Sunday, 13 September 2009

Renewable energy - II

So could renewable energy be the salvation of the Western Isles economy? The islands' economy is in a fragile state, and there is indeed the potential to make the Arnish Fabrication Yard a hub for production of wind turbine towers, Pelamis sea-snake units as well as possibly machinery for harnessing tidal energy. An effort is being made to keep the AFY open, but it is a stop-start affair.

It was interesting to see the gentle shift from shore-based to off-shore windfarms over the past five years. As indicated, shore-based windfarms are attracting ever more opposition due to the impact on scenery and quality of life for those living nearby. I maintain that although nobody is legally entitled to a view, it does constitute an amenity which serves to bring visitors to the Western Isles.

I realise it could be construed as a serious case of NIMBY'ism, but nobody wants a windfarm outside their backdoor, do they? So why not stick the things out at sea and it won't bother anybody. Ah, but that means that the community ashore misses out on the big pay-outs. Well, I keep having my severe doubts whether that really would happen (I mistrust big money, full stop, see what happened a year ago).

My vision would be for an off-shore windfarm, wave-energy generator and a tidal energy generator ashore.

The Pairc Trust, just nextdoor to Uncle Nick's turbine garden, also want to erect a number of turbines, on the moorland between Habost and Gravir. The turbines will also be 450 feet tall. I am a long-standing supporter to community ownership of land - I was a supporter of the Eigg buy-out in 1997. The efforts of the Pairc community are the oldest buy-out in the Isle of Lewis, but also the least successful. The Pairc laird, Barry Lomas, has frustrated their efforts by using the instrument of an interposed lease, letting land to another company. Oh, a company he himself owns. It is pretty obvious why he is going to these lengths: Mr Lomas wants the windfarm revenues all to himself. For the record, I have the same objections to the Pairc Windfarm that I have to the Eishken Windfarm.


  1. Hi..back again.
    I totally agree with your wish list of Turbines at sea, Snail/Snake wave turbines just off-shore and would add that more affordable/available solar panels be used/provided. Also, perhaps some smaller/localised Wind Turbines could be incorporated into schools/public buildings. Hebridean Housing Partnership on the Island are building eco-friendly-energy saving technology into most of their new builds and are very receptive to renewables within Social Housing.
    Barry Lomas has been delaying the Valuation proceedures required by Pairc Trust as he no doubt senses a hostile bid but maybe that is changing as we speak. As usual, lots of money/figures floated into the air for the Community to salivate over but in the real world, only a certain few will benefit on this Island (forgive my cynicism) and people will carry on (apathy all round) and want to be left alone.
    Tourism is the only real income at present and other than freak show effect in seeing all the triffids marching across moorlands, I imagine the impact will be negative.
    SHETL are a force to be reckoned with, but I for one will be monitoring very closely, exactly how they stick to guide-lines and condtions laid done by very co-operative CNES.
    This week I am celebrating both my birthday and 1st whole year on this strange anomolous Island. I knew in advance what was planned and my kids (8/15) have really loved being here but I shiver at the site of people leaving the Island and worry that Renewables (commendable and necessary) may leave the Island even more dead than alive...but we live in hope!!!

  2. Do you know, if I was to moan about any windfarm development and seek to preserve any views I'd oppose off-shore ones.

    I have to admit that the idea of looking out to St Kilda from Breanish or out to sea from Eoropie across hundreds of turbines isn't hugely appealing. Aesthetically I think they are more suited to land, rooted naturally in a landscape. There's something about the infinity of the open sea, especially on the west coast of the island I love.

    I still wouldn't fight the development based on my personal preferences though.

  3. much as I am tempted to just ignore the little digs here and there, I must point out that you are not actually addressing or answering many valid points that are raised re proposed Projects here on Lewis....instead you tend to hypothesise or quote far away examples (none terribly relevant) and then dominate a discussion (playground bully style) relying on established links with other posters and your removed connection to Lewis whilst smirking from sunny Glasgow......if I believed you had good intention in this debate I might try harder to tolerate your smug rudeness.
    The whole debate needs people to engage without being shot down/sniped at and flamed (however cleverly!!!) and maybe then more people would express an opinion.
    Most voters are interested/swayed by Local issues.....we all get the big picture and believe our elected (farce!!!) representatives will do the right thing when in Government.....BUT, in the real world, very little is ever done for the people. Rich get richer, Poor stay poor and Developers do very nicely either way....pass the gravy!!!!
    Now back to this thread hopefully.....RJG

  4. Once again you, like Mick, digress from the debate. I have contributed more than validly to the heart of this topic raised by Arnish. Without my input there wouldn't be two sides to the discussion. I've also readily addressed and answered all points raised throughout and provided not only concrete examples but real statistics where necessary. I don't bully anyone but obviously wishy washy men like yourself have a problem with intelligent arguments you can't counter without making adverse personal comments to the poster. My removed connection from Lewis? I'm more connected to the island than you will ever be my friend. Regardless of one's current geography, a Lewisman is always just that, something you will never understand regardless of how long you set up home there.

    You yourself have provided very little in the way of any rational debate here and, as stated previously, appear to have greater issue with me than the issue at hand. I find your comments extremely rude but am content to laugh them off as you're obviously more than a little out of your depth. :)

    Sorry Arnish but I think I'm wasting my time here, I'll leave our overly sensitive Somerset expert on island life to it. ;)

    BTW GL what do you actually DO? Your contribution to the Lewis economy etc?

