As one small, divided Ross-shire community (Garve and District) this week considered how a £5million fund could be put to use should a wind farm be located in its midst, another (Fairburn) steadied itself for the opening next week of full-blooded debate over a proposed scheme on its doorstep.
Residents in a third, meanwhile, are on tenterhooks pending an anticipated application within weeks at Hill of Nigg.
As ever, sharp differences of opinion have been apparent from the outset with, in some cases, neighbours taking starkly contrasting stances and estates at loggerheads with one another.
Suffice to say in the space available here that all concerned would do well to seek out the lessons learned from numerous existing schemes, including that at Novar, which is now in its 10th year.
In the gentle 1983 comedy, Local Hero, an American oil company sent its representative to try and buy up an entire village where it wanted to build an oil refinery. It’s hard to avoid modern-day comparisons, although of course this time around the rush to renewables is spurred by the belated realisation that fossil fuels like oil are not going to last forever.
In the case of the Lochluichart scheme, there is inevitably a whiff of suspicion over the timing of the announcement of an agreement between Infinergy and Highland Council over a negotiated fund for the benefit of the local community. The proposal is, after all, yet to be determined by Scottish Ministers. This is a time for cool heads and a no-nonsense approach in dealings with companies that stand to make millions out of renewable schemes.
While accepting the need to meet our ever-increasing energy requirements from alternative and sustainable resources, it’s crucial that we also scrutinise each proposal on merit, take full account of those most affected and ensure that cast-iron conditions are in place over exit strategies.
7 December 2007
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