United Kingdom

United Kingdom

Too large and in the wrong place -- Serious objections to Lewis

Greenpeace is the latest organisation to oppose plans for the UK's largest wind farm on the island of Lewis in the Western Isles of Scotland. This is the first time the environmental group -- a staunch ally of the wind industry -- has taken a stand against a wind project. It is concerned the 702 MW project would threaten biodiversity on the island.

The project of 234 turbines is proposed by Lewis Windpower -- a joint venture between large wind project developer AMEC and nuclear giant British Energy. If it is granted consent, many of the project's turbines would be sited within the Lewis Peatlands Special Protection Area (SPA) which is protected under European law. This is home to a variety of bird species, including golden eagles, merlins, black-throated divers, red-throated divers, dunlins and greenshanks. Greenpeace is not, however, opposed outright to all the turbines. Instead it wants to see a phased development in areas where disturbance to the birds can be minimised.

The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) and Scottish Natural Heritage have also both formally objected to the plans. "This wind farm proposal is not just bad for birds but bad for the development of renewables as well," says Anne McCall from RSPB Scotland. "The developers are proposing to put a massive industrial complex on a very important designated site for wildlife. This is asking for conflict and that is bad for the development of renewables in Scotland."

AMEC and British Energy applied to the Scottish Executive for consent for the project in November 2004. If the wind farm goes ahead it could provide over 6% of the UK's renewables target and 39% of Scotland's target. But the plans immediately attracted objections from environmental groups and last year it was singled out for condemnation by RSPB at the British Wind Energy Association's offshore wind conference.

The RSPB says it is concerned about climate change and supports sensibly located wind farms. But Lewis Wind's proposed development is in exactly the wrong place, it says. The society points out that each of the 140 metre tall turbines would have a rotor diameter of 100 metres -- longer than a jumbo jet. There would be 167 kilometres of roads, nine substations and 56 kilometres of overhead lines. It also claims that concrete foundations for turbines will be 1800 square metres, more than double the size planned.

Warning leaflet

Meantime, on the other side of Scotland, the RSPB has circulated a leaflet to councillors in Aberdeen warning that a proposed offshore wind farm could have a detrimental impact on birds. Eiders, common scoters, red-throated divers, velvet scoters, red-breasted mergansers and other migrating birds feed where the wind farm would be sited, it says. "Based on the information available to us, we believe the potential adverse environmental impacts of such a development would outweigh any benefits."

Aberdeen Renewable Energy Group (AREG) is studying the feasibility of building a minimum of 20 turbines one mile off the coast of Aberdeen. AREG's Iain Todd explains that the location -- or indeed the number -- of the turbines will depend on the outcome of the feasibility study which will examine a range of issues including the impact on birds.

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