Engie pays £3million to Scottish island community after halting windfarm

The Isle of Lewis
The Isle of Lewis

An island community is celebrating a £3million windfarm payout – without a single turbine being built.

A French company will pay up as part of a “golden au revoir” deal after scrapping its £200million proposal for the Eishken estate on Lewis.

Engie, previously trading as GDF-Suez, abandoned the project last October, blaming uncertainty about the laying of a connecting subsea cable to the mainland for its decision.

The 39-turbine scheme has planning approval but delays with an £800million interconnecter stalled construction work on the windfarm which was due to get underway two years ago.

As part of a legal contract, Engie was still obliged to make payments to the Muaitheabhal Community Wind Farm Trust, which benefits Pairc and Kinloch in Lewis and the Loch Seaforth area of North Harris.

It paid out £1million last year and would have matched the figure for each year of the 25-year lifespan of the turbines.

However, a deal has now been struck which will involve one final payment of £1.92million to the islanders.

The grant will be the last – unless another windfarm company steps in.

Last night Iain MacIver, chairman of the trust said Engie had behaved honourably in its dealings with islanders and he was hopeful that another firm would take on the baton.

“The prospect of securing this significant payment, without exposing the community to any financial risk, is now a comforting reality,” he said.

“Engie have to be commended for the way in which they have dealt with us, honouring their obligations in the process.

“Of added encouragement is the prospect of another developer now stepping in to complete the windfarm.

“Fundamental to that happening is the long awaited subsea link to the mainland needed to unlock the island’s energy resource.”

Engie’s UK president, Steve Riley, said: “It was disappointing that we were unable to pursue the windfarm project due to a number of external delays.

“It is important to us that we honour our commitments to the local community and we are pleased to have reached an agreement with the trust.”

The scheme was to be the largest Western Isles windfarm, promising enough electricity to power 100,000 homes.

Scottish Hydro Electric Transmission (Shetl), a branch of power giant Scottish and Southern Energy, announced a timetable in April this year for completion of a subsea cable linking Western Isles turbines to the mainland grid by 2020.

No-one at the Scottish Government would comment yesterday, but a spokesman for Shetl said: “We will be submitting a ‘needs case’ to the regulator for a transmission link from Lewis to the mainland before the end of this year, subject to an announcement from the UK Government on future support for windfarms on Scottish islands.”