Monday, August 10, 2009

A turbine too far?

This great photo of the Minsca Wind Farm, near Lockerbie, is © Walter Baxter and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence. It is a much better photo than any of my own efforts to date. Why have I used it at the top of today's post?

Those who know me will attest that I usually have an opinion. I'm not someone who ticks the 'Don't know' or 'Don't care' options in questionnaires. But wind farms have my mind in a twist. You see, part of me abhors the spread of these turbines over much of Scotland's countryside.

That's not new. As long as I have been a walker I have despaired about the pylons that walk across and spoil our beautiful views. What hill in lowland Scotland does not, or so it seems, have a mobile phone mast on top of it? Windfarms now are proliferating like the H1N1 virus, especially in the south of Scotland, and I doubt that there will soon be any view from a high point in the Southern Uplands which does not include wind turbines.

Yet, I understand the Goverment's wish, and need, for a move towards renewable sources of energy. But is wind really the best option?

The problem with wind farms is that one always will need to have other sources of energy generation available on tap for those days when the wind is not blowing. But of course on the days when it is, these back up power stations need not necessarily be producing power.

It is only recently that I've become aware of the scale of the proliferation of windfarms, and the alarm bells have started to ring. Soon I'll be driving from Lockerbie to Glasgow through a landscape covered in wind turbines. Preliminary work has already started on the country's largest wind farm, with 152 turbines, around Abington. This received the go-ahead from the Scottish Government in June, see here.

Another huge farm, Harestanes in Ae Forest, will dominate the Dumfries - Moffat road with its 71 turbines.

And, unbelievably, there are plans for a wind farm on the top of the Devil's Beeftub, north of Moffat, in an area that attracts many tourists.

It's not stopping. Read this article to see how many windfarms are planned for the area.

What finally shook me out of my apathy was the news that RES has applied for permission again for a wind farm at Minnygap. An original application was withdrawn and the company has addressed concerns expressed by objectors in a new planning application.

I've just discovered this wonderful area on the Annandale Estates. I described a walk recently here. The 10 turbines will go on to the hills behind the Minnygap farms in my photo above.

I met a resident of Upper Minnygap, Sarah Burchell, recently. She has been a leading protester against the profusion of wind farms in the area, with her group Trees Not Turbines. She was at the Johnstonebridge village hall last Thursday to explain her side of the story. And very eloquent, passionate and persuasive she was.

In the next room, RES had a display with computer simulations, display boards, fancy booklets and handouts, all to persuade us why the development should go ahead. The company had three members of staff on hand to answer questions. There is a very professional website about the project here.

When the wind turbines go up here, this area will be off limits. Does it matter?

The RES project has just ten turbines. It would adjoin Scottish Power's huge development at Harestanes in Ae Forest with its 71 turbines.

Front page of the local paper last week. To protest, or not to protest, that's the decision I have to make. I love Scotland's countryside with a passion. It's being ravaged, perhaps for good reason, but that's sad. Are the reasons good enough to stand by and let it happen?

Sarah Burchell says, "The landscape is the most precious asset we have." I have to agree, but Scots have never been very good at protecting and cherishing it.

1 comment:

  1. For some time we have been fighting Windfarm development arount the Firth of Clyde. As a major tourist area the windfarms would destroy the attractiveness of the hills and areas just outside the Loch Lomand and Trossachs National Park. However it is all to do with big business - Scottosh Power, N-Power, Scottish and Southern and Airtricity. A new develpment said it was a charity but it was financially backed by one of the above. A wolf in sheeps clothing.
    All these firms gain massive kickbacks in the forms of ROCs which they can sell or off load against their CO2 generators.
    Why not develop Tidal power. Its safe, unobtrusive and guaranteed. But the big boys are not interested.