The battle involving some Lewis crofting townships and the Stornoway Trust over who gets most from wind-power generation stepped up a notch this week in the aftermath of the UK Government commitment to a bidding process that could allow the Interconnector power line to the mainland to be built.
The grazings clerks representing the townships of Melbost and Branahuie, Sandwick North Street, Sandwick East Street and Aignish want to develop a total of 21 community-owned turbines along the same lines as the Point and Sandwick community wind farm.
But the landowner, the Stornoway Trust, has already leased the grazings to the multinational EDF Energy and Amec-Foster-Wheeler who own Lewis Wind Power.
Now the clerks have written again to MP Angus Brendan MacNeil, asking for his support. When the townships wrote to the MP in August he said he could not intervene until the Government had confirmed the interconnector was going ahead. Now the clerks say the matter of the interconnector is "definitively resolved.”
This is because the creation of the new subsidy category ‘remote island wind’ means that future projects in this category (in the Western Isles, Orkney, and Shetland) will be financially viable as they’re now eligible to gain from the 'contracts for difference' scheme, set up to support renewables projects. There are enough projects in the pipeline here to make it worth the Government’s while to construct the Interconnector.
In their letter, the grazings clerks say to Mr MacNeil: “We ask you to come out clearly in support of our four townships, Melbost and Branahuie, Sandwick North Street, Sandwick East Street and Aignish in their Section 50B application to the Crofter's Commission and our refusal of the outrageous and unacceptable attempt by EDF and the Stornoway Trust to impose corporate turbines on our grazings without our consent.
“Our objective is to deliver the maximum benefit to the local economy and the wider islands community from the proposed wind farms.
“It is clear that this cannot be delivered by the proposed EDF/LWP wind farm which will provide only £500,000 a year from the turbines on our grazings, as compared to the £5million a year which will come from community ownership of the turbines.”
The first news of the Government move came last month from Scotland Office minister Lord Duncan who visited Stornoway and later told welovestornoway.com: “Contracts for Difference provide long-term, stable income for private companies which invest in new low-carbon generation projects. The next auction is spring 2019. Research suggests that Scotland’s islands could provide up to 3% of the UK’s annual electricity demand.
“The UK Government has been working closely with representatives from the islands to unleash the substantial renewable energy potential of the islands.”
He said the Government announcement: “brings us another step closer to delivering the all-important transmission links that will allow electricity to be exported to the mainland grid.
“Let us hope that in the years to come, electricity takes its place alongside tweed and lamb, gin and shellfish as a key export from the islands
After meeting Lord Duncan in late September, the Leader of Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, Councillor Roddie Mackay, said: “ Lord Duncan outlined a timetable that should allow islands projects to complete in a Contracts for Difference Auction in early 2019 as well as confirming that the Government was committed to supporting and funding the interconnector.
“Lord Duncan was clear that the Comhairle’s approach to achieving the interconnector was the correct one and he advised that we keep working with the Government and with the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy to reinforce the positive case we were making.”