Energy Central Professional


Green energy is far more important than Nimby views

Alan Simpson  


    For those of us who were living in the south side of Glasgow around 2005, the development of the Whitelee wind farm caused a bit of a stooshie.

    According to campaigners, Europe’s largest onshore wind farm at the time was going to destroy all of our lives as we knew them.

    Water would be polluted, our homes would vibrate, we would all become deaf with the noise and – my particular favourite – our TVs would no longer work.

    It’s fair to say that many residents were not happy about having wind turbines – though on a bleak and desolate moorland that nobody visited – anywhere near their homes. Renewable energy to them is absolutely vital for the future of the planet – just as long as it doesn’t potentially affect their house price.

    Now, 13 years after opening, Whitelee has 90km of paths for public use and visitor numbers are soaring.

    As far as I am aware, clean water still runs perfectly out of the taps in nearby homes while BBC1 and all other channels are all available in glorious technicolour.

    In recent months, our energy system has come under increased scrutiny due to sky-high gas bills that threatened to swamp households, until yesterday’s timely announcement by new Prime Minister Liz Truss.

    One thing is clear, and that is we all have to wean ourselves off gas as individuals, while renewables will play an even bigger role in the future than they do already.

    But this also produces an environmental conundrum as wind turbines are not as good for the environment as they may appear, due to many being built on peat bogs.

    Building them on peat releases tonnes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere which, of course, lessens the environmental value they are supposed to bring.

    Communities also don’t want them anywhere near them, while others complain that they spoil Scotland’s unspoilt views.

    Even offshore wind farms spoil the beauty of the land as pylons twice the size of current ones need to be built to carry the increased electricity around the country.

    The issue raised its head again this week when SSE announced plans for a new overhead line running for over 100 miles across some of the Highlands and Aberdeenshire’s most picturesque areas.

    The proposed project will involve building a new 400kV overhead line connection – or energy motorway –between Beauly and Peterhead to enable the transmission of renewable power.

    SSEN are setting out on a series of public consultation events between tomorrow and September 29.

    But a previous plan involving an upgrade of the line between Beauly and Kintore with “super pylons” came unstuck five years ago in the wake of an environmental backlash.

    More than 150 people turned out to one public meeting at Monymusk, Aberdeenshire, amid fears that views from Bennachie could be spoiled by 165ft pylons.

    Conservationists including the National Trust for Scotland also raised concerns that the proposed route would bring the line close to historic sites.

    The trust was opposed to the upgraded transmission line being routed close to historic properties such as Castle Fraser and Leith Hall in Aberdeenshire.

    The new pylons are expected to be around 180ft, so the issue is bound to be raised again.

    The NTS this week also express fears that Scotland’s wild landscape is at greater risk from wind farms and other renewable energy developments, following changes to government planning policy.

    It is now calling for wild land to be better protected, fearing that changes to planning policy are set to hit some of Scotland’s most beautiful areas.

    The charity’s call to action follows a revision of the Scottish Government’s planning policy, and a new policy statement on onshore wind development which says that proposals for renewable energy developments must consider “landscape and visual impacts, including effects on wild land”.

    NTS said that while it recognised the need to develop renewable energy in response to the climate crisis and rising energy prices, this should “not be at the expense of the multiple benefits wild land provides, including carbon storage”.

    So, it is clear that it is not just householders who are nimbys but even conservation charities, too.

    Renewable energy is not going away and will expand dramatically in the coming years.

    It is something that is absolutely vital on environmental grounds and cost so we all have to accept – even the spoilt views.

    CREDIT: Alan Simpson


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