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.