Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Aikengall - Another Wild Place About To Be Lost

I posted last week about the planning anarchy surrounding wind farms that is rife in Scotland. The site at Aikengall in East Lothian is about 8 miles from us and so we decided to go up there today to have a look around for ourselves; Dave Lochhead and his daughter Ailsa (just returned from Ecuador) came with us. We parked the Landrover in a secluded valley and had a picnic before we headed up a cleugh to the open moorland where the 18 wind turbines will be sighted.

Standing on the top of the hills looking down into the valley below and away off in the mist to the north sea it brings home the damage that these wind farms are doing. Sited on huge concrete bases the size of football pitches that ruin the heather moorlands, as they disrupt the watercourses, it is a tragedy in the making. This particular site, which was approved against the wishes of the council's planning department and only got through on the casting vote of the chairman, was a ludicrous decision.

The line of trees in the mid foreground of this picture are on the edge of a deep deep cleugh (Scots Gaelic word meaning narrow steep sided valley) that is one of four on the proposed wind farm site. It is an SSSI (Site of special scientific interest). The building of these wind farms, according to Scottish Natural Heritage, will damage the eco system in these beautiful unspoiled hills.

Walking back to the car with the skylark’s overhead it made me sad to think that money drives people to such things. In this case the landowner at Aikengall who with such huge subsidies being dangled in front of him, perhaps naturally succumbs. The councillor, whose casting vote won the day, is attracted to the offer of money by the wind farm company to his constituency. The wind farm companies who are being paid way over the odds for this inefficiently produced energy are trying to grab every opportunity to place more turbines in places that are special – before the bubble bursts.

This was our view, walking back down off the hills, of the Crystal Rig wind farm. Soon this area will have close to a hundred turbines across it. This land will never ever be the same again. And before anyone lectures me on the fact that the whole planet will disappear unless we do something then start thinking about what we could be saving in energy before we carry on finding new ways and new places to generate more energy to make a few people even richer. This is the rape of Scotland on an industrial scale.


David Ross said...

If people (e.g. Al Gore) or organisations (even pseudo-organisations e.g. IPCC) with economic and/or political influence promote a particular meme, then the meme has a greater chance of influencing the masses. Such memes might include "It doesn’t cost the Earth to save the planet”, “Reducing your impact on our environment”, “Carbon emissions”, “Global Warming" and "Carbon Footprint". If the meme increases the income of the individual or organisation (even a pseudo-organisation e.g. IPCC), then some other memes come into play such as “jump on the bandwagon” and “get rich quick”.
Look out! The sun, cosmic rays, atomic particles, solar winds, clouds, volcanoes, animals, vegetation and the oceans, although your contribution is currently deemed trifling compared to that of we humans - your footprint is next to be controlled. Be warned!

r morris said...

Interesting blog, Richard. You might be surprised that within five or six miles of my home here in Idaho (Western USA) there is a wind farm. You reinforce the economic argument that aesthetics should be considered as an economic commodity, but rarely is. And one finds that the powers-that-be rarely put their aestetic-damaging projects in areas where they live or where there is a vast voting constituency. I don't know much about the Scottish Borders, but I am a resident of a small western state in the US that has long been regarded as a resource colony and little else. Thirty miles north of us we have a huge nuclear facility belonging to the government. It was placed there because of the wide-open spaces and the fact that if there were to be some sort of accident, it would not affect many people. It was also placed here because western states (California and Washington are not in this category as they are too wealthy) are often hard-up for any kind of income-generating project, even if it is a potentially bad one. And with so much private ownership of land, any one farmer or rancher can decide to subdivide or sell his land as a windfarm.

Thanks also for the lovely pictures of your area. To this guy out in the boondocks of Idaho, it seems almost as exotic as another planet.

Keep 'havering on'.
r morris

Richard Havers said...

David, great and thoughtful post!

Rob, within site of the wind farm that's p[roposed at Aikengall is Torness a Nucleur power station. So like Idaho the borders and East Lothian are a strong resouce area for not just Scotland but the whole of the UK.

Farmers here are much like farmers there!

