Government-backed windfarm push resisted by residents

The first government-backed effort to revive onshore windfarms after ministers scrapped public subsidies for the technology has run into opposition in the western isles of Scotland.

EDF Energy has said its plans for two major windfarms on the Isle of Lewis may need to reach heights normally the preserve of turbines at sea, prompting an outcry from residents.

The French company’s renewables unit said it may need higher turbines for the project to be economically viable and win millions of pounds in government subsidies. 

Kerry MacPhee, the head of community liaison at Lewis Wind Power, the EDF-led joint venture behind the plan, told locals this week that one of the windfarms could be 200 metres (650ft) tall, with the other 187 metres, up from 150 metres and 145 metres previously.

That would be taller than the UK’s largest existing onshore turbine (193.5 metres) and be on a par with some of the world’s most powerfuloffshore wind turbines, which are 60 metres taller than the London Eye.

MacPhee said the potential changes were designed to increase the project’s chances of winning future auctions for low-carbon electricity and unlock “substantial benefits for Lewis”.

The Conservatives ended subsidies for onshore windfarms shortly after coming to power in 2015, citing public opposition to them. However, last year the government announced onshore wind could compete for subsidies if built on remote islands, where they could benefit communities and generate large-scale clean power.

Claire Perry, the energy minister, has also hinted at a return for the technology on the mainland, saying she is “looking carefully” at supporting onshore windfarms in Scotland and Wales – but not England.

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