Power Not To The People




Richard Lutz on the need to balance nature with energy policy.

A relative emails me: Add your name to this petition, he asks, to stop wind farms that will form a ring around a pretty village in southern Scotland.

I know the village. It is pretty and I agree that a hemisphere of big wind turbines will give this tidy little community a horrible horizon. Right now, all you can see are ridges of hills forming the foothills of the Southern Uplands. If the plan goes ahead, it will be  ridges rotten with skeletal whirring blades..

I don’t know if this village, called Straiton, will get the proposal stopped.

The protesters call for more studies into sea power, offshore wind power, any kind of power, in fact, as long as it isn’t gargantiuan wind turbines (that, to be fair, are to surround their little world of Straiton).

My query is: will this protest succeed because this Ayrshire town is simply so pretty? What about the wind schemes that are near dispirited towns, half-shut mining communities or unattractive crumbling public housing? Is it OK to put these big machines near them?

Is it enough of an excuse not to site a wind turbine near a pretty village because, well, it is a pretty village?

This is a complicated issue. The sides are lining up to either back or condemn how this country harnesses and controls our fuel. In the papers today, for instance, there are acres of columns for or agin the proposed new nuclear plant at Hinkley in Somerset. (see Howard Elston’s idiosyncratic take on this story on this website).

It is easy to simply condemn nuclear power. But as one columnist pointed out, it is cleaner than those coal burning energy plants that ruin the air around us and gobble down fuel that can’t be replaced. And it is more practical than harnessing power from untried green development considering how this country eats up energy sources.

As for the much debated wind fams, including the proposed one around pretty little Straiton, one writer said: ‘…the biggest onshore wind scheme could supply only a fraction of the low carbon power a nuclear plant can produce.’

And, as for the power of the sun, he adds: ‘If every square metre of roof and suitable wall in the UK were covered with solar panels, they would produce 9% of the energy provided by fossil fuels.’

So, where do we go from here? So many folks seem to know so much (or so little) to form any kind of intelligent debate that progresses the arguments.

Many of us… laypeople… are confused.

So many times, it seems, the logic is  obscured by simplicities and banalities. Nuclear is dangerous- look at Japan- coal power is ugly and dirty, green is airyfairy and not much use for the real way we live.

But one thing is certain: this small island needs a fuel industry policy and needs it fast. For the future.

We need a combination of fuel sources. Or else we will have a very dirty little island, either filled with coal dust or with nowhere to put the nuclear garbage that  the new Hinkley plan and its like will produce.





3 thoughts on “Power Not To The People

  1. Well set out – with one or two exceptions.

    I’ll take you to task for summarily closing down discussion about green energy with a phrase like ‘not much use for the real way we live’. That’s giving up without trying. Not good enough.

    So I propose a new byline, and a new conclusion for your story: Must. Try. Harder.

    Part of what we need to try harder at is reducing our consumption. I know the greenhouse gas targets are a joke, but they should be paralleled with energy reduction targets. I’d like to see us start a space-race equivalent to cut energy use, and at the same time, find environmentally friendly supplementary forms of generation.

  2. Interesting….but surely misses the point. You refer to “we”. Scotland is a net exporter of energy already. If it continues to use and maintain the assets already in place – hydro, wind, thermal, nuclear and now wave/sub-sea power – it produces more than enough for Scotland’s future. Not 1 more wind turbine is needed. And they are useless for large amounts of time during the year either when it is still or too windy. Plus when generation is high and demand is low they have found no way of storing the power. Whereas they can do that with Hydro and have done so for years (eg Cruachan pumped storage scheme).

    So why do we want to destroy our natural environment as well? And wreck the landscape and the tourist industry in one fell swoop? Only because of this mad directive from Salmond & co that Scotland can aim for 80% or is it 100% renewables sourced energy by 2020.

    On the “pretty places” subject see if you can see one wind farm on the South Downs. I fly over there regularly and I’ve yet to see a single turbine. Fly back over Scotland and the place is absolutely peppered with them already. Not just the borders and the lowlands but all the way up to the Highlands. Hundreds of the them everywhere you look, especially from above!

    The UK needs a mixed source of energy – Nuclear, Thermal, Hydro etc. – to secure the future. But we don’t need to industrialise our landscape in the process. The potential from the sea is vast and it has only just started to be tapped.

    Look at the Limpet scheme on Islay as a starter for ten. This is up and working already. OK it’s small. But look at the design – this could be a solution in search of a problem? It’s shaped like a large sea wall. So why not use them in places where they need to build defences against the sea on the south coast eg Dirleton village (pretty little village falling into the sea – near Beachy Head). Save the landscape – and create power at the same time. And maybe a few less wind farm whingers in the process…..can’t be bad

    check this link out for more detailed information:


Comments are closed.