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United Kingdom

A nuclear sized wind plant -- Giant 1000 MW project proposal

Nuclear generator British Energy and construction company AMEC have unveiled plans to create Europe's largest wind farm in the Western Isles of Scotland. The project will comprise up to 300 wind turbines totalling 600-1000 MW on the island of Lewis. It will provide around 1% of the UK's electricity needs, greatly boosting the UK's chances of meeting its target of 10% of electricity from renewables by 2010.

The project -- costing around £600 million -- will be dependent on a sub-sea power cable to link to the UK mainland. In November, the government announced it is to look into a 400 mile undersea cable running down Brit

ain's western seaboard and linking into the national grid (page 12). According to David Still from AMEC Wind, the project could fund its share of the cable, which is estimated to cost around £1 million a mile.

The first stage of the wind farm project is a year long detailed feasibility study which AMEC is to start immediately. This will investigate potential sites within the vast expanse of peat moorland on North Lewis. The main landowner, the Stornoway Trust, is owned by the crofters of north east Lewis who would directly benefit from revenue from the wind farm's operation.

Another important factor for the community are the 150 manufacturing and construction jobs the project could create, plus about 25 in operation and maintenance. The project is expected to lead to the re-opening of a local fabrication yard at Arnish Point in Stornoway. "We have been in discussion with turbine manufacturers, tower makers and steel makers who are interested in setting up a manufacturing facility," says Still. "It is not just about creating a wind farm, it is creating a sustainable business which could generate a large amount of money to go into the local community."

The Western Isles Council hopes the project will pave the way for further development of wind energy, both onshore and offshore, as well as wave and tidal power, to establish the Western Isles as the "renewables capital of Europe." Roddy Murray from Western Isles Council says the proposals have created an overwhelmingly positive response locally.

The land being considered is largely covered by environmental designations, but the developers say initial talks with Scottish Natural Heritage have been positive. Construction of the plant would take three years.

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