Crofters on Lewis fight EDF and Wood Group’s windfarm proposal. Energy giants hope Scottish court will permit development of 36 turbines on moorland. Hundreds of crofters are fighting an attempt by the energy giants EDF and Wood Group to build a windfarm on the island of Lewis. More than 200 crofters have objected to proposals to build on communal land close to Stornoway, the biggest town in the Outer Hebrides. The crofters want to build their own development, with the profits going to the local community. The row started because under Scottish law crofters have rights over the land even though the multinationals have bought a lease through a joint venture called Lewis Wind Power. Crofting is bound by complex rules that give both landowners and smallholders rights. EDF and Wood have now applied to the Scottish land court to force through the development of 36 turbines on the “common grazings”, triggering the objections to the plans. Wind is increasingly seen as a key natural resource in the Western Isles, with the potential to boost the economic future of the islands. The contested area is moorland called the Stornoway General, a few miles from the main town. Stornoway General is divided into areas for different villages and owned by the Stornoway Trust. One township, Point and Sandwick, has built three turbines on its section, borrowing £14m from Santander bank to finance the development, and the turbines now support a drug and alcohol programme, a hospice and a local arts centre. Calum MacDonald, a former Labour MP for the area who was involved in developing the first three turbines, said the earlier development proved that the crofters’ plans were viable. “We absolutely believe we can make it work and that we would be able to borrow the money for the development,” he said. “EDF would not be doing it unless they believed it would make money.” Angus McCormack, a local councillor and chair of the Point and Sandwick Trust, said a larger community-owned project could finance more local causes, as well as create jobs on an island with a high poverty rate. “We have to do it for the young people. There is nothing else to stay for,” said McCormack. “Building our own windfarms would be transformational to the islands. One of the key things is trying to keep hold of the young people. They go away for their education, and th ey never come back.” In their 2017 general election manifesto, the Conservatives announced that, although onshore wind power would no longer be subsidised, an exemption would be made to support the development of wind projects in the remote islands of Scotland provided they “directly benefit the local communities”. This means that Lewis Wind Power could bid for subsidies under the “contract for difference” (CfD) scheme, which guarantees a minimum price for electricity. EDF recently agreed a CfD deal for the Hinkley Point C nuclear power station in Somerset, which has been criticised for the vast projected cost to electricity consumers.
Guardian 4th Feb 2018 read more »