First Minister Alex Salmond has refuted any suggestion that East Lothian has been forced to take an unfair share of the country’s wind farm burden.
Scotland’s top politician visited Crystal Rig windfarm in the Lammermuirs for the commissioning of five additional turbines last Friday, when he told the Courier that the county was not being unfairly targeted compared to other local authorities.
But his site tour to mark Green Energy Day has been dismissed as a publicity stunt by local Labour MP Iain Gray, who claims the SNP administration at Holyrood is misleading the public over its contribution towards greener energy.
The completion of phase two of Crystal Rig, which straddles the boundary between East Lothian and the Scottish Borders, raises the number of operational turbines on site to 25, providing enough energy to power 41,000 homes.
More significantly, it takes Scotland’s combined renewables (wind, hydro, bio-mass and landfill gas) capacity to 2,530 megawatts, overtaking nuclear capacity (2,465 megawatts) for the first time.
Crystal Rig, one of the largest wind farms in Scotland, could quadruple in size by 2010. An additional 52 turbines are due to be commissioned by the end of 2009, while developers Fred Olsen Renewables recently submitted a planning application with East Lothian Council for a final batch of nine.
In March, it required the casting vote of then East Lothian planning convenor, Councillor, Norman Hampshire to pass plans for a 16-turbine wind farm at nearby Aitkengall – despite the council’s own planning officials warning it would be an eyesore and significant public opposition in Innerwick and elsewhere.
Crystal Rig is connected to the national grid at Spott by six miles of underground cables.
Its 25 completed turbines are all located in the Borders, but 40 of the remaining 61 in the pipeline will be sited in East Lothian.
Speaking exclusively to the Courier at Crystal Rig, Mr Salmond, who wants to phase out nuclear power, insisted: “There will be an even spread of wind farms across the country.
“Crystal Rig itself is going to provide 200 megawatts of power, about three per cent of Scotland’s requirements.
“Torness and Hunterston will eventually reach the end of their natural lives. That is when renewables will really come into their own.
“I think it’s a hugely significant moment. It shows that this part of Scotland, which obviously includes Torness, is producing a substantial amount of power.
He added: “Crystal Rig is a sixth the capacity of Torness, but it is nevertheless a significant contributor to the national grid and a generator of jobs.
It is such an inspirational site. This is how these things should be handled.”
The First Minister admitted that the Scottish Government was looking increasingly towards off-shore wind farms. But he confirmed there were no plans to establish one in the Firth of Forth.
“I think esturine development is not ideal.” he said.
“ There is a pilot project in the outer Moray Firth, but it is 15 miles offshore and there is no visual impact.
“There are no plans for esturine windsite development – it is not as beneficial.”
Reacting to Mr Salmond’s visit, Mr Gray said: “I am a big supporter of renewable energy, but the SNP has a poor track record on this going back years.
“In fact, of 2,500 megawatts of renewable capacity, the SNP is responsible for precisely none.
“Even worse, SNP ministers have projects to triple that capacity mouldering in their in-tray. They’d be better spending their time processing some of those than being photographed congratulating themselves beside wind farms the previous executive agreed to.”
The Labour MSP, who’s supportive of a Torness B plant, added: “Any energy expert will tell you that wind farms only ever operate at around 25 per cent of their capacity. Compare that to nuclear stations like Torness which run at between 75 per cent and 100 per cent of capacity.”
14 September 2007