Plans for Europe's biggest wind farm took a step forward last month when it secured the backing of the local planning authority, the Comhairle nan Eilean Siar or Western Isles Council. It is recommending that the Scottish Executive approve the proposed 652 MW Lewis Wind Farm. The endorsement comes subject to the removal of five machines from the 181 wind turbine proposal by Lewis Wind Power, a joint venture between AMEC and British Energy, the national nuclear generator. Lewis Wind Power had already scaled back its proposal from the original 234 turbine application lodged in 2004. AMEC's David Hodkinson welcomes the council's support and believes that even with removal of the five turbines, the project is still large enough to deliver its key objectives. "These relate to its contribution to the local economy, its role in justifying investment in a large efficient grid interconnector [with mainland Scotland] with spare capacity for other renewable projects, and its contribution to Scottish and UK renewable energy targets." The Scotland branch of the influential Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) remains implacably opposed to the development, most of which is inside a European-designated Special Protection Area and will threaten habitats and wildlife, it says. RSPB points out that it has not objected to 90% of the proposed wind farms in Scotland, but Lewis is the wrong development in the wrong place. The group also accuses Lewis Wind Power of extravagant claims over the number of jobs likely to be created by the project. An economic assessment commissioned by RSPB shows the development will create a mere 70 jobs rather than the 233 claimed by the developers.
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