Plan for World's Largest Wind Farm Generates Controversy

October 31, 2005

A British energy company is planning to build the world's largest onshore wind farm on the Isle of Lewis in Scotland's remote and windswept Western Isles.

The massive project would feature more than 200 wind turbines, each 400 feet (120 meters) tall with a central rotor longer than a jumbo jet.

Lewis Wind Power, the company behind the proposal, aims to use the power harnessed by the turbines to generate enough electricity to supply 1.1 million people.

Yet the wind farm has generated a storm of controversy among wildlife groups and many islanders, who strongly oppose the plan.

The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB), Europe's largest wildlife nonprofit, says the wind farm could wreak havoc on an environmentally sensitive area.

The farm's 40-story turbines would spread across a large area of peatland, protected under European law as a habitat for a range of birds, including eagles, falcons, divers (or loons), and important wader species.

Opponents of the plan say the wind farm could damage this habitat and also kill hundreds of birds that fly into the turbines' spinning blades.

"This is about the most damaging place you could put a large wind farm," said RSPB Scotland's planning and development manager Anne McCall.

Last summer the Western Isles Council, the regional authority, recommended in favor of building the wind farm. The decision now rests with the Scottish government, which is expected to make a decision next year.

Cash Boost

Wind power is the world's fastest-growing source of renewable energy. The U.K. expects it to contribute 15 percent or more of the nation's electricity needs by 2020.

Scotland's own wind energy goals are greater still—the country aims to get 40 percent of its energy from renewable sources by 2020.

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