Wednesday, 19 March 2008

Economy and environment

More developments on the windfarm front. Remarks by the Council Convener during Monday's Energy Forum were published today, and they do serve to clarify the stance adopted by the Comhairle over this issue.

Basically, they insist on having a commercial sized windfarm in Lewis in order to justify an interconnector - the subsea cable that will carry all the power generated in the island to mainland consumers. The windfarm will also boost investment into the Arnish Fabrication Yard - anyone opposed to these schemes are intent upon turning Lewis into an environmental museum.

Methinks that our Councillors have signally failed to take heed of the words of the Energy Minister at the same Forum, when he said that environmental concerns have to be taken into account. They have also not taken cognisance of the reasons why the North Lewis Windfarm could be on the road to rejection.

The Arnish Fabrication Yard can do much more than just make windturbines. During 2006, they made segments for the Pelamis (wavepower generator), to mention but one thing.

Another point made by the Convener was that he feels that there has been an exemplary level of community consultation. If that is the case, why are up to 90% of Lewis residents opposed to the North Lewis Windfarm and it is yet being forced through? Far from exemplary, this episode has shown a breathtaking level of detachment from the community on the part of Western Isles Council.

Far from being opposed to development, most people would welcome a boost to the local economy. However, economic development and care for the environment are not mutually exclusive. Preserving the centre of the island as a unique habitat could bring economic benefits in terms of tourism, a pillar of the local economy often overlooked.

The Energy Minister mentioned tidal and wave power, for which the Hebrides could equally be a powerhouse, with a far lesser environmental impact. The study, announced by Jim Mather, into Harnessing Renewable Energy, should be a template for the Comhairle to work out its economic development strategy, with a broader view than exclusively windpower.

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