Tuesday, February 05, 2008

The Desecration of the Lammermuir Hills

In all the rhetoric and argument over the Lewis wind farm proposal what is happening on our doorstep is largely ignored. Of course it is not such an emotive argument as that concerning the Outer Hebrides, but it is arguably more significant. Last week the Scottish Government's approved a 68-turbine site in Perthshire, it’s great news according to the energy minister Jim Mather. "There is no doubt that this country can become the green energy capital of Europe." This mantra's beginning to wear a bit thin and its time we started to think in a more holistic way about of impact of wind farms; especially as it affects tourism. This is especially important in the Borders where tourism is our single biggest industry. And as some of you may recall Alex Salmond said, before the election, that there needed to be a curb onshore wind farm development.

Over the past six years the Lammermuir Hills have steadily been allowed to become the wind farm capital of Scotland - and arguably Europe - as there are already 188 turbines either operating, being erected or approved. Today a public enquiry is to begin in Duns over the latest scheme, the Fallago Ridge wind farm, on land owned by the Duke of Roxburghe.

This latest wind farm, if approved, will increase the number of turbines in the Lammermuir Hills to 236, which would represent 15% of the total turbines in Scotland. Naturally it will be argued that the scheme will help to make Scotland the green energy capital of Europe and little attention will be paid to how much money is to be made by both the developer and the landowner. Unusually in the case of Fallago Ridge the landowner and developer are inexorably linked because the Duke is also a shareholder in North British Windpower. This means that some of the huge subsidies that are paid to developers will benefit the Duke to the tune of tens of millions of pounds over the lifetime of the wind farm. We can also assume that he will also receive some additional benefit as a shareholder in the development.

On the Duke's web site he proudly announces. "I have endeavoured to expand the Estates operations into the more commercial tourist related areas, which complement the stunning Borders countryside I and my family are fortunate enough to live in" Does he think the Fallago Ridge wind farm will become a tourist attraction? Or is it that they are sited far enough away from his estate at Kelso as to not affect his tourism income? The fact is that local councils and the Scottish Government have allowed the systematic ruination of the Lammermuir Hills in the pursuit of the elusive green energy ‘goals’. Areas of Great Landscape Value, SSSI's and local opinion have been ignored. Meanwhile one of the south of Scotland's last wild places is steadily being taken by stealth allowing the rich to get richer while Scotland becomes the poorer.


Colin Campbell said...

It is an ugly business that wind energy. At one level it appears to be benign and carbon neutral. At another it is ugly, expensive and a visual impediment on some beautiful countryside. Is it really the panacea that developers claim. As for the Duke, he has to make a buck somewhere. Too bad there is no gold or oil in his estate.

Richard Havers said...

I think the Duke is not too worried about money.....

Don Brownlow said...

There is also fact that building turbines into peatlands is not a good idea. The National Trust (English) states:
"Peat covers about three percent of global land surface, yet the amount of carbon stored within it is enormous – equivalent to two thirds of all the carbon stored in the atmosphere and twice that of all the world’s forests combined.
Whilst healthy peatlands take in and store carbon, damaged peatlands emit greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.
The UK has about 15 percent of the world’s peatlands – storing the equivalent of over 20 years of UK industrial carbon dioxide emissions – so this vital resource should play a central role in the nation’s strategy to tackle climate change."

The carbon payback time for turbines built on peat is reckoned to be between 8 and 16 years according to one scientist: http://environment.newscientist.com/article/mg19125591.600.html
I doubt whether the Fallago Rig turbines would last as long as 16 years before being replaced.

Fitaloon said...

Wind turbines are great when you see them for the first time. So impressive to look at and apparently silent as you glide past them in a car. Then you see them not working when the wind is down and you wonder a bit about how we are going to get electricty on those nice calm days and you realise that behind each turbine there has to be a back up source of electricity. A source that is available on tap for immediate use, in case the wind dies down. This backup source is an expensive way of producing electricity as it must be available normally within minutes. This means the true cost of electricty from Turbines is hidden and the true enviromental cost is also hidden as this standby is not factored into how "green" the turbines are.
The Spectator has a good article here.

Richard Havers said...

Fit, thanks for the link to the Spectator blog. The misinformation and downright untruths in this debate on wind power really confuse the issue.

The fact is that there is no real policy, just a series of knee jerk reactions from the Scottish Govt.