Page last updated at 13:39 GMT, Thursday, 14 January 2010

First major wind project approved

Wind Farm
The John Muir Trust was concerned about the turbine's visual impact

The first large scale wind farm planned for the Western Isles has been approved by the Scottish government.

Thirty-nine turbines had been proposed for the Muaitheabhal Wind Farm on Eisgein Estate, Lewis, but permission has been granted for 33.

The Scottish government said it would generate electricity for 55,000 homes - almost four times the number of homes on the islands.

Landscape conservation charity John Muir Trust had objected to the farm.

Among its objections was that some of the 145 metre tall turbines would be visible from the Calanais standing stones.

RSPB Scotland said more renewable energy developments were needed to help tackle climate change.

But it said the Lewis site had one of the highest densities of golden eagles anywhere in the world and was concerned about the project.

I have maintained that the Western Isles must be able to play its part in harnessing and benefitting from our vast green energy potential
Jim Mather
Energy Minister

Six turbines were now been refused permission to try to lessen the visual impact of the scheme.

When first proposed, the project featured 133 turbines.

Approval for Muaitheadbhal comes in the same week the £80m Baillie wind farm near Thurso was approved by the government.

Baillie wind farm will supply power to the upgraded Beauly to Denny electricity transmission line.

Western Isles Council, Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, said plans to upgrade the inter-connector - a power line linking the islands with the Scottish mainland - should now be pushed forward.

Energy Minister Jim Mather said the Eisgein scheme would provide jobs for 150 people during its construction and make funds available to community projects.

The developer has entered into a formal agreement with the comhairle, which commits 1% of turnover of the wind farm to the Muaitheabhal Community Wind Farm Trust.

A further 0.5% share of turnover will be paid to the Western Isles Development Trust.

Plans rejected

Mr Mather said: "Since the first proposals for a wind farm on Lewis were put forward, I have maintained that the Western Isles must be able to play its part in harnessing and benefitting from our vast green energy potential. Today, we are making that reality."

Onshore wind projects offer the best economic and community benefit to the Western Isles, according to a Scottish government report published a year ago.

It identified potential for a 150 megawatt (MW) wind farm on North Lewis. Muaitheabhal has capacity to generate 118 MW.

In 2008, Scottish ministers rejected plans for a 181-turbine scheme on Barvas Moor, Lewis, designed to generate 651 MW of electricity.

Comhairle Leader, Angus Campbell, welcomed the decision to approve Muaitheabhal.

He added: "I believe we should see this positive news as a driving force for the early upgrading of the inter-connector to the islands which holds the key to the development of future wind, wave and tidal projects."

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Herald Scotland 33-turbine wind farm for island is approved - 3 hrs ago
The Scotsman Wind farm gets go-ahead but ancient site protected - 8 hrs ago
New Energy Focus Scottish ministers approve three onshore wind projects - 17 hrs ago
Egov Monitor Scottish Western Isles To Get First Major Wind Farm - 25 hrs ago

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