View across the Outer Harbour of Stornoway

Sunday, 15 September 2013

Windfarm subsidy

The UK government has announced that renewable energy schemes based on Scottish islands (like the Western Isles) will be given a higher subsidy than its mainland counterparts. This effectively is an incentive to build onshore windfarms in the islands. This means that the interconnector, the subsea electricity cable taking the power to the mainland, will now be constructed as will the windfarms in Eishken and elsewhere.

This blogger has consistently spoken out against onshore windfarms in these islands. This decision is particularly galling, as the groundswell of public opinion has changed markedly in recent years. An increasing number of onshore windfarms on the mainland have been denied planning permission in the face of mounting public opposition. To my mind, the British government have designated the Scottish islands as the dumping ground for those renewable energy projects (read: windfarms) that nobody else wants, and which are nothing more than paying lipservice to the notion of green energy. Windfarms are inefficient and unreliable sources of energy (the last few days have shown how variable our windspeeds are).

This is a bad decision for our islands, who don’t stand to gain anything like what the development companies will be getting in terms of subsidies and revenue. We’re getting the beads and mirrors whilst our resources are being plundered. I’m not talking about wind energy. Having windturbines around destroys the wilderness aspect that lures so many tourists to these islands. It’s tourism that’s the mainstay of these islands’ economy, stupid. The windfarm in Eishken will yield a few million pounds in community benefit, once Comhairle nan Eilean Siar have worked out how to apply for charitable status for the relevant trust body that is supposed to receive those benefits.

Over the next two years, we’ll see a large fleet of construction vehicles on our roads. Over the next quarter century, the skyline of the Long Island will be marred by a large number of windturbines. Employment prospects for island workers will be low during the construction phase and negligible afterwards. We will not have the benefit of lower electricity prices. We only stand to lose from this announcement.