Plans for the UK's largest wind farm have been thrown out by the Scottish government. Lewis Wind Power, a consortium of international engineering group AMEC and nuclear firm British Energy, applied to build 181 turbines totalling 650 MW over a vast swathe of the island of Lewis in the Western Isles. The reason given by Scottish ministers for their refusal is the project's incompatibility with EU law. The wind farm would have a serious impact on the Lewis Peatlands Special Protection Area, which is protected under the EC Birds Directive and Habitats Directive due to its rare and endangered birds, they say. The controversial project divided the local community and was opposed by wildlife protection groups. It was backed by local authority Comhairle nan Eilean Siar (Western Isles Council), which saw the potential for jobs and revenue in an area of increasing unemployment and depopulation. The project received 10,924 objections and 98 letters of support. The council's Angus Campbell calls the Scottish government's decision deeply disappointing and perplexing in view of its policy to make Scotland the green powerhouse of Europe. "The Government has got the balance between the environment and the socio economic benefits of the wind farm completely out of kilter," he says. It is also a blow for Arnish Point Fabrication Yard, which had been lined up to provide the turbine towers for the project, he says. Lewis Wind sunk £5 million into project development over six years of the project which included extensive environmental and economic studies. It feels that it had proved to government how the project could be approved without violating European law. The Scottish government maintains that despite its refusal of Lewis, Scotland is still on track to reach its target of 50% of electricity from renewables by 2020.
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