I went to a presentation by SSE which included the Western Isles HVDC(high voltage direct current) line and they said that the Western Isles will be covered by wind turbines like a pin cushion and the money they put into the community (Community Benefit) will make the area one of the most wealthy in the UK. However they agree that the money cannot be given to local residents and that there will be no tourism industry left in the Isles. They truly believe that it is to the good of the islanders that the Western Isles will simply become one massive great wind farm. An offshore wind farm without the problems of building turbines in the sea. In their eyes it is “In the National Interest”. In our eyes it is in SSE’s interest as they will be paid handsomely to transfer the power to the south and make Beauly-Denny profitable. Problem is that it would seem that many Western Isles Councillors have bought into the project and see the industrialisation of the Western Isles as a positive step. Surely they are not all deaf, dumb and blind?
For the rest of us we are now faced with an underground cable going through some of the most beautiful areas of the Highlands. And there is nothing we can do about it because it is ‘permitted development’. It is not subject to planning as it is underground. At Wester Balblair the Beauly Denny transmission hub will get a massive new converter station. This has been previously approved but is either out of time or needs substantial modification to the original plans so will have to go through planning as will the termination station at Ullapool where the undersea cable from Arnish. Although Arnish sub station has been approved there have been some rumours that it will in fact terminate at Loch Carnon where the backup diesel power station(11.8MW) is currently sited. Current proposed capacity for the Western Isles is 412MW of renewable power including 4oMW of wave energy.
Druim Leathann – 39MW (wind) 2020 Renewables (Velocita Group)
Siadar Lewis Wave – 40MW (wave) RWE (cancelled)
Stornoway Wind Farm – 129.6MW (wind) AMEC and Electricite de France(EDF)
Muaithebheal Wind Farm – 150MW (wind) ?Uisnenis Power Company (company owned by Oppenheimer family)
Beinn Mhor, Lewis, Wind Farm – 140MW (wind) GDF Suez (cancelled)
Small distributed generation – 54MW (wind and wave)
With the collapse of the two Scottish wave energy companies this must be questionable. The small distribution of 54MW of uncontrollable single on farm and community turbines suggests a fairly horrific visual impact.
The only saving grace is that funding for this has to be approved by the National Grid and ultimately Amber Rudd and Osborne. Many promises have been made by such luminaries as Ed Davey at the Scottish Liberal conference and Amber Rudd had been pencilled in for a visit to the Isle in the autumn. Certainly promises by Fergus Ewing have been made but he is not the one that holds the purse strings. This project has been on and off more times that a tart’s drawers so no bets on the whether it is a fact or pipe dream. Should it go ahead the timeline suggests commissioning December 2020 by which time Hinckley Point will be coming on line, new gas power station will have been built and it is quite possible that we will have access to cheap fracked gas. Would you invest your pension in a Western Isles wind farm?