This is a very different (and less damaging) proposal from the one which was rejected by Scottish Ministers in 2008. However, we have objected as the information currently available does not provide the necessary certainty about the levels of impacts on the SPA. We are concerned about turbine collisions and/or the potential loss of available habitat if eagles and divers are displaced by the windfarm.
As a whole, the Western Isles support exceptional nature conservation interest and this is reflected in the large number and extent of sites designated under the EU Birds and Habitats Directives.
The islands also have substantial resources of renewable energy, but we have opposed several development proposals here because we considered them to be unacceptably damaging to the environment.
We recognise this particular site has been chosen as the result of a Western Isles-wide search for a large undesignated area best able to accommodate a windfarm. We agree that it may be possible for a windfarm to be developed on this site without unacceptable environmental impacts but this proposal falls somewhat short.
We have suggested that our concerns may be resolved by moving, or removing, a small number of turbines which appear to pose particular risk to divers and eagles, but have been unable to give more specific advice as the bird data have not been made available in a suitable format for analysis.
Scottish Natural Heritage has also objected, along similar lines to the RSPB.
Update: In June 2012, Lewis Wind Power (LWP) offered to remove the six turbines posing the greatest risk to golden eagles. After carefully considering the implications, and on the basis that this would roughly halve collision risk to golden eagles and almost eliminate disturbance effects on eagle habitat within the SPA, both RSPB and SNH withdrew their objections.
This will be a challenging site for LWP to develop, and both RSPB and SNH are seeking to work with LWP to ensure that robust monitoring and mitigation measures are put in place. Consent for 36 turbines on this site will have significant implications for assessing the contribution of other schemes to cumulative impacts of wind energy development on Lewis.