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16 October 2014

Arnish Lighthouse

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Today's news on the renewable energy front is the reduction by Lewis Windpower (the company that wants to build the North Lewis Windfarm) in the number of windturbines for its project from 234 to 190. New technology has come on the market which makes the turbines more efficient. When I was in the Council Chambers on Monday, I saw the maps which showed the intended location of the towers. I know the Lewis moors quite well, and was shocked. My picture on the "Windfarms Revisited" post should have given an idea of the size of the things. I was equally dumbstruck by the assertion of the LWP representative, being quizzed by MSPs, that the "footprint" of the turbines on the ground will only be small. Rarely heard such a misrepresentation of the facts. A network of access roads is required to the towers for purposes of maintenance over their 25 year lifespan. That won't have an environmental impact, will it? A huge amount of peat will have to be dug out for each turbine, and that won't disturb the balance of the peat will it?

The Factor for the Stornoway Trust expressed hope that the reduction in the numbers of turbines would make the project more attractive for a larger number of people. Methinks not. Less unacceptable, perhaps.

It's not just the environmental impact that places me in the opposition camp to the Lewis Windfarm. On the policy side of things, I feel that too much of an emphasis has been placed on wind energy. Tidal and wavepower should have a far larger place in the total energy picture. The Prime Minister's idea that nuclear energy should have a new place in the provision of energy to the UK is ludicrous. The issue of waste disposal has not been properly addressed; today, official policy was announced that nuclear waste would be dumped in a hole in the ground. Two of those holes could be located in the islands of Fuday and Sandray, to the north and south of Barra respectively. Not acceptable.

We'll have to await the Scottish Executive's decision on the Lewis Windfarms.
Posted on Arnish Lighthouse at 21:42


Good post, Arnish. It would have been good if the developers of this windfarm had been truthful about the scale and impact of their proposal, but that would have made it a no-no from the outset. Nice how Amec talk about a small 'footprint' for a turbine that will stand at over five times the height of Lewis War Memorial, and will need 2,000 tonnes of concrete to hold each one in place. It doesn't do to mention the 100 miles of access roads needing 4 million tonnes of quarried rock. And the pylons, which will have a 'footprint' of only 290 sq. feet at the base. Or the fact that peat is the worst possible material to churn up if you're trying to lessen CO2 emissions. But I'm sure the local council will do us proud (or just do us). On the subject of nuclear energy, make sure you don't meet Brian 'Radioactive Man' Wilson and let him hypnotise you into believing that the onshore windfarm and nuclear industries (both of which he works for) will do anything at all about lessening the effects of global warming. Wilson wants us all to just get on with nuclear, without having to deal with all this nonsense of waste disposal. His environmental credentials are absolutely impeccable.

Jimmy from Eilean Leodhais

Yes the access roads will have some imapct on the environment, yes the peat being dug out will have an impact on the environment, but its a question of degree. Unfortunately we dont have the time available to wait for a magic totally environmentally neutral power source. This is the best we've got. Its not all of the answer but it's an important part of the answer. Your energy would be better spent ensuring jobs are tied into the local economy as part of the deal. I couldn't agree with you more about the issue of nuclear waste.

Mike from Fife

Good heavens, Arnish Lighthouse: and you have been on Lewis for only a year and a half? At that rate it won't be long before you end up being the historical repository/living memory/and archivist of the place. You must be from "these parts" - I suspect! Surely not from ..Kent or ...Guernesey?!!?

mjc from NM,USA

Excerpt from a different posting: "There is a fourth option: diversify within renewables, don't stick to just the one option (windturbines). There is wavepower, tidal power, solar power... Arnish Lighthouse from Stornoway. Eh, you forgot "people power"!! May be weak most of the time, but it can be the mouse that transforms itself and roars (once in a while): e.g., most recently, Nepal [of course, being a monarchist yourself, A.L., the reference to Nepal may not be too welcome, perhaps).

mjc from NM,USA

It certainly is a 'question of degree', Mike - but there's a euphemism if ever I heard one. When you say 'this is the best we've got', I'm not sure what you're referring to. If you're referring to most of the currently available sources of renewable, such as wave, solar, etc. as a group, I agree with you. If you're referring to onshore wind turbines being the best/only available option for Lewis, and we should just charge ahead with that before the world implodes, I disagree. Wave machines are much more acceptable to most people here, Arnish have shown they can manufacture them, and they are considerably less environmentally destructive.

