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16 October 2014

Arnish Lighthouse - December 2006


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Tables Turned

At last we were the navel of the universe. A low-pressure system sitting directly overhead, so the sun was out and little wind yesterday. Mind you, 100 miles away at Tiree, they were holding on to their ferry terminal. And 250 miles away our poor tanker, the Border Heather, found the power was no longer with her. She had to be towed into port after her engine failed.

It also bugs me when a gale is forecast for our neck of the woods, because the BBC weathermen give it a cursory glance. The Met Office just about may issue a severe weather warning. Last year, on November 11, they didn't until the tiles were flying off the roofs here, and as a result the captains of the Muirneag and Isle of Lewis ferries thought they could just sneak across the Minch. Nope. Muirneag took 18 hours to complete the crossing, nearly putting into Torshavn on the way. The Isle of Lewis came close to discharging its passengers and cargo at Cromor I believe.

Going back to the point I was going to make, there was going to be a gale in England. Oh cor blimey. Stern-faced weathermen on the BBC. Weather warning splattered across the Met Office website a week in advance. OK, it was severe, I am led to believe. But can we have a bit of equality here, I mean we are just as equal as our cousins down south, thankyou.


Posted on Arnish Lighthouse at 13:49



Arnish Fabrication Yard

I'm sitting here, fuming quietly, following the regional news bulletin at 4.54pm. The Arnish Fabrication Yard is to go into administration. The Yard, operated by a company called Camcal, ran into financial difficulties over the summer, in spite of having a healthy order book and going on a £20 million subsidy. The 100-strong workforce were laid off, the outstanding work was shipped overseas to be completed. (Only for one of the completed turbines to be washed overboard into the North Sea during a gale). Every week, the Stornoway Gazette blissfully announced that promising talks with prospective buyers were on-going and an announcement could be expected within 14 days. This has been going on since the summer.

The site is now going into administration, which means that creditors are not likely to be paid. The Yard has attracted much work from local businesses, which are going to be hit hard by this decision. One firm has already gone under. Very cynically, operators Camcal calmly announced that going into administration would make the Yard a much more attractive proposition for prospective buyers, as there would be no debts to pay off.
Posted on Arnish Lighthouse at 17:42



The Bottomless Pit

Highlands and Islands Enterprise are forking out another half million pound for pouring into the Arnish Fabrication Yard, days after the last operator, Camcal, announced it had gone into administration. It has previously subsidised the enterprise there by an aggregate £16 million, but that did not prevent Cambrian Engineering and now Camcal from going under.

I would like to reply to the comments made by Iain Macleod in my previous post on this subject. The company Hebridean Engineering ceased trading this summer, as Western Isles Enterprise were not prepared to back them up. Although my figure of a £20 million subsidy was not accurate, it wasn't that far off the mark. There WAS a healthy orderbook, as demonstrated by the fact that work had to be shipped out to be completed. There are plenty of windturbines needing to be manufactured nationwide, not just the 243 for this island's proposed windfarms.

The question has to be asked what is prompting the collapse of subsequent operators at this heavy industry site, before more of the taxpayers' funds are poured down this bottomless pit. Twice now, large sums of money were put in, only for the operators to go bust. I do not oppose economic development, but something keeps going wrong there. This morning, the suggestion was mooted that the site be diversified, as is already the case with Hebridean Seaweed, a new company which processes seaweed collected on the island's shoreline.

The proposed windfarm along the Pentland Road (on Beinn Mholach) is to be subjected to a public inquiry, partially due to its proximity to the large Amec development, which stretches all the way to Bragar and north to Ness. This means that its commencement will be delayed until at least 2008. The same delay will now also affect the Amec and Eishken windfarms.

