Jim Guthrie looks out of his window, across the lovely wooded valley of the River Duisk.
Beneath his house a bridge crosses the river, carrying the A714 road from Girvan up to Barrhill.
Suddenly there’s a great roaring din. A huge 12-wheeled truck is having trouble crossing the narrow bridge, and then negotiating the sharp bend at the far side. Jim sighs and says: “At least that one didn’t smash the bridge. It’s been damaged so often, the council doesn’t bother to do the repairs any more”.
The A714 is a narrow, steep road but its A-road status makes it in theory suitable for all types of traffic. These days many very long trucks are using it because of windfarm developments in the area. Land needs to be cleared, and this often requires the felling of timber. Scarring new tracks are built across virgin country, and there is much disruptive construction work. Big loads – including the colossal turbines themselves – are transported up totally unsuitable roads.
Jim Guthrie is a retired Church of Scotland minister. Like so many Scots, he is all in favour of renewable energy. But local, harrowing experience has made him deeply sceptical about windfarms.
Through the recent severe winter, when there was a big demand for electricity, Jim monitored the turbines in his immediate area. He counted 73 days when there was little or no turbine activity. “The turbines don’t operate if there’s a hard frost, or if the wind speed is less than 15mph or more than 45 mph. So they simply don’t work for long periods,” he says. “Are they worth all the bother they cause? I don’t think so”.
With Jim is Claire Perrie, secretary of the local community council. She tells me: “I don’t think that people in Glasgow or Edinburgh understand what it’s like living near these things. And I don’t think some politicians understand what they’ve agreed to. The landowners and the contactors make a lot of money, the rest of us just suffer.”
She adds: “We’re going to have to consider direct action – and I never thought I’d say that – if the Breaker Hill windfarm goes ahead”.
There are already three large scale windfarms in this beautiful part of South Carrick. The proposed Breaker Hill development would add another 15 turbines to the 144 that have already been erected in a very compact geographical area. Scottish National Heritage insists that several windfarms should not be built close to each other, but developers have other ideas.
The vast Hadyard Hill windfarm, just three miles inland from Girvan, has 56 turbines built across gently undulating moorland. In the valley below live three generations of the Baldwin family.
Robert Baldwin shows me a video he has made of the creepy “shadow flicker” which blights his home. “This is bad enough, but what’s worse is the noise, when the turbines are operating at full tilt. They stop you sleeping, and we’re double-glazed. It’s like having a loud tumble drier on, a constant, grating, whooshing noise,” he says.
There is a proposal for a further windfarm to be built immediately behind his house. Soon he and his family could be literally surrounded by huge turbines.
Jim Guthrie says: “I worked in the shipyards before I became a minister, and then I had a rural parish at the time of foot and mouth ten years ago. But I’ve never felt as helpless as I do now. The most worrying thing of all for the folk around here is that their houses are losing value, fast. They reckon they won’t be able to sell them if they feel they have to get out.”
Some community projects have benefited from investment by windfarm developers. But in South Carrick tourism is a crucial industry, and this, obviously enough, is being adversely affected.
I would not say, as some do, that windfarms are just a scam. But they produce electricity only intermittently, they disrupt communities and rupture the environment. Surely wave and tidal power would provide far more power at far less social cost?
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