Jimmy from Eilean Leodhais

Interesting posts, but I can't help feeling too many people want a solution which just doesn't exist, and never will. Scaling back the wind farms is a disaster, as is the Highland Council capitulating to the small anti-wind farm groups. Here on Skye wind farms are also being scaled back and that helps pave the way for the governmentÂ’s likely decision to start a renewed nuclear program. Of course siting a new long term nuclear storage in these Islands is not an option, but you can't have your cake and eat it. I would like the various opposition groups and the so called environmentalists who oppose wind farms to tell me what they would do. The simple fact is there is no perfect solution. Nuclear would be a total disaster for us all, and its legacy may well end up on our doorsteps. That is why renewables are so important. Yes there are drawbacks and issues to be addressed with renewable technology, but the simple fact is those issues pale into insignificance when compared to the issues raised by new nuclear power stations, the massive amounts of toxic waste which they will produce, and the 100,000 year legacy we will leave for our kids. That is why, in my opinion peat displacement and potential effects on birdlife, while being important, should not detract from the simple fact that renewables offer massive potential. They offer the only truly sustainable and viable future for our energy needs. Scaling back renewable projects is a massive backwards step and it is a sad day as far as I'm concerned.

Martyn from Dunvegan, Skye

MJC, you'd be surprised.

Arnish Lighthouse from Stornoway

So, increasingly the Highlands and Islands continue to apparently miss the boat and reject renewables with yet more scaling back of wind farm projects. We constantly hear about the "environmental" impact of these turbines, the “disastrous” effects they will have on peat bogs, bird life and of course tourism. All the same arguments that were expressed during the Hydro debates of the 50's, very few actually came to fruition. Today though, we have a much more worrying prospect. We have the prospect of a renewed nuclear program in the UK, which will leave a 100,000 year legacy of toxic waste. That prospect is yet another step closer with the recent reports advocating burying high level radioactive waste as a “solution” to our nuclear waste problem. Part of that solution may well end up on our doorsteps in the form of a new long term radioactive waste storage. The UK has to start meeting its energy targets now and ministers in England and Scotland are looking for ways out. It appears to me that too many people are looking for a solution that just doesn't exist, and never will. On shore wind farms are unsightly and may have a small effect on some birdlife and peat bogs, offshore wind farms are more expensive to maintain and are likely to have a reduced life, tidal systems affect marine life and the environment of sea lochs and estuaries, geothermal is not viable yet, hydro also effects marine life. These disadvantages however pail into insignificance when compared to the very serious long term, highly toxic legacy a renewed nuclear program would have on us all. Please get the issues in context - yes wind turbines are large, yes roads will have to be built, yes they will displace peat, but put quite simply they offer the only truly clean, green and sustainable way forward for the UK, and that should be embraced as a superb opportunity. If it is not, then we will be leaving a legacy for our kids that doesn't bear thinking about.

Martyn from Dunvegan, Isle of Skye

"So, increasingly the Highlands and Islands continue to apparently miss the boat "... (Martyn from Dun.). Good grief!! Missing boats (except Sunday ones, of course) is doubtless something very undesirable. I hope the island folks get to develop greater punctuality, though how the windfarms will help develop this crucial habit beats me.

mjc from NM,USA

Martyn, Thanks for your comments. It's a difficult balancing act, I agree. To summarize my position, wind energy yes, huge windfarms: no. Wavepower is one of the ways forward, enhancing energy efficiency in the home another, using local projects, even for industry - is shown to work. It should be a combination of various sources, and somebody just needs to put their thinking cap on. The solution that government are working towards right now is too one-sided, too much slanted towards windpower with the exclusion of all the other options. You've read my opinion on nuclear energy.

Arnish Lighthouse from Stornoway

It's a great contribution from Martyn, the relationship between nuclear and renewable is key to this debate. There's strong evidence that the nuclear option will preclude renewables from playing any meaningful role in energy production. If Labour has it's way the wind, solar, biomass and tidal energy will be confined to relatively small projects used as a trojan horse to split the green movement and allow the re-introduction of new nuclear build.

