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Island windfall from gathering of renewable energy experts

A GATHERING of renewable energy experts is predicted to inject around £350,000 into the economy of a Scottish island.

Around 220 people from around the world will go to Stornoway, on Lewis, to take part in the Environmental Interactions of Marine Renewables (EIMR) international conference.

The event, which starts on April 30 and runs for two days, is being held in the An Lanntair Arts Centre in the town but also includes workshops and field trips.

Visitors, from the likes of North America, China and Australia, will be shown the findings of the Hebridean Marine Energy Futures project as well as offered the chance to see the site on the north west coast of the island which may one day host the world's largest wave farm.

Neil Brownlee, head of VisitScotland's Business Tourism Unit (BTU), said: "Events such as the EIMR international conference are hugely important to Scotland's visitor economy, providing a boost for accommodation providers and restaurants.

"I am sure the event will help to highlight the appeal of Lewis and Harris as a fantastic leisure destination and place to do business."

Arne Vogler, senior research engineer at the University of the Highlands and Island's Lews Castle College, is the organiser of the conference.

Mr Vogler said: "This conference will allow the international research community to exchange experiences and findings from marine energy developments around the globe. "It is a great opportunity, not just for the Hebrides, but for Scotland to showcase its expertise in the renewable energies industry."

Support to put the conference on was provided by the VisitScotland Conference Bid Fund and it forms part of the Homecoming programme for this year.

Organisations such as Scottish Natural Heritage, the Natural Environment Research Council, Highlands and Islands Enterprise and Marine Scotland Science have also provided backing.

Scottish renewable energy firms Aquamarine Power and Pelamis Wave Power are also involved as is as the European Marine Energy Centre on Orkney.

Andrea Copping, based at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Washington in the United States, is among the delegates coming to Lewis and said: "From the perspective of the marine energy research community in the United States, this is the foremost conference that specifically addresses potential environmental effects of wave and tidal development worldwide."

The Conference Bid Fund has been used to secure 46 events in Scotland which have a predicted spend of £106 million. VisitScotland said the fund has so far invested £936,000 with conferences stretching to 2021.

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