Title picture: Cloudscapes, Stornoway, 1 February 2017

Monday, 26 October 2009

Monday 26 October

Overcast with occasional drizzle this morning. Things are going to deteriorate, with more wind and rain for tomorrow. More leaves to sweep up by Wednesday in other words.


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. 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.

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 be substantial. I am 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.