You have the flyover states, we have the drive through counties (the Scottish Borders!)

jim said...

interesting blog,

i have seen the sitings for the proposed turbines at Aikengall. the proposed farm there joins up with the crystal rig site which is only a couple of hundred metres away. As has been pointed out the wind farm will be in view of the torness nuclear power station, that seems like a great advert for scotland being a user of green energy for people driving northon the a1. i personally view the turbines as an interesting feature in the heather hills, making them more beautiful and magical than before, that is my view of them, i do agree that they should not be situated here there and every where with turbines dotted around on all of scotlands hills, surely it is better to concentrate the areas into just a few relatively large areas than have many small ones. On viewing the site one will also notice that there is a large dump taking lots of waste from edinburgh and tha surrounding area as well as a large cement works pumping out a large plume of smoke 24 hours a day, these seem to be convieniently hidden in the pictures by the fog, the area isnt the unspoilt virgin land it is claimed to be. Aikengall seems like a good site to me. i also beleive that the company building the site have pledged to provide services and resources to the local area with childrens play parks etc, surely beneficial to the area?

on looking at the evidence i feel that it is a very suitable and well chosen site, the public should judge the facts before jumping to any conclusions!

Richard Havers said...

Jim, you make some interesting points about what happens down on the coastal strip. Bit I really didn't take the pictures on a misty day deliberately!

The biggest argument, putting to one side the inefficiencies of turbines and the skewed economics of on shore wind farms, is over how overrun the Lammermuir Hills are becoming. There is much bobbing and weaving by developers and planners which is making any strategic view of wind farm placement a difficult issue to grapple with.

The fact that this is part of an AGLV and a SSSI is also a significant factor, added to the fact that the council's own planning department advised against putting the turbines here. At the end of the day the decision came down to one casting vote, from a councillor whose constituents stood to gain from the money. This is not true democracy.

Graham said...

Now hang on a minute here just a couple of points I would like to make....Point 1 Quote "We parked the Landrover" last time i looked that wasn't the most ECO friendly car now was it!
Point 2 What do u think would b better in the long run.... A great big dirty nuclear power station or some wind turbines. Difficult choice really isn't it!!!!

Don said...


Thank you for continuing to raise this issue.

Sadly, it brings the usual responses that reveal little except the prevailing ignorance regarding wind turbines and how power is generated.


Wind is not an alternative to nuclear. Nuclear is a base load generator that provides the electricity that keeps your lights on. Torness provides a quarter of Scotland's power (not 'equivalent to xx homes' as the wind industry puts it).

Jonathan Porritt's pro-wind Sustainable Development Commission stated, in the most rabidly pro-wind report to date: “It would be unrealistic to assume that wind energy would displace any nuclear capacity,” (‘Wind Power in the UK’, Sustainable Development Commission. 2005. p35).

Wind is an intermittent and unreliable generator that does not follow demand. The American wind industry is more honest than ours: "You really don't count on wind energy as capacity. It is different from other technologies because it can't be dispatched." (Christine Real de Azua, assistant director of communications for the American Wind Energy Association).

The experience in countries with very large wind capacity (Germany, Denmark, Spain, some states in the US) is that it has not closed any conventional power stations.

Germany, with over 22,000 turbines, running out of good onshore sites and with political pressure not to build new nuclear actually decided to build 26 new coal-fired power stations last year.

Building wind turbines on sites like Aikengall is even more of a nonsense because of the damage that is being done to the peat moorland.

I suggest you go up to the site and look at the miles of tracks bulldozed through the peat.

The carbon payback on building turbines in a metre of peat has been calculated by some (non-industry) experts to be as long as 8-16 years. The latter figure is longer than the likely life cycle of the turbines they are building!

We have the ludicrous situation where bodies like the National Trust are running campaigns to stop peat erosion on moorland while the wind industry destroys peatland and causes hugely damaging peat slides (as recently in Ireland) through its carelessness.

If you can bear to read the other side of the story, I suggest that you follow up the references on the following web page:

Then tell us where, in the real world (rather than the fertile imaginations of the wind industry), 'big wind' has resulted in significant savings of CO2 emissions.

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