have put paid to industries like Harris Tweed and fishery related activity which could have made a lot of money here. Come back in a few years from now, and you may find that the local electricity supply comes from a number of small scale windturbines, a tidal generator at Shader (Barvas), maybe a barrage in the Sound of Harris and possibly a wave action generator in the Atlantic.

Arnish Lighthouse from Stornoway

I suspect that most people in Britain now recognise global warming to be a major problem and agree with Tom of Stirling that a sustainable answer must be found. However the recent fiasco at Bali has surely pointed the finger at the principal culprit, which contributes nearly 30% of worldwide CO2 emission, and adamantly refuses to even set targets for cutting greenhouse gas emission, let alone do anything to achieve them. The much-trumpeted U-turn by the American delegate got u-turned again when she got home and had to eplain herself to the President of the USA, George W Bush. American Humvees, churning out vast quantities of CO2, are the root of the problem; Britiain is one of the few countries to actually reduce its CO2 emissions. And some people want the Western Isles to be covered in windfarms, ruining the environment, destroying the tourist sector, rendering peoples houses unsaleable and impoverishing the population so that rich Americans can drive bigger and bigger Humvees? Get real Tom.

Malkie from Glasgow

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