Welcome to the Highlands, the land of sparkling Burns, The Heather hughed Glens, High Mountains where the Eagles soar, a land of Deer and Salmon, Kilts and Pipes. The Corbetts, the Grahams and the Monros. A place to revitalise the Spirit and the Soul. This is a land of proud people, people that will give any man the time of day.
But today a certain sadness pervades all. In a desperate drive for fame our politicians have sold Scotland and its wild places to the lowest bidder. The march of the wind factories is heard in the Glens. Tourism for Scotland is dead. Our way of life crushed beneath the greed of mostly foreign adventurers and aided by our Government and Planners.
This is the opportunity for all you to have your say and perhaps we will save something for our children.
The first great requisite of motive power is; that it shall be wholly at our command, to be exerted when, and where, and in what degree we desire.The wind, for instance, as a direct motive power, is wholly inapplicable to a system of machine labour, for during a calm season the whole business of the country would be thrown out of gear.
William Stanley Jevons (1865)
“God never made an ugly landscape. All that sun shines on is beautiful, so long as it is wild.”
— John Muir
“Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out that going to the mountains is going home; that wildness is necessity; that mountain parks and reservations are useful not only as fountains of timber and irrigating rivers, but as fountains of life.”
When the colours start to assert themselves, then you really appreciate what we have. Another few days and it will be another landscape and that is the point with the Highlands. The landscape changes with the sun and the clouds, the different colours from the brown heather, the black peat hags, the greening of the spring to the purple of autumn, and the winter snows. It is an ever changing landscape and that we and our visitors never tire of. in a few moments the light can change from sun to darkness, the reds of morning and evening. And whilst the lights move across the vista, there is a permanence to that landscape. Not to be destroyed by the ‘sometimes’ moving blades of turbines introducing a discordant note into the land or the sharp angles of an industrial goliath.
Longannet power station is a bit of a monster. At 2,400 megawatts capacity, the huge plant on the banks of the Forth can keep the lights on for most of Scotland.
Recently, it’s been sweating its 42-year-old sinews to do so, particularly when the wind drops and all those turbines stop supplying the power grid.
The Fife monster’s days were numbered, however. While burning all that coal, it was facing a steeply-rising bill for emissions. And once it has burned through its licence conditions, it was due to close in 2020. That was the intention of government policy, and it has had cross-party support.
However, that date is almost certain to be brought forward to March 2016, following Longannet’s failure to win the National Grid auction for back-up supply to ensure voltage remains steady.
With closure, 270 jobs will go, plus those in the supply chain, including freight operations form Hunterston. Scotland’s struggling coal industry will struggle even more.
The green lobby won’t be shedding a tear. But the sense of political crisis around Longannet exposes a large gap in planning for the country’s greener energy future.
To explain, let’s back up. Scotland has been producing more thermal power than it needs, from coal, nuclear, hydro and increasingly – when the weather’s right – from wind.
So it has long been an exporter of power. And given a strong breeze, exports are getting bigger. That’s why more capacity is required to transfer that power to population centres in England and beyond, into the increasingly integrated European market.
High-voltage links from the Highlands are being upgraded (remember the Beauly-Denny line controversy?), as is cross-border transmission. A very expensive sub-sea cable is being sunk between Ayrshire and Merseyside, and a marine cable off the east coast may follow.
This works in both directions, so when Scotland’s renewable generation isn’t generating, the grid in Scotland can draw on gas, coal, nuclear, solar and other renewable power generation from England and beyond.
Until that transmission capacity is in place, which will take another two years, the National Grid is concerned that it needs back-up capacity to ensure a reliable voltage.
And that’s why it asked thermal generators to make their bids as the most competitive option for that back-up.
Nuclear power was not included, as it lacks the flexibility to respond to unexpected drops in supply elsewhere.
So the bidders were coal-burning Longannet, gas-burning Peterhead, owned by SSE, and an innovative solution from a company called Tower Bridge Ventures, which wanted to moor gas-burning power turbines on barges.
Having lost, Longannet is fast running out of steam. Its owner, Scottish Power, had hoped to keep going to 2020 with reduced transmission charges to offset the rising costs of its emissions.
Ofgem, the energy regulator, was reviewing the cost to generators of pumping their power into the grid.
For many years, that has been heavily biased towards encouraging electricity generation near where it’s consumed, in cities, and mainly in English cities.
So if you generate power in London and along the English south coast, you get a subsidy from the grid. If you generate it in northern Scotland, you pay a hefty whack for the privilege (and if you’re a customer in northern Scotland, there are lower bills as partial compensation).
With policy pointing to much more renewable energy, which is most efficiently generated where the wind blows most strongly (that being northern Scotland), Ofgem’s Project TransmiT reviewed those charges and revised them – a bit.
But the revision doesn’t come close to making Longannet’s numbers add up. Its transmission costs next year fall from £40m to £34m, and then go up again the following year.
All this makes Longannet a hot political potato, and it’s being super-heated this close to a Westminster election.
Its owner, Scottish Power and parent company Iberdrola, are being criticised by Labour for not investing in emissions abatement technology.
Ofgem and the UK government are being criticised by the Scottish government for charges that discriminate against Scottish generators.
The Scottish government is being criticised for an energy policy that is too dependent on renewable energy.
And south of the border, things aren’t looking too good either. The ageing fleet of thermal and nuclear power stations are being closed down at quite a rate, and nothing like enough preparation has been done to replace them.
The political row is over Longannet’s failure to win the auction. But that eclipses the celebration for the other side of this story: Peterhead won!
The Aberdeenshire plant also faces very high transmission charges. But they can be offset by much lower emission costs from burning gas. Industry insiders reckon Peterhead is around 60% cleaner per unit of energy than dirty old king coal at Longannet.
The £15m capacity payment, added to payments for actually generating the back-up as necessary, gives it a financial lift at a time when gas-burning is uneconomic for all generators.
SSE has pulled back on Peterhead’s operational capacity for that reason. And last year, when it was in a different auction to provide back-up capacity, it failed Ofgem’s technical test.
But it is the last remaining hope for Scotland to get on with the much-vaunted carbon capture and storage (CCS). That happens to have been the great hope for Longannet as well, