Page last updated at 11:39 GMT, Thursday, 22 May 2008 12:39 UK

Island wind turbines 'uneconomic'

wind farm
The trust believes wind farms should be built near population centres

Large wind farm developments in the Western Isles are "uneconomic", a conservation charity has claimed.

The John Muir Trust urged the government to instead build green energy generators closer to major population centres.

The trust made its comments as a public inquiry into a 53-turbine development at the Eisgein Estate, in Lewis, draws to a close.

It believes the turbines would damage one of Scotland's most beautiful areas.

Helen McDade, spokeswoman for the John Muir Trust, said although wind turbines are estimated to generate between 15% and 20% more energy in the Western Isles than in the Central Belt the costs of transmission, including the lost energy from having to transport it such large distances, more than outweighed any advantage.

She added: "At the moment large scale wind developments on the Western Isles are costly, inefficient and hugely damaging for one of Scotland's most spectacular areas of wild land.

"It is high time that the government woke up to the fact that we should be generating our power closer to home rather than artificially subsidising an otherwise doomed industry."

I strongly believe the vast renewables potential in the Western Isles needs to be exploited
Jim Mather
Energy minister

Mrs McDade said respected economist Professor Andrew Bain has estimated that Scotland needs a further 2000MW of wind power to meet the government's target of 50% power from renewables by 2020.

He believes there is currently 1,600MW of green power under appeal, another 3,000MW in the planning system and a further 2,500MW at the scoping stage.

She added: "This means that there is a potential total of 7,000MW of power waiting to be decided on. Even allowing for those schemes that are denied planning permission there should be no problem reaching the 2,000MW target.

"A combination of energy efficiency measures and more green electricity production near where it is required will meet our renewable targets without disfiguring the landscapes which make the Western Isles so special."

Energy Minister Jim Mather has previously said: "I strongly believe the vast renewables potential in the Western Isles needs to be exploited to ensure that the opportunities and benefits of new development can be shared across the country in an equitable fashion."

A spokesman for the Scottish Government said it had pressed for changes to the electricity charging system which encourages generation near large centres of population, which it believes acts acts against the promotion of sustainable development and the exploitation of Scotland's renewables potential.

He added: "Contrary to Professor Andrew Bain's estimates, we estimate we require around 8GW to achieve 50% by 2020."

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