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Disaster in the wind for Scotland  

Gavin Musgrove reports (‘Tourism businesses are feeling positive’) that ‘Most tourism businesses in Badenoch and Strathspey are in bullish mood over their prospects for the next one or two years, according to a survey which is the first of its kind to be carried out in Scotland’.

It is ‘the next one or two years’ timeline that should concern each of Badenoch and Strathspey’s 350 front-line tourism businesses mentioned in the report.

If the ambition of Energy Minister Jim Mather is realised, that timeline will be reduced to nine months – the period in which windfarm applications will be determined where there is no public inquiry, according to a recent Government announcement.

Less than 300 days to approve the undoing of 5,000 evolutionary years! For it’s taken that long to create the peat on which most windfarms will be constructed – the same peat moorlands of Badenoch and Strathspey’s wild and unspoiled open spaces on which depends the area’s tourism-based economy.

With trends in Scottish tourism ‘moving toward outdoor activities and healthy living, (which) this area is so well placed to deliver’, according to Mr Alan Rankin, chief executive of Aviemore and Cairngorm Destination Management Ltd, any local development that puts at risk the unspoilt environment deserves to be challenged by everyone dependent on tourism.

The same need be said of every tourism-based business not only in the Highlands but all of Scotland where, according to British Wind Energy Association’s (BWEA) figures either “under construction”, “consented”, “in the planning system” and operating, there are 156 windfarms with 3,044 turbines.

To meet the Government’s stated objective of generating 50 per cent of Scotland’s electricity from renewable sources (largely wind) by 2020, a minimum additional 3,000 turbines will be required (Scottish Sustainable Energy Foundation) at a cost estimated by the SSEF in excess of half a billion pounds, paid largely to foreign developers and (generally wealthy) large landowners.

At the end of the day, it is the consumer who picks up the tab. In 2006 alone, some £88 million will, unannounced, have been added to our electric bills already.

Moray and Nairn are squarely in the target of developers aiming to profit from the Government’s goal. Between Rothes and Ballindalloch, there are already 50 turbines with 14 more applied for.

But it is the seven windfarms on the rim of the Cairngorm National Park and in the Findhorn and Spey watersheds – Berryburn, Cairn Duhie, Dunerne, Tom nan Clark, Corriegarth, Glen Kirk and now Dorenell Farm/Glenfiddich – that will change forever the character of Badenoch and Strathspey and neighbouring areas.

Rising in a massive east-west arc, and impacting visually everywhere in the Cairngorms, the accumulation of over 200 turbines, each up to 400 feet high and supported by miles of access roads and towering pylons, will transform totally the lives of local people and the aspect of a landscape whose very wildness is what has attracted visitors to the area for generations.

If these renewable energy developments could be defended by pointing to a reduction in carbon emissions from fossil-fuelled generators, that could be a factor mitigating their despoilation of the landscape, people’s lives and their livlihood.

The little recognised fact is that, because wind blows when it wants, where it wants, wind-based energy is neither a balanced nor reliable source of electricity and must be backed up by electricty generated from sources that are constant: oil, gas, coal and nuclear.

Spain, the second lar-gest continental operator of on-shore turbines, was deemed this month to be Europe’s largest producer of greenhouse gases from its fossil-fuelled generators. Germany, the largest continental operator of wind turbines, is constructing 26 coal-based generating plants.

Also little known is that our peatlands are one of the world’s largest storehouses of carbon, akin to tropical rainforest. When dug up to lay down foundations for a wind-turbine, for example, the stored carbon is released into the atmosphere, contributing to global warming.

This is why Friends of the Earth, though well-disposed to renewable energy, are against turbine developments on peatlands, as was the unanimous Scottish Parliament Environment and Rural Development Committee’s Report into Climate Change.

Scotland need not follow these dead-end paths. There is an alternative policy to a blinkered reliance on on-shore turbines. It is outlined in the Scottish Budget Spending Review, chapter 7: A Greener Scotland.

But by pressing for wind-farms, Jim Mather stands to destroy Scotland’s place as the leader of European eco-tourism and the ‘bullish mood’ of Strathspey and Badenoch’s 350 tourism businesses will be a thing of the past.

Tourism operators everywhere should take the Energy Minister’s nine- month timeline for wind-farm approvals as a stark warning to speak out now – or face the consequences two years hence. – Yours etc,

JAMES STUART, Dunphail, Moray

Strathspey & Badenoch Herald

12 December 2007

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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