I do not accept that these delays were a major contributory factor in the collapse of Camcal. There is a healthy renewables market in Scotland and the UK as a whole, including wavepower projects such as was exported to Portugal earlier this year.
Posted on Arnish Lighthouse at 11:57



Public Enquiry

The proposal for a six-turbine windfarm at Beinn Mholach, north of the Pentland Road in Lewis, has been referred for a public enquiry. This means that the implementation of said proposal has been put back until at least 2008. Reasons for this are objections, raised by the Civil Aviation Authority and the company National Air Traffic Services. Another point is its proximity to the proposed Barvas Moor development, part of the AMEC North Lewis windfarm.

Apparently, the rotating blades of the turbines on Beinn Mholach interfere with airtraffic control radar. In a direct line, Beinn Mholach is about 7 miles from Stornoway Airport's radar sites at Plasterfield, just east of Stornoway.

Just my own take on this matter.
From the moment the North Lewis windfarm was mooted, strong local opposition has arisen against this huge development. Again, we're talking about 190 turbines, spread over 40 miles. A simple exercise in arithmatic shows one turbine every 250 yards. These stand 450 feet / 140 metres tall. I am requoting these figures, to refocus attention on the North Lewis windfarm. Six turbines on Beinn Mholach will disfigure the Barvas Hills, which I know from very close up. Nearly 200 turbines will disfigure Lewis as an island. Leaving the aspects of 'views' to one side, turbines ARE noisy; they have a detrimental effect on birdlife and the impact on the 20 ft peat cushion which covers most of the island is unknown.

Just this weekend, an expert showed that most on-shore windfarms operate below capacity, where 30% is reckoned to be a gold-standard in efficiency. It is much better to have off-shore windturbines. Added to that, the average windspeeds in the island is 18 knots (force 5) or 20 mph. A windturbine will usually be stopped in winds exceeding force 8, 35 knots (40 mph). And the last few weeks have shown that we get frequent gales.

The public enquiry should hopefully straighten out the arguments for and against, and reach some sensible conclusion.
Posted on Arnish Lighthouse at 13:51



Industrial Lewis

Lewis Windpower has announced that it has downsized the proposed North Lewis Windfarm to 181 turbines. This is a further reduction from the original size, as mooted in 2004, of 234 turbines. Consultation is presently scheduled to take place over the Christmas and New Year holidays. The public buildings where the documents pertaining to the proposals are located will be closed for much of the time. An extension to the consultation period is being sought.

Above map is taken from the BBC Scotland newsreport. and shows (in blue) the turbines that have now been deleted from the LWP plans.

I was shocked to hear the MSP for the Western Isles taking a stance in favour of this major development, whereas there is a sizeable proportion of islanders who are opposed. This percentage runs at anywhere between 50 and 80% The MSP has claimed that a certain number of turbines are needed to justify the inter- connector, a big word for subsea electricity transmission cable to the mainland. It sounds as if the islands are not properly represented at Holyrood, if the MSP is not prepared to stand up for the majority of his constituents in Lewis, who don't want this windfarm.

Secondly, the Keighley, Yorkshire, based businessman John Haggas has taken over the Harris Tweed industry, or at least 95% of it, with a view to reinvigorate it. The Shawbost mill, part of the KM Group, is earmarked for closure. The Parkend mill is also part of the deal, reportedly.
Harris Tweed can only be called such if its manufacturing processes wholly take place in the Outer Hebrides, and are subject to the Orb trademark requirements.
The industry has been in the doldrums for ten years, following its implosion in the 1990s. I sincerely hope that Mr Haggas will put the Harris Tweed industry back where it belongs: as a major industry for the Outer Hebrides, with a firm, community backed weaving base.
Posted on Arnish Lighthouse at 17:37



Windfarms - update

Following the airing of the Coast programme, on December 7th, a flurry of letters winged its way to the pages of the Stornoway Gazette. The consensus was that the computer generated graphics failed to show properly the actual size of the turbine towers - 460 feet. Another correspondent suggested that the islanders would be driven insane by the noise of the machines.
In April 2005, I attended an informative meeting at Stornoway Town Hall, in which an expert on industrial noise stated that the noise from a windturbine is negligible. Methinks the cumulative effect of dozens of turbines is not so negligible.

