EXCLUSIVE: Plan for 200m-high, tallest UK onshore wind turbine towers by French nuclear giant drives Isle of Lewis residents to height of fury

Katie Laing
Katie Laing

EXCLUSIVE By KATIE LAING

Plans announced by EDF – the mostly-nuclear-power state-owned French energy giant – to build a fleet of wind turbine towers up to 200-metres tall in the Outer Hebrides – have been met with community outrage on the Isle of Lewis.

The turbines being planned by EDF would be up to 200 metres tall – the same size as those currently being built in the North Sea and far higher than any structures that exist on land in Scotland.

There are no onshore turbines of this magnitude anywhere in the UK.

The biggest turbines onshore in the UK at present are 130 metres, with most of the present Lewis turbines being around 125 metres

The tallest building in the UK is The Shard in London, at 306 metres. It has 95 storeys, so a 200-metre turbine would be the equivalent of a 62-storey building.

Scotland’s tallest building is the Glasgow Tower, at 127 metres.

EDF, as part of ‘Lewis Wind Power’ with project partners Wood Group, have planning permission for 91 turbines in Lewis.

Of these, 45 turbines are approved for their Uisenis Wind Farm, which is due to be built on the Eishken Estate and approaches the border of the South Lewis, Harris and North Uist National Scenic Area.

This photograph shows the Eishken area and was taken by Sandie Maciver of SandiePhotos Photography. Taken from Airidh ’a Bhruaich in South Lochs, looking across Upper Loch Seaforth to the hills of Harris, it shows where some of the EDF ‘goliath’ wind turbine towers are to be built.
This photograph shows the Eishken area and was taken by Sandie Maciver of SandiePhotos Photography. Taken from Airidh ’a Bhruaich in South Lochs, looking across Upper Loch Seaforth to the hills of Harris, it shows where some of the EDF ‘goliath’ wind turbine towers are to be built.

The other 36 turbines are the Stornoway Wind Farm ones – the turbines planned for the Stornoway General area of mainly common grazings land out the Pentland Road. The Stornoway Wind Farm is already controversial, being the subject of more than 200 objections to the Scottish Land Court.

It is also under fire because a group of crofting townships want to develop their own wind farm projects on some of these sites leased by EDF from the Stornoway Trust – but which form part of the townships’ own common grazings.

Rhoda MacKenzie, spokesman for the ‘gang of four’ grazings committees who want to develop the community-owned schemes, said EDF’s new plans were “staggering”.

She also pointed out that these new ‘superturbines’ would mean there would be no room left on any interconnector for community schemes – as all the capacity would now be taken up by the Lewis Wind Power projects and the Forsa scheme in Tolsta.

Bigger turbines mean more power and the take-up of more space on the cable.

The revelation about Lewis Wind Power’s intention came in a letter from EDF’s Kerry MacPhee, who is the community liaison for Lewis Wind Power.

It coincided with a high-level meeting, in the offices of Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, about the planned changes to the schemes. The meeting was attended by representatives from Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, Lewis Wind Power, Scottish Natural Heritage, the Scottish Environment Protection Agency and the Scottish Government.

Community wind farm campaigners have reacted with outrage to EDF’s scaled-up ambitions.

Calum Macdonald, former Western Isles MP and developer of Point and Sandwick Trust’s Beinn Ghrideag scheme, said: “The size of the proposed new turbines being considered by EDF is simply staggering.  

“These are the same size as the gigantic offshore turbines that are now being built in the North Sea. They are out to sea for a good reason which is that their enormous size is thought to make them unacceptable anywhere onshore, far less near a town like Stornoway or near an iconic location like Loch Seaforth.   

“It is baffling that EDF are considering such a massive change of plan at such a late stage, especially when they spent recent months lecturing local crofters that it was far too late in the day to have their plans for community turbines taken into account. 

Rhoda MacKenzie added: “I’m just astounded. The big thing about the interconnector was that there was going to be 200MW left for community capacity.

“If they up the ante, which they are obviously going to do, there goes that 200MW, so this interconnector is purely for EDF, Wood Group and Forsa. They are on about the community benefit but weigh that up in terms of the losses.

“It’s going to have a detrimental effect on tourism. The largest wind turbines in the UK? I hardly think that’s going to bring people here.

“The island and the community have been sold out to multinationals who are now increasing their demands, of what they are wanting, because they see that they are getting what they want in every corner. Nobody, apart from a few councillors and Stornoway Trust trustees, has come up to me and said they are all for EDF.”

KATIE LAING also writes the award-winning Hebrides Writer blog: www.hebrideswriter.com

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