Mike from Fife

Some great points. I totally agree with Arnish on enhancing energy efficiency, there having to be multiple solutions and of course his opinions regarding Nuclear. My fear is - as governments frequently do - that it will lurch from one option to another, and exclude everything in between. There has been some very bad press regarding the wind farms across Scotland (especially here on Skye), and as far as I can see, next to no positive press about them. This is where Mike's point is important - there's too much internal bickering within the green movement and that only helps the nuclear lobby. The perception is therefore (wrongly) that most people don't want renewables at all, or that they are hard to implement in communities and that opens the door for Nuclear in the minds of MP's. I hope we can work together to find solutions that do allow for a sustainable, clean future, that do allow us to lead the way for future generations. Sorry for two posts - there was only meant to be one.

Martyn from Dunvegan

Quote - "Scaling back the wind farms is a disaster" - Martyn, that's a bit of an exaggeration, what? I notice also that some people on these message boards keep asking, "Well, what would you do instead?", as if onshore wind is the only renewables option, or that rejecting the Amec and BMP proposals suddenly dooms us to nuclear. Don't you read all the posts? There have been many suggestions for renewable energy sources suggested on this blog, and to develop these instead of the current obsession with gigantic onshore turbines seems to me to be quite sensible. I don't know where people get the impression that those who are against, say, the Amec windfarm on Lewis are against marine power or solar or other renewables. I've never yet heard anyone object to the idea of wave machines being installed off Lewis, or to solar projects, or to the small turbines being erected at schools, etc. But people here are wising up to the enormous implications of the current windfarm proposals. Incidentally, I notice in the Gazette online that the rehashed Amec proposal for "about" 190 turbines, will be resubmitted to the Scottish executive and debated again by the local council, I think in September. The saga continues.

Jimmy from Eilean Leodhais

I don't feel it's an exaggeration, no more so than some of the scare stories talked about by the anti-wind farm groups, and I take pleasure in reading everyone else’s posts and taking their points on board. However, the Highland Council have scaled back their renewables policy this week. Why? In their eye's they are struggling to get sites approved across the whole of the Highland region. The simple fact is we need to go renewables now, not next week, and in a big way. Unfortunately, building small scales schemes does not solve the bigger picture - yes maybe in time, but not today, the technology is just not there. I am 100% in favour of investing in renewables of all types, of redirecting the money from Nuclear to renewables R&D so we need less to generate more. While the perception is negative our government will continue to capitulate and renewables will be unable to develop or compete. A wind farm was just started south of Glasgow this week - 130 turbines I think proposed to generate up to 350MW. It'll be on-line in 2 years. 3 of those farms (400 turbines in total) and we have close to 1000MW if all the units are running - enough to switch off one nuclear power station. Clearly onshore and offshore wind farms are our best bet today. The choice is we either embrace them or we don't.

Martyn from Dunvegan

Its interesting to read the comments here, living in Ireland where wind farms are also increasingly common. Personally I think wind farms are a good idea, provided they are at a suitable scale to the surrounding environment. I think the biggest problems occur when large multi-national companies, used to making large amounts of money decide to build wind farms, because obviously, a farm with just 30 turbines isn't going to make nearly so much money as one with 190 or 250 turbines. This leads to developments such as the Lewis wind farm which even if they do *only* build 190 turbines, it is still massively over the top. Small scale wind farms are much less intrusive but sadly of little interest to the big developer. As for Nuclear, the thing that is always glossed over - never mind the whole waste issue, but these things are cripplingly expensive to build! Thatcher's great plans to create nuclear Britain cost a feckin' fortune, and of course were way over budget. I find it hard to believe that Labour are seemingly dumb enuff to try and repeat the same mistake! I'd say marine is definately worth more research, the one currently being built off Orkney will hopefully provide some worthwhile lessons (and a wee bit of power too)

Col from Galley

The trouible Jimmy though is that this is what is before us. It's alright saying 'I'm not against small turbines at schools or wave generators off Lewis', but the problem is here and now. Your solution is unrealistic and abstract - you would suppprt something somewhere in the future. I'm afraid 'small turbines on schools' isnt really where we're at any more, and due to lack of funding many wave energy comapnies have moved to Portugal, when Scotland could have been at the forefront of such developments.

Mike from Fife

On the contrary Mike, I believe that the larger projects such as Amec's proposed Lewis monstrosity will be rejected by the Scottish executive and local councils, if they have any sense, in favour of much smaller schemes onshore, and the larger power generating shemes will be marine based. I'm not quite sure what you mean by the problem being here and now - are you talking about commercial wind turbines saving the planet from global warming (guffaw), or wind turbines providing such a steady and reliable source of power that we can start shutting down conventional power stations or won't have to build new ones (another guffaw)?

Jimmy from Eilean Leodhais

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