A storm is brewing in the Western Isles as a war over the rights to a lucrative windfarm begins at the Scottish Land Court tomorrow.
Four island crofting townships will take on community landowner Stornoway Trust and Lewis Wind Power.
The trust has agreed a deal with Lewis Wind Power, owned by energy giant EDF Renewables and engineering firm Amec-Foster-Wheeler, which could see a 36-turbine windfarm capable of generating £30million a year being built.
Lewis Wind Power has made a Section 19 application to develop on the common grazings around Stornoway with or without the consent of the crofters.
The townships of Melbost and Branahuie, Sandwick East Street, Sandwick North Street and Aginish made applications to the Crofting Commission nearly a year ago for turbines on their parts of the common grazings.
The Point and Sandwick Trust Community Consortium, responsible for Beinn Ghrideag, a community-owned windfarm just outside Stornoway, has objected to Lewis Wind Power’s application.
But it is argued that only a large-scale development can convince the UK Government to invest in a £800million subsea cable which would carry the electricity to the main-
Donnie MacDonald, clerk of Aignish township, said: “What we want is for the court to say no – this is not for the benefit of the community. And we will step in. Then we are in control and we keep all of the money. It would be phenomenal the things we could do. If these companies get their way, all the money will go overseas. It is absolutely ridiculous.”
Iain MacIver, factor of the Stornoway Trust, said: “The key question is whether the community can finance building a windfarm of the scale required to show the need for an £800million cable. That’s our concern.
“We know that when it is built we will get a fifth of the equity and have our own stake in the project, plus the community benefit.”
A spokeswoman for Lewis Wind Power said: “New windfarms can only be built on the Isle of Lewis if there is significant investment in the electricity network on the island which is already running at full capacity.
“This investment can only be triggered by a critical mass of new generation projects going ahead. The two Lewis Wind Power projects, the Stornoway wind farm and the Uisenis windfarm have both planning permission and grid connection agreements and so they have the best potential to contribute towards this.”