David Bellamy, the broadcaster and environmentalist, has lambasted the Scottish government’s “baffling” decision to approve the construction of the huge Clyde wind farm in South Lanarkshire, describing the project as “an enormous blot on the credibility of Scotland as a green place”.
His comments are a stark contrast to those of Alex Salmond, the First Minister, who last week announced the scheme as a step on the road to making Scotland the “green capital” of Europe. A total of 152 turbines are to be installed in clusters in the South Lanarkshire hill near the village of Abington, close to the M74.
Dr Bellamy represents an increasingly vocal minority within a green lobby that has been largely supportive of wind power. He is deeply critical, attacking both its reliability and its impact on the environment. Some critics of wind farms even blame their fluctuating output for a widespread power failure in East Anglia in May, and for a massive blackout across Germany and parts of France in November 2006.
“These things produce a very wobbly amount of energy – they have to be backed up all the time by gas or coal to make sure that we have grid security,” Dr Bellamy said.
“Research in Holland has shown that the amount of energy produced is very small. Why are we despoiling great chunks of the countryside when there are other more economic ways of doing it? If the Scottish government goes ahead, it will only regret it.”
A decision by the Holyrood administration in January, to block plans for a wind farm on the Isle of Lewis, had delighted him. “That was about impugning the sanctity of a very important natural area, and a great hub of tourism. I had an extra glass of red wine after that announcement. But this decision is simply baffling,” Dr Bellamy said.
Supporters of the Abington scheme say that it will bring “600 million in investment and create 200 construction jobs when it goes on site next year. Since it stands alongside a motorway, one argument in the development’s favour is based on the notion that this rural area has already been “industrialised”.
The project has bitterly divided the local community, where it is supported by some landowners who stand to benefit from rents, but opposed by others who believe that the turbines will ruin the view.
Opponents are appalled by the size of the turbines, which stand 300ft (91m) high and have blades the length of a jumbo jet’s wing. To make matters worse, Dr Bellamy said, the installation of these turbines could be contemplated by power generation companies only because of massive subsidies that are ultimately funded by consumers. In that regard, he welcomed a report by the House of Commons Business and Enterprise Committee, which this week called for a windfall tax on energy companies that are said to have profited from the EU trading scheme for carbon emissions.
He said: “If these hidden subsidies were taken away, there would not be a single wind turbine built in Britain. It costs a lot of money to build a wind farm – and it’s the offshore people who fund it. Scotland is one the most amazing bits of Europe, and it hasn’t been buggered up yet.”
David Mundell, the Conservative MP for Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale and Tweeddale, echoed Dr Bellamy’s comments and criticised the project as “an abomination”.
David Bruce, of the Scottish Wind Assessment Project, who grew up near Abington, said that the development was a disaster for the local environment. He said: “The Lewis site was heavily designated under European law for its wildlife. Abington is in South Lanarkshire and the countryside there is a forgotten jewel. It is not designated, so there is an open season for industrialisation. It should not be thrown away on a whim.”
Some environmental groups, including the WWF, have backed the Clyde wind farm. A spokesman for the Scottish government said that it represented an important step in the development of renewable energy in Scotland and in meeting European targets.
“It is another step towards making Scotland the green energy capital of Europe,” he added.
“All forms of renewable energy – including onshore wind energy projects such as this – will have a crucial role to play in realising Scotland’s vast green energy potential and cutting the harmful emissions that cause climate change.”
30 July 2008
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