Monday, 26 October 2009

Windfarms and pylons

[caption id="" align="alignleft" width="203" caption="Beauly to Denny powerline (image courtesy BBC)"]Beauly to Denny powerline (image courtesy BBC)[/caption]

The BBC is reporting that the planned upgrade to the power-line between Beauly (near Inverness) and Denny (near Stirling) is recommended for approval by MSPs. The current line carries 132 kV, which will be increased to 400 kV. The pylons are expected to be 200 feet / 60 metres tall each, and there will be 600 of them along the length of the current powerline. The planning application for this upgrade has been the subject of a public inquiry, the report of which was submitted to Scottish Ministers 8 months ago. The application attracted 18,000 objections.

The upgraded powerline is important for renewable energy projects across the Highlands and Islands, as it will convey electricity, generated by these projects, to users in the Scottish Central Belt and into the UK National Grid.

Objectors have stated that this will irrevocably harm the iconic landscape of the Scottish Highlands, and adversely affect tourism. They also think that alternative options have not been sufficiently explored.

This issue is controversial, and involves high stakes, politically and economically. The Beauly to Denny powerline is part of a policy to cover Scotland's [sic] energy needs, without recourse to new nuclear powerstations.

The relevance to Lewis is high. As previously reported on this blog, a number of renewable energy projects are in the pipeline for this island, including a 39-turbine windfarm at Eishken, and a smaller 6-turbine project some 5 miles outside Stornoway. Similar schemes have been mooted for North Tolsta, Ballantrushal and the West Side between Shawbost and Dalbeg. Other schemes include a tidal barrage at Shader (although is probably only going to generate electricity for local consumption) and a wave-energy project off Great Bernera. In order to get this power to mainland consumers, a powerline will also have to be constructed between Little Loch Broom (Dundonnell) and Beauly, as well as a subsea cable (referred to as an interconnector).

Should final approval be granted by Scottish ministers (very likely), then we are likely to see the construction of the Eishken Windfarm go ahead at pretty short notice, and the same will apply to the Pentland Road scheme.

This blog has consistently voiced an opinion opposed to large scale windfarms, and in disagreement with the arguments mooted in favour. I do not believe that windfarms will bring long-term, sustained employment to the Isle of Lewis. There will be short-term work in the construction of the windturbines and electricity infrastructure. Once the turbines are in place, only a handful of people will be needed to monitor and operate the windfarm. The community benefits of the Eishken windfarm are spurious, in my opinion, as they require a massive cash injection from said community - and Lochs is not exactly the most affluent area in this part of the world.

The environmental impact will also be substantial, and I would like to take this opportunity to oppose the opinion, voiced in comments on the previous post, that windfarms do not harm eagles. They do. In California, dozens of the raptors are being killed by a massive windfarm in the desert there. I am also restating my assertion that although nobody is entitled to a view, views is what attracts tourism. That being a mainstay of the island makes a shore-based windfarm a good example of a shot in the foot.

Although the final decision rests with Scottish Ministers, I cannot imagine that approval for the powerline upgrade through the Highlands will be taken lying down by its opponents.


  1. "Objectors have stated that this will irrevocably harm the iconic landscape of the Scottish Highlands, and adversely affect tourism."

    Well there's a surprise. And I suppose the A9, millions of cars and lorries, current telephone lines, power pylons, masts and transmitters, bridges, train tracks etc are all magically rendered invisible at the moment.

    Thank the big man for the powers that be continuing to give the go ahead for these plans despite the vocal "Save Our View And House Prices" minority.

  2. This will provide a great boost to the Scottish tourism industry. Millions of visitors can be expected in the next year so that they can observe a unique environment before it is b%lls'd up, well politicians who are trying to save the planet.

    The technology exists to bury transmission lines - I was listening to somone warbling on about this a couple of weeks agobut this is much too costly for the power companies who are more concerned with the fortunes of their share holders than aesthetics (and the fact that overhead power lines have a health warning). The same thinking has gone into the plan to plonk a converter station onto a moor near Gravir rather than on ready prepared site at Arnish.

  3. At least some of us are trying LGG, unlike climate change deniers like you.

    "The technology exists to bury transmission lines."

    Aye at 25X the cost. That's just not profiteering, it's simply basic economics.

  4. LGG, TheCroft? It helps to write out abbreviations in full before using them. I will immediately acknowledge that on this issue we are not likely to agree. I feel that 18,000 objectors are a pretty extensive body of opinion. I would also like to point out that the powerline will pass through some thinly populated areas, inhabited by rather less than the 18k that registered their opposition. Burying the transmission lines for the whole 140 miles isn't being called for, only for certain stretches which pass through environmentally sensitive areas. And bearing in mind that the power companies stand to make billions out of those schemes, that investment should be easily recouped.

    I do not deny climate change. The polar ice caps are a good indicator of that phenomenon. What lies at the heart of this discussion is ways of dealing with climate change, and with the prospect of fossil fuels running out. I acknowledge the need for renewable energy schemes, but their siting and the siting of their attendant infrastructure is what I am finding fault with in my post.

  5. LGG = Lady GarGar.

    18,000 objections out of current Scottish population of 5,062,011 = 0.0035%.

    Nuff said I feel.

  6. In the context of objections to planning applications, 18k really is a large number. But that is a minor detail in this discussion.

  7. Personally, in this day and age of global online petition gathering, I think these things means nothing. A windfarm in Eoropie could gather a few thousand objections without a Scottish person, let alone an islander, raising a finger in complaint.