  5. This post is supposed to be a debate, not a personal slagging match. Transposed it from previous post on same issue to curtail exactly this sort of aggro. Both GravirLife and TheCroft remain welcome to comment on this and other posts, but I could become tempted to delete and close comments on this one.

  6. Agreed and accepted....RJG

  7. It's very frustrating. I think Arnish would agree I've stayed on topic and made a healthy contribution up until the appearance of GL and BM making personal comments directed at me. Absolutely go ahead and edit/delete anything I've posted that's unsuitable but I don't see the point in contributing further if certain others are going to spit dummies and throw rattles every time I do.

  8. It seesm that everyone involved has their own entrenched points of view that haven't changed over the past year or so.
    As long as the inhabitants oppose change then the Islands will continue to have a "precarious economy". If the legislation doesn't allow a fair distribution of wealth that may be accrued by the use of the land, is it not impossible to set in motion a political campaign to change this? There are enough examples of land- and sea-based wind farms in France, Germany, Denmark and Sweden (to name only a few) for the interested amateur to research benefits and impediments, without resorting to verbal assaults on opponents.

  9. I suppose discussion-based blogs mirror life quite closely really, in that it is indeed very difficult to stay, unmoving, impartial, and ridiculously equal and jovial in the face of wide differences of opinion and teflon-shouldered in the face of real or perceived personal slights sustained during that discussion.

    I make great efforts to see other people views, and on occasions, not to berate them in any way for those views, because that's what they are - their views. Unfortunately, others have a more barbed style, and it is human (my) nature to feel I need to respond to those barbs, and the only place we can respond (if we are not to resort to personal emails), is here!

    I felt I'd done well so far, and in the spirit of discussion, I'm rain-checking the one barb outstanding - there - yay ...!!

  10. Been a while since I have been on Islandblogging, (in fact it is not where it used to be its been that long!) Funny to see the debate is still cutting back and forth years later with very little progress in either direction. So my question is this, for all the posters who are so vociferous with regards this topic, what are you doing personally to tackle climate change? Do any of you actually use renewables on a micro scale for home or even community use?
    SL stated either in this thread or Arnish's previous one that two solar panels can supply all the hot water and heating needs of a household even in Scotland? can you quantify that statement or provide references please?
    In the whole of South Lochs I have only seen one house that utilises any form of renewable energy input (other than Biomass) why is that? If lochies love their environment so much why aren't they actually doing something positive to protect it? Why have you not got microhydro schemes on every viable river and burn in the area? or grid tied community wind turbines? There is funding of up to 90% for projects such as this.
    I think its time that the good folk of Lewis engage with the larger issue of how to maintain a sustainable future through the next three decades within the framework of global energy shortage and climate change. Maybe we should accept a wind farm onto the island, becasue when the oil/gas/coal run out shortly we will at least have access to some form of energy.

  11. Lady 'Grumpy' GarGar21 September 2009 at 11:28

    I have enough trouble getting my taps fixed let alone getting a renewable, hydro, thermo, bunkum adjuster installed.

    A wind farm or three will export energy to the mainland. This is why nothing is being decided until the Beauly-Denny HV connector is rubber stamped. Do tell us where this 90% funding is available from so that we can put it towards the £12m or so required for the community turbines on Eishken.

    What am I doing to tackle climate change? Nothing. The climate has been changing for the last ~ 4.6 billion years. Something as simple a volcanic eruption can change the miniscule effect of years of re-using carrier bags and not flushing the lav. Sorry to be such a cynic but 'climate change' is just another bit of scare mongering to extract more tax from Joe Public. Have you seen the You Tube video of John Prescott moaning about his luxury room in China? He didn't ask to stay in a mud hut instead or attend the 'climate change' confernece by video link.

  12. Brilliant. So Lady GarGar is a climate chase denier. And the world was created in seven days right? In this new light I think we can safely ignore her input into this debate altogether. And probably any other one for that matter.

    I'd suggest reading Monbiot's excellent book Heat and start taking heed.


    In answer to CO's question: All the usual stuff. All white goods are Green rated including heating and boiler. We switch off, have replaced bulbs, we reuse carrier bags, don't use a car or even public transport to get about, off-set the few flights we take, use green tarrifs for energy use. The flat is southfacing with big windows so only requires heating 3 months of the year, even then not much. Buy organic and local as much as possible, consume goods a lot less than we used to. Carbon footprint is fuck all compared to the average western human being. Doesn't cost much to make these changes either. Hooray for me.

  13. Lady 'Grumpy' GarGar21 September 2009 at 17:12

    Umm....I think I said the climate is/was/does/will change regardless of what we switch off or as Mr Monbiot suggests...stay in bed. I'll stick to the science thanks.

  14. Very little asistance for anyone living in Social Housing and Grants for private owners and private tenants are subject to some tricky conditions/means tested. Small scale local renewables might very easily work (schools currently engaging) but it is unlikely perhaps that the dreaded apathy can be over-come in many small communities.
    Why oh why should Lewis become a hub for exported renewable energy and as Lady GG points out...cable has not been agreed/approved so how do Wind Turbines, Inter-Connector link up to mainland?

  15. As I've pointed out several times in posts on this issue in recent months, the two stumbling blocks for any large scale renewable energy project (whether it be wind, wave or tidal energy) are:

    - the mainland powergrid
    - the interconnector

    If the upgrade of the Inverness to Stirling high-voltage power cable is not approved, then the interconnector cannot be built. Current cable is unable to take the amount of power that any renewable energy project in northern or western Scotland (including Lewis and Shetland) would generate. This is a most vexed issue, and opposition in Shetland to a windfarm there has increased in recent months.