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Thursday, 13 December, 2001, 20:24 GMT
Giant wind farm for island
The wind farm could be built on the island of Lewis
Proposals to create Europe's largest wind farm on the west coast of Scotland have been unveiled.

UK firms Amec and British Energy are planning to invest 600m in the scheme on the Hebridean island of Lewis.

If successful, 300 huge turbines will be constructed with the aim of generating 600 megawatts of power for the national grid.

Amec is now embarking on a year-long feasibility study into cost, location and environmental impact.

Wind turbines
About 300 wind turbines could be built
The plans were unveiled on Thursday by UK Energy Minister Brian Wilson.

He said: "This project has the potential to provide around 1% of the UK's electricity needs.

"It has long been recognised that the Western Isles offer outstanding potential for the development of renewable energy.

"I am delighted that a project of such significance has emerged and that it would not only contribute to our energy needs but also create manufacturing employment on Lewis.

"This wind farm could be a wonderful long term investment for the local community and there is a clear link between economic benefit and community ownership of the land involved."

Possible hurdles

Mr Wilson said the two companies involved want to set up a turbine and tower manufacturing plant at the former oil fabrication yard at Arnish Point.

He said this would lead to the creation of 150 new jobs with more to follow through operation and maintenance of the wind farm.

Several possible hurdles have to be cleared if the wind farm is to become a reality.

Brian Wilson
Brian Wilson: "Outstanding potential"
The impact of the scheme on the local environment will have to be considered before a decision is taken on whether or not to give the plan the green light.

Another crucial element will be the creation of a link with the national grid to allow electricity to be exported to mainland Britain.

The UK Government has already commissioned a feasibility study into plans to link wave and wind farms to the national grid by running a sub-sea cable down the west coast of Britain.

The long-term aim is to create a 1bn market for renewable energy by 2010 by compelling electricity suppliers to source 10% of their electricity from renewable sources.

'Nuclear myth'

Local people have given the plans a broad welcome but opposition parties were more guarded.

Iain McIver, of Stornoway Trust, which owns the land earmarked for the project, said: "Hopefully this will create employment and that is a very important issue on this island at the moment.

"It will also give us a revenue stream that will enable us to look at other improvements to the infrastructure and social, environmental and cultural projects."

Bruce Crawford
Bruce Crawford: "Celtic ring"
The Scottish National Party also welcomed the proposal but was keen to point out the implications for nuclear power.

The party's environment spokesman Bruce Crawford said: "This should bury once and far all the myths being peddled by UK Energy Minister Brian Wilson, that somehow Scotland is nuclear power dependent.

"The plans are to link Lewis to the English mainland via the proposed 'Celtic Ring' grid connection.

"This will deliver electricity derived from Scotland's wind power direct to England.

"It would be utterly incredible if England got Scotland's wind power and Scotland was then forced to take new nuclear by the UK government as part of the energy review."

I would generally tend to favour smaller projects but if an appropriate larger site can be found well and good

Robin Harper, Scottish Green Party
Scottish Green MSP Robin Harper urged caution and said the plans should be thoroughly examined in the months ahead.

He said: "The proposal for this particular location will have to be looked at carefully.

"It should not go ahead until an environmental assessment is done.

"We have the technology, renewable energy is ready to come on line. We now have to find sites for it that will not damage important natural areas.

"I would generally tend to favour smaller projects but if an appropriate larger site can be found well and good."

BBC Scotland's John Morrison reports
"The scale of the plan is breathtaking"
See also:

13 Dec 01 | Scotland
Wind farm isle's wealth of history
27 Nov 01 | Scotland
Firms plan 500m wind farm
12 Nov 01 | UK
Q&A: Wind and wave power
12 Nov 01 | Scotland
Plan for 400m energy cable
27 Sep 01 | Scotland
UK 'first' power scheme launched
23 Jul 01 | Scotland
Wave power test site chosen
30 Nov 00 | Scotland
Executive pledge on green energy
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