Amec and British Energy plan giant wind farm off Scottish coast

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The Independent Online

The world's biggest onshore wind farm is being planned for a Scottish island in a £400m joint venture between Amec and British Energy.

The world's biggest onshore wind farm is being planned for a Scottish island in a £400m joint venture between Amec and British Energy.

The facility, which has already attracted concern from environmentalists over its impact on birds, would produce enough power to meet the needs of one-fifth of Scotland's population. The scheme's 234 turbines would stretch across 30 miles of the northern moorland area of the Isle of Lewis, one of the Western Isles off the north-west coast of Scotland, which have a population of 26,500.

The Lewis Wind Power joint venture said yesterday it had submitted an application to the Scottish Executive to build the wind farm, which Amec believes will be the world's largest, surpassing the King Mountain facility in Texas.

The Lewis development will have a capacity of 702 megawatts, enough to meet the average electricity needs of about 1.1 million people and achieve about 6 per cent of the UK's renewable energy targets.

Previously, the UK's biggest planned onshore wind farm - which was given the go-ahead by the Scottish Executive in February - was ScottishPower's Blacklaw scheme, near Forth in Lanarkshire. Blacklaw will have 62 turbines, producing 143MW.

David Hodkinson, of Lewis Wind Power, conceded that local people and environmentalists would be concerned about the new project. However, he insisted the wind farm would provide real economic benefits to the islanders - 300 jobs will be created during construction and there will be about 30 permanent positions. He said the proposal would provide an annual income to the Western Isles of £6m-8m a year through rental payments, payments to crofters, community funds and rates.

The Scottish Executive is expected to make a decision next year and the facility will take four years to build.

Mr Hodkinson added: "There is a need for wind farms. The UK is well behind the renewables targets set by the Government."

In an attempt to placate environmentalists, the Lewis scheme has involved Europe's largest survey of birds. Species in the area include golden eagles. Mr Hodkinson said the farm's location was chosen to avoid migratory routes and main nesting areas.

That was not enough to satisfy the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds. Stuart Housden, the director of the RSPB in Scotland, said: "It would appear that Amec and British Energy have chosen to ignore our consistent advice to avoid developing on areas designated for their wildlife value... Their proposed wind farm is of a scale and in a location where the damage it will do will harm this important area - legally protected for its important birds and rare peatland habitat."