The stillness of the three wind turbines at Grimshader in Lewis has a perfectly good explanation, it has emerged this week: they are not switched on.
Some Lewis residents have been using the ‘Gazette’ letters page to point out that while the turbines turn some days, others they do not – and it seems that the strenght of the wind has little to do with this.
“Is it me, or does anyone else wonder why the three windmills on the Grimshader road don’t appear to work?” asked Alastair Fraser. “Enough power to boil several electric kettles is being wasted. Perhaps we don’t have the right kind of wind up here.”
However, Iain MacIver of the Stornoway Trust has confirmed to the ‘Gazette’ that the turbines are often switched off – because the National Grid is ‘problematic’. Mr MacIver contends that the Western Isles portion of the grid is not strong enough to make the turbines useful.
“If the large projects are going to go ahead, the first thing that would happen is that the grid has to be strengthened,” said Mr MacIver, adding that the expense of this may end up being the responsibility of the wind farm developers.
However, Scottish and Southern Energy (SSE), which maintains the grid, has stressed that any so-called ‘problems’ with the Grimshader turbines are not new, and were not unforeseen.
SSE spokeswoman Jennifer McGregor confirmed that because wind is not a constant reliable resource, the turbines are quite often switched off. “Because of the nature of the network arrangements on the island, there are times when energy is being imported and times when the island relies on the Battery Point power station,” she said. “The difficulty would be if the wind dropped and the extra generation of the windfarm would be very suddenly lost.
“Because a drop in wind energy would mean a drop in power to homes, SSE cannot rely on them without using the power station as a backup.
This problem will exist as long as the grid remains in its current state. There are currently plans to upgrade the entire grid, including the Wester Isles, in 2012. However, there is no firm date for the Isles upgrade; and, the spokeswoman confirmed, it is certainly “some years down the line”.
She also confirmed that all this was fully appreciated by the developer before the turbines went up.
Richard Crosby-Dawson of the Oxfordshire-based firm FIM Services Ltd, the agent which manages the privately-owned development, disagrees.
“The grid is the problem. We are clearly dissatisfied with the situation,” said Mr Crosby-Dawson. “There is a strong pressure being brought to bear to get the damn things to work immediately.”
Stornoway Gazette, June 21, 2007
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