A leading green energy entrepreneur has thrown his support behind an island community as they wage a David and Goliath style battle against a major wind farm developer.
Steve McDonald, whose renewables projects include The UK’s biggest onshore wind farm project at Whitelee near Eaglesham in East Renfrewshire, said he believes most of the revenue from a proposed green energy development on common grazings around Stornoway would flow straight into foreign pockets if island crofters lost their bid to run their own wind farm.
He questioned whether the rival proposal by Lewis Wind Power, a private consortium owned by energy giant EDF and engineering firm Amec-Foster-Wheeler, would represent a “good return on investment” for the millions of pounds of UK taxpayers cash needed to create infrastructure. Mr McDonald, a co-founder of Sgurr Energy, has given his support to smaller community-based energy schemes, claiming most of the revenue from the development will go abroad if the LWP scheme is successful.
“I don’t think that’s a good return on investment to the UK taxpayer,” he added.
Island crofting communities are preparing to do battle against the energy consortium’s hostile bid to create a 36 turbine wind farm capable of powering 135,000 homes on common land. The islanders want to build a smaller wind farm on part of the site, with profits returning to the local community. Four townships - Melbost and Branahuie, Sandwick East Street, Sandwick North Street and Aginish – lodged applications to the Crofting Commission nearly a year ago.
However before the commission was able to act, Lewis Wind Power lodged a hostile application with the Land Court, seeking to develop the area with or without crofters’ consent. Landlord for the proposed site, the Stornoway Trust, has signed a 70 year lease to EDF and Amec for LWPs development.
Lewis Wind Power has insisted their plans will benefit crofters.
A spokesman for EDF said: “The Land Court will make sure the crofters on the Stornoway wind farm land get a fair deal in respect of the income they will receive in return for having wind farm infrastructure on their land.”