Growing Pressure for Public Inquiry Into Skye Windfarm and Power Line Projects
Posted 18/09/2023 12:52
Increasing calls for a public inquiry into multiple proposed windfarm projects and a power line on the Isle of Skye are highlighting concerns about the scale of industrialisation on the island. Nine wind farm projects and the planned overhead line reinforcement project (OHL) by SSEN are facing scrutiny. Critics argue that this significant development doesn't serve any practical purpose as the generated power exceeds Skye's and Scotland's requirements. Faye MacLeod, a campaigner who set up the Skye Wind website, is urging the Just Transition Commission to initiate an inquiry. These calls for an inquiry come on the heels of previous appeals by campaign group Communities B4 Power Companies (CB4PC), as well as the Portree and Braes Community Trust and Portree and Braes Community Council.
CB4PC, in particular, is seeking a reconsideration of Highland Council's decision not to object to the proposed power line from Skye to Fort Augustus, as it believes this decision led to a surge in onshore wind farm applications. They argue that a public local inquiry would enable SSEN to be cross-examined in a public forum.
Faye MacLeod contends that Skye's proposed wind farms and power line projects are neither necessary nor justified. She points out that Scotland's existing onshore wind energy production already exceeds its requirements. Despite this, Scotland's energy strategy continues to approve windfarm developments without expanding the National Grid's transmission capacity to England. As a result, there is a growing disconnect between Scotland's energy strategy and the UK's grid capacity.
MacLeod has also drawn attention to the disparity between the profits of power companies and community benefits. While communities may receive around £72 million over 25 years if all proposed wind farms on Skye are consented, the revenue from these wind farms could potentially exceed £7.2 billion over the same period, with a profit of £2.9 million. She emphasizes the need for a just transition that ensures local communities benefit more equitably.
Local officials are open to the idea of an inquiry, with Drew Millar, chairman of the council's north planning applications committee, suggesting it could make the situation more transparent and comprehensible for Skye residents. However, any inquiry would depend on the Scottish Government's choice of route for the Skye power line.
The Scottish Government has noted the development proposals on Skye but has refrained from commenting on specific proposals at this stage. Advocates for renewable energy maintain that not all projects in development will come to fruition, and the planning system ensures that communities have a say in the process while considering environmental and economic impacts.
SSEN Transmission argues that the existing Skye-Fort Augustus line is reaching the end of its operational life and needs an upgrade for network reliability. They believe the replacement line will enable new renewable electricity generation connections, support net-zero goals, and enhance energy independence. The final decision on their application will be made by the government, following Highland Council's decision not to object.
As the debate continues, the challenges and opportunities of renewable energy development on Skye and its impact on local communities remain central to the discussion.