A report in The Guardian newspaper Monday says that a consortium led by British Energy and US multinational AMEC is planning to announce plans to build the world’s largest wind farm on the Hebridian island of Lewis, capable of generating 600 MW of electricity – over ten times larger than Britains biggest wind power station at Blyth, Northumberland.
In its first stage some 250 wind turbines would be sited on Lewis with a second even larger stage incorporating both wave and tidal energy following on. The cost of the project was quoted as being £500m and it is intended that the facility would be linked to the national grid by way of the 350-mile undersea cable which itself is the subject of a feasibility study announced within the last month.
The UK’s west coast has enormous potential for renewable energy production but development has always been hampered by the lack of grid connections, which would enable power generated to be moved to distant areas of high demand in the south and east of the country.
If planning permission is granted Britain will more than double its renewable energy capacity. Environmental campaigners say a new generation of nuclear power stations may not then need to be built.
The project would require a long consultation period and no planning application would be made for at least a year.
The project is not due to be unveiled for several weeks and neither of the leading partners in the consortium were willing to comment at this stage.
Local MP Calum MacDonald appeared to welcome the proposed development. “This would be the largest ever single investment in the Western Isles,” he said. “It is the equivalent of oil coming without the problem.”
He said that the intention was that the initial phase of production from the new farm would be used to help finance the cable. “The second stage will be to develop offshore wind and tidal power and, looking far ahead, to position the Hebrides as an ideal sight for the nirvana of energy – hydrogen power. This project could unlock the whole potential of renewables to give Britain sustainable, clean energy”, said MacDonald.
The Stornoway development is expected to be backed by the Scottish Executive and the DTI. Britain is committed to generating at least ten per cent of its energy from renewables within ten years, and this one project would catapult it to near the top of the European green energy league.
The largest British wind power station, in Blyth, Northumberland, generates less than 50 MW. Britain is Europe’s windiest country but has only 880 operating wind turbines, based on 61 wind farms. They produce less than 1 per cent of the country’s needs. The world leader in wind power is Denmark, which gets 15 per cent of its power that way.