STORNOWAY, Scotland, Sept. 10 (UPI) -- A major wind farm project in Scotland's Hebrides Islands has been approved after a 10-year battle and significant downsizing of the original plans.
Scottish Energy Minister Fergus Ewing announced Friday planning consent had been granted for the 129.6-megawatt Stornoway Wind Farm, less than 1 mile west of Stornoway, Scotland, on the Isle of Lewis.
"I'm delighted to consent the Stornoway wind farm, which will represent a significant boost to the economy of the Western Isles and create jobs during construction and in the longer term," Ewing said.
"Once it is up and running the wind farm will save thousands of tons of carbon dioxide each year and will produce enough electricity to power more than 60,000 homes."
The wind farm -- from Lewis Wind Power Limited, a joint porject including the engineering firm Amec, the French energy company EDF and the Stornoway Trust -- will have 36 wind turbines.
It will support 75 jobs in the area, generating contracts worth $64 million for the local economy, Ewing asserted.
The project was proposed in 2002 as an $800 million, 181-turbine development at Barvas Moor at the north end of the Isle of Lewis but it was met with strong and persistent criticism from environmentalists and conservationists.
That caused the developer to abandon the planned site in 2008 and instead propose a greatly reduced, 42-turbine project near Stornoway on the island's eastern coast.
Even then, objections needed to be overcome. Concerns were voiced by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds and Scottish National Heritage over possible effects on protected golden eagle populations and red-throated diver habitats, The Scotsman reported.
The developer eventually agreed to eliminate the six most contentious turbines and the two agencies withdrew their opposition, allowing the project to proceed.
"I am particularly pleased that the developer was able to work with SNH and RSPB to develop proposals which allowed this wind farm to go ahead whilst minimizing affects on Lewis' important natural heritage," Ewing said.
The approval came with "a series of conditions to protect the outstanding natural habitats and landscapes and local communities," he said.
Another major consideration in approving the project was the prospect of stimulating demand for a Western Isles undersea interconnector cable, which Ewing predicted "will free up the area's renewable potential to generate electricity for the mainland, including for emerging marine energy technologies."
The Stornoway wind farm will "certainly justify an interconnector from the Western Isles to the mainland, benefiting not only this but other renewables projects on the islands," Western Isles Member of Parliament Alasdair Allan agreed in a statement.
"I want to see this project bring the maximum possible benefit to the islands, something which I have mentioned in the past to the developers," he added.
Allan predicted the wind farm will help to tackle fuel poverty in the Hebrides, where residents are subject to high fuel bills -- "which are of course in part the consequence of the winds."
"From the very beginning we have sought to develop a wind farm based on the wishes of the local community," Project director Ron Peddie of Lewis Wind Power said in a statement. "The development team is particularly pleased by the support shown by the public throughout the consultation process and we are confident that they will be pleased when the final wind farm is constructed."