I read the recent open letter on wind farms to Jim Mather, Energy Minister, with growing astonishment and bafflement as to how the signatories could have allowed themselves to believe that on-shore wind farms bring any benefit to Scotland, far less that they are vital to economic wellbeing. They certainly bring benefits to the power companies and land owners, but at what cost?
Fact: Scotland already exports more than 20% of all the electricity it generates; we don’t need any more, especially when it involves the destruction of our greatest asset – the land. Fact: the only benefits to local communities are in the form of so-called community funds from the generating companies, and industrial rates paid to local authorities. But the losses will last for years to come when residents and visitors desert the blighted, barren landscape. Fact: wind farms do not create permanent jobs, only temporary construction work. Fact: there is no wind-related renewable technology to be developed in Scotland – it already exists in Denmark, where I used to work, and Germany, and that is where the real economic benefits rest.
It is openly acknowledged that wind power is not viable without the substantial economic assistance which we pay for through higher taxes and electricity bills, that it is the least green of all the low-emission technologies, with significantly higher lifetime CO2 release than hydro, tidal and nuclear, and that it can never provide a significant and reliable part of our ongoing power demand. It does not “provide power for hundreds of thousands of homes”; it provides power for industrial companies in the south for commercial carbon trading.
The sad fact is that so far we have failed to encourage and develop the integrated technologies which bring about large-scale energy saving, recovery and redistribution, and instead are wasting huge amounts of money and natural resources on the gesture that is wind power. It is not too late to make Scotland the centre for that really relevant technology which would create indigenous high value industries, exports and jobs. The signatories should do their homework and promote what we really need.
Dan Wright, consulting engineer, Blair Mill, Dalry, Ayrshire.
Why do the signatories of the letter want to build a wind farm on Lewis that will provide an income, subsidised by the public, of £50m per year to the developers, destroy the landscape, permanently damage the ecology, provide few lasting employment opportunities, and make, at best, a trivial contribution to CO2 reduction?
If they are genuinely concerned for the economic wellbeing of the people who live in Lewis, would it not be more sensible to pay £50m annually direct into the Western Isles to improve infrastructure, transport, create permanent job prospects and at the same time preserve the landscape and tourism industry?
Surely they cannot suggest seriously that producing electricity from an unpredictable and intermittent source, far removed from the demand, with the huge associated transmission costs, is a vital component of Scotland’s economic future?
Norman McNab, 14 Branziert Road North, Killearn.
I have known something of “the great moor” on the north of Lewis for nearly 60 years. I have walked it from side to side and end to end. I have watched light and shade running across its wide spaces, and wondered at the colours changing from moment to moment and season to season.
I have soaked, unavoidably, my legs in the endless variety of bog and been startled by the small birds – snipe, dunlin, greenshank – rising from the soft-edged pools and ruffled lochs. I have watched the gulls on Blar nam Faoileag, resting there as if they had read the name on a map, and I have seen the great birds – the ravens, the two divers and the two eagles – sweeping across wonderful infinities of sky above or floating low in the waters of the moor.
Friends have fished up the rivers and in the lochs, for salmon, sea-trout and the dark trout of Loch Ghriais or Loch Bacabhat.
And I have stood on the mounds, the cairns, the ruined walls of countless shielings, on the innumerable named knolls and open stretches, all of which have had their place in the history of island people, in their agricultural systems and in their hearts. I have talked with people who have worked in the moor to the music of the skylark and who have stood in deep contemplation by the remnant walls once occupied by their ancestors. I have heard them speak of the creature in Loch Eileagbhal and of the usefulness of plants in Loch Bhataleois. I have seen them lying in the heather on sunny days.
This part of Lewis, picked on for a gigantic wind farm, is not just a supreme treasure of the Outer Hebrides, leading the field shared by the machair, the mountains and the shrines of prehistory and history. It is recognised for its world of nature and its evolutionary meaning by the top level of designations which have been assigned to it to secure its preservation and to recognise its priceless, irreplaceable qualities. It is not just a place. It is the soul of Lewis.
No undemocratic, industrial interest can possibly be encouraged to destroy such a thing.
Michael Robson, 10 Port of Ness, Isle of Lewis.
7 February 2008
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