Giant British wind farm plans blown away

AFP, 22 April 2008 - The Scottish government has rejected plans to build one of Europe's biggest onshore wind farms due what it said was the "significant adverse impacts" on the local environment.

Ministers in Edinburgh decided that the 500-million-pound (one-billion-dollar, 625-million-euro) project would have threatened rare and endangered bird populations and damaged peatland on the remote Isle of Lewis, northwest of the Scottish mainland.

The proposals were turned down on the grounds that they did not comply with European Union law protecting sensitive environments.

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The Scottish government has a number of powers separate from the British government in London, including planning and environment policy.

Lewis Wind Power, a consortium of AMEC and British Energy, had proposed constructing 181 turbines, with a capacity of 651.6 megawatts -- enough to meet the average domestic electricity requirement of more than 20 percent of Scotland's population.

"The Lewis wind farm would have significant adverse impacts on the Lewis Peatlands Special Protection Area, which is designated due to its high value for rare and endangered birds," said Scottish Energy Minister Jim Mather.

"This decision does not mean that there cannot be onshore wind farms in the Western Isles. That's why we will urgently carry out work on how to develop renewable energy in the Western Isles, in harmony with its outstanding natural heritage."

The Lewis peatlands are regarded as one of the most extensive and intact such areas on Earth.

Golden eagle, merlin, red throated diver, black throated diver, golden plover, dunlin and greenshank populations in the area are subject to special protection under a European birds directive.

Stuart Housden, director of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds Scotland called it Tuesday "an extremely commendable decision" that was "absolutely right for Scotland".

Lewis Wind Power said it was "bitterly disappointed" and would consider the government's verdict in detail before deciding their "next move".

This article is reproduced with kind permission of Agence France-Presse (AFP) For more news and articles visit the AFP website.


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