On a political note, I picked up a copy of Fios, the North Lewis community weekly newspaper. In it, politicians are quoted from 2004 and 2005, saying that the windfarm will not be built if the local population does not want it. The MSP for the Western Isles, the former and present MP, all saying the same thing. Percentages of the population opposed to the windfarm run between 50 and 90%. Unfortunately, as I reported in my previous entry, the MSP has now buckled under, and says that a number of turbines are necessary to justify the interconnector. It would appear that he would justify the windfarm, even if the local population doesn't want it.

Why do the Western Isles always crop up as locations for things that nobody else in this country wants? The Lingerabay Quarry was going to disembowel the hill of Roineabhal on the east side of Harris, leaving a gaping hole that could have been seen from space. It took 15 years of hard graft to thwart this proposal.
In 1988, the nuclear industry was looking for a dumping ground for its waste, and came up with the islands of Fuday and Sandray (either side of Barra).
And now these two monstrous windfarms. The Eishken windfarm, 53 turbines, more than in any windfarm in the UK. The population of Kinloch, which overlooks Eishken, are 10 to 1 opposed, yet the local council is only interested in the peanuts that the Beinn Mhor Power group is prepared to throw its way.
The cynical promises of a revolution in jobs, which in fact may only be during the construction phase. IF the turbines are fabricated at Arnish.
A correspondent in California mentioned to me that the Mojave Desert there sports hundreds of turbines. The Mojave Desert is empty of people. You can drive past the turbines. That windfarm has turned into a killing ground for eagles, though.

The people of Lewis will not be able to escape the turbines, wherever they go in the island.
Posted on Arnish Lighthouse at 13:17



Delivery charges - continued

It goes back 11 months - January this year - when I wrote about excessive delivery charges to the Highlands and Islands.

Today, five MPs are reported as expressing outrage over this practice. In principle, any item below 25 kg in weight can be dispatched using Royal Mail (Parcelforce) at a flatrate fee, related to weight, not destination.

I am fed up with reading terms and conditions from companies, stating delivery "Mainland UK" only. Our counterparts in the Channel Islands have the same problem. As I said above, there is NO justification for surcharging. It shouldn't matter whether you live in SE.1 or HS.1 - the Royal Mail will deliver.

In January, I appealed for people to contact their local trading standards office with examples of his practice. I am glad that this is now being taken on board by MP's, and look forward to a speedy change.
Posted on Arnish Lighthouse at 14:57



Notes from a largish island

Compared to the rest of the country, we're getting off lightly. Today sees some mist and drizzle, but no fog. Temperatures at time of typing a very respectable 11C / 52F, which are on a par with Kirkwall and Lerwick. The ferry appears to be sailing normally, leaving the half hour delay this afternoon to one side. Makes a change from all the disruption earlier in the month due to high winds.

One of our weekly publications, the Hebridean, has had its last copy printed this week. It will be amalgamated into the Stornoway Gazette. This writer sits here puzzled, as I wasn't aware the Gazette was overly interested in matters in Skye. If I want to read Skye-related news I'll read the West Highland Free Press, as I've done for more than 10 years.

I will give my considered opinion that the Free Press is a wee bit too much pro-windfarm, and not writing in tandem with local opinion. Of course I'm on about the Lewis windfarm that nobody wants. The Free Press know my stance on this and even had the guts to publish a nasty letter from me some time back, berating them for abandoning their motto "The Land, The People, The Culture". In their own homeground (Skye), they have taken sides (pro-windfarm) in the saga surrounding the Edinbane windfarm. I'll leave it to blogger Skyemartyn to fill us in on that one.

I would like to take this opportunity to wish everybody in the Scottish Islands a very happy Christmas and best wishes for 2007. Similar wishes go out to readers in parts near and far.

Below image courtesy MyDsDesigns@aol.com

Posted on Arnish Lighthouse at 14:32





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