The battle between four crofting townships wishing to develop community-owned wind farms near Stornoway and Lewis Wind Power, made up of French multinational EDF in partnership with Wood Group, is hotting up still further.

The four townships intend to bid in the Contract for Differences auction in May 2019 competing directly with LWP to put wind turbines on the same sites.

Their announcement comes a week after Energy Minister Claire Perry confirmed when the next round of renewables subsidy applications would open, slightly later than expected.

The four townships are Sandwick North Street, Sandwick East Street, Melbost & Branahuie and Aignish – which have all lodged Section 50b applications with the Crofting Commission for permission to go ahead with power-generation developments on their common grazings.

The Contract for Differences scheme was set up primarily for multinationals to help offset the extra costs that come with developing new technologies.

The townships will be bidding in the ‘Remote Island Wind’ pot in the CfD auction and will be going head-to-head against bigger schemes planned for the Isle of Lewis. LWP will be looking for a subsidy for their Stornoway and Uisenis wind farms, while Forsa Energy will be looking for a subsidy for its one at Tolsta.

Altogether, the four crofting townships hope to develop 21 turbines, with a total output of 105MW. Although that comprises four different schemes, they all meet or exceed the 5MW threshold for eligibility into the CfD scheme.

North Street is planning one turbine of 5MW, while Aignish is planning two (10MW total), Melbost eight (40MW) and East Street 10 (50MW).  The locations of the turbines exactly match the approved locations for 21 of the 36 turbines belonging to LWP’s Stornoway wind farm.

It is thought that LWP now want 33 bigger turbines in different locations to those already approved.

However, the townships are encouraged that their rivals have full planning consent for their original scheme as they want to put their turbines in the same places. Final preparations are being made to submit applications for planning consent to Comhairle nan Eilean Siar.

Aignish, Melbost and East Street expect to be submitting their applications by October, while North Street hope to be in a position to put theirs in earlier.

Sandwick North Street representative Rhoda Mackenzie said they are hopeful that all the battling will turn out to have been worthwhile, with a successful bid in May.

If successful at the CfD auction, Rhoda stressed that all the profits would go into a community benefit fund for distribution throughout the whole of the Western Isles.

“We want to spread this, to invest in the economy of the entire Western Isles, from the Butt to Barra.  The profit won’t be kept by the four townships. We will be able to put more than £5million a year into the Western Isles economy, compared to about £525,000 from EDF.

“The rental income that Stornoway Trust and the crofter shareholders will get from these projects will be same whoever builds them.  We would pay at least as much rent to the Trust as EDF would.  The huge difference is in the community benefit.

“Why should we be fighting for an interconnector if it’s going to be nothing but a power lead for multinationals like EDF and Forsa?

 “We feel we’ve met the requirements to submit a full planning application and we expect it to be a smooth process.

“We look forward to submitting our bid to the CfD auction in May.”

Their fight with LWP over the sites will be determined by the Scottish Land Court – it will decide on LWP’s Section 19a application for approval as well as the townships’ application to the Crofting Commission under Section 50b.