Unfortunately, Stephen Boyd et al do not quantify the economic benefits claimed for the Lewis wind farm (Letters, 4 February). The other side of the coin is the cost to the electricity consumer, which can be readily estimated.
The recent government consultation document The Future of Nuclear Power gives a cost of onshore wind output of up to £62/MWh, although generators could actually be receiving in excess of £80/MWh. However, the cost to consumers is greater because of the need for back-up generation when the wind is light (or too strong), and because of the costs of extra transmission capacity to move the power south. The capital and operational costs of this back-up, required to maintain the normal standard of security of supply, could amount to some £20/MWh. The extra costs of transmission reinforcement from the north of Scotland would exceed £15/MWh, without the cost of the cable to the mainland. So the total cost to consumers for wind power could be in excess of £100/MWh, compared to a mix of nuclear, coal, and gas power stations at £40/MWh (including carbon costs).
Thus for a 400MW wind farm on Lewis the extra cost to electricity consumers would be more than £60 million a year, far in excess of any benefits to the island’s population.
There are also less quantifiable costs to society for the loss of visual amenity, and the damage to the environment. Part of these costs will be reflected in a reduction in tourist activity. Surely it would make more economic sense to support directly investment in infrastructure, transport and industry to create permanent job prospects at a fraction of the cost, and at the same time preserve the landscape and tourist industry.
SIR DONALD MILLER,
Chairman, SSEB/Scottish Power 1982-92
COLIN GIBSON, Power network director, National Grid Group 1993-97, Cormiston Biggar, Lanarkshire
Environmental organisations are as keen as everyone else to support a sustainable economy for our remote islands. We are convinced that exports of renewable energy can form part of such an economy. However, this does not require damaging sensitive environments on Lewis or, indeed, anywhere else. The open letter to the energy minister by the business and engineering community misses the point by insisting that large-scale development is the only solution for island communities.
We welcome the indication that the Scottish Government is clearing the backlog of large wind farm applications, and encourage it to approve all those which do not adversely affect commercial, community or environmental interests.
Research suggests Scotland can meet its renewable electricity targets
and support a strong renewables industry without intruding on areas designated for their national or international significance for wildlife or landscape.
Appropriate renewable generation projects coupled with energy efficiency measures are the best energy strategy for communities throughout Scotland. This is also a cost-effective way of contributing to government energy policy goals: reducing carbon emissions; ensuring security of supply; maintaining competitiveness; and tackling fuel poverty.
There are a range of options available to the Scottish Government to tackle carbon emissions. Care must be taken in that dealing with one environmental problem we don’t create another.
Acting director, WWF Scotland;
STUART HOUSDEN, RSPB director Scotland;
SIMON MILNE, SWT Chief executive;
DUNCAN McLAREN, Chief executive, FoE Scotland
8 February 2008
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