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Proposed Windfarm on the Isle of Lewis, Scotland

In the ‘Stornoway Wind Farm’ joint venture, multinational companies EDF Energy and Amec Foster Wheeler plan 36 wind turbines. However local farmers would prefer a community-owned wind farm.


The controversy surrounding a new windfarm near the main town of Stornoway on the Isle of Lewis no longer concerns whether or not a wind farm should be built, but rather who should get to own and profit from such a renewable energy scheme. Some have referred to it as a ‘David and Goliath’ battle, with big energy companies pitted against local crofters (small scale farmers).  In the ‘Stornoway Wind Farm’ joint venture, multinational companies EDF Energy and Amec Foster Wheeler are planning the construction of 36 wind turbines, which would contribute to climate change mitigation goals whilst providing jobs and enabling schemes to support the communities through compensation and a shareholding offer. The moorland they are leasing are ‘common grazings’, which under Scottish law means crofters also have rights to access the moorland for grazing sheep and cattle and cutting peat, and more recently for planting trees and building wind farms. Over 200 crofters have lodged objections to the proposals with the Land Court, and have proposed locally owned wind energy projects which would return all profits to the community rather than to these large companies [1].

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Basic Data
Name of conflict:Proposed Windfarm on the Isle of Lewis, Scotland
Country:United Kingdom
State or province:Outer Hebrides
Location of conflict:Stornoway
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)
Source of Conflict
Type of conflict. 1st level:Fossil Fuels and Climate Justice/Energy
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Windmills
Specific commodities:Electricity
Project Details and Actors
Project details

In 2012 planning permission was granted for a £200 million, 36-turbine project. The developers claim it will generate electricity needs for 90,000 homes, create more than 150 jobs, bring £48 million to the local economy and save 250,000 tons of CO² a year. The company agreed to reduce the size by six turbines following concerns from RSPB and Scottish National Heritage (SNH). The groups had originally objected to the development, fearing an impact on protected golden eagle populations and red-throated diver habitats. SNH had also voiced concerns over the potential affect on the Lewis Peatlands special protection area. [2] The company expects the wind farm to be operational by 2021, with capacity from 130-180MW depending on the turbines selected. 2% of the windfarm site will be occuppied by infrastructure. [6]

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Project area:1,700
Level of Investment:281,060,000.00
Type of populationRural
Affected Population:Less than 20,500 (Isle of Lewis)
Start of the conflict:01/06/2017
Company names or state enterprises:EDF Renewables Holdings Ltd from France
Amec Foster Wheeler from United Kingdom
Relevant government actors:Scottish Goverment
Scottish Land Court
Comhairle nan Eilean Siar (Western Isles Council)
Crofting Commission
Conflict & Mobilization
IntensityLOW (some local organising)
Reaction stagePREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups mobilizing:Farmers
Indigenous groups or traditional communities
Local scientists/professionals
Forms of mobilization:Development of alternative proposals
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Environmental ImpactsPotential: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity)
Socio-economical ImpactsPotential: Land dispossession, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Loss of landscape/sense of place
Project StatusPlanned (decision to go ahead eg EIA undertaken, etc)
Conflict outcome / response:Court decision (undecided)
Development of alternatives:The four island townships wanting to develop community turbines of their own are Melbost and Branahuie, Sandwick East Street, Sandwick North Street and Aginish, inspired by the success that Point and Sandwick Trust have made of their wind farm at Beinn Ghrideag.
Theirs were the first applications ever to go in under Section 50B of the Crofting Act, which allows for any kind of sustainable development even when the landlord (in this case the Stornoway Trust) is opposed, provided a majority of crofters have voted in favour. [6]
Calum MacDonald, a former Labour MP for the area who was involved in developing the first three turbines, said the earlier development proved that the crofters’ plans were viable. “We absolutely believe we can make it work and that we would be able to borrow the money for the development,” he said.
Angus McCormack, a local councillor and chair of the Point and Sandwick Trust, said a larger community-owned project could finance more local causes, as well as create jobs on an island with a high poverty rate.
“We have to do it for the young people. There is nothing else to stay for,” said McCormack. “Building our own windfarms would be transformational to the islands. One of the key things is trying to keep hold of the young people. They go away for their education, and they never come back.” [1]
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:Not Sure
Briefly explain:Proceedings are still underway
Sources & Materials
Related laws and legislations - Juridical texts related to the conflict

Crofting Reform (Scotland) Act 2010
[click to view]

ecision of the Scottish Land Court

[3] Stornoway Wind Farm Limited (Applicants) v Crofters having rights in Stornoway Wind Farm Site (Respondents)
[click to view]

Links to general newspaper articles, blogs or other websites

[1] The Guardian - Crofters on Lewis fight EDF and Wood Group's windfarm proposal
[click to view]

[2] The Scotsman - Stornoway wind farm goes ahead after ten-year battle
[click to view]

[click to view]

[5] Scottish Daily Mail - Crofters launch last-ditch bid to stop huge wind farm
[click to view]

[6] Stornoway Wind Farm Application under Section 19a
[click to view]

Other documents

Point and Sandwick Community Wind Turbines Crofters propose following this community-owned wind farm model

Credit: Point and Sandwick Trust
[click to view]

Meta information
Contributor:Alice Owen [email protected]
Last update22/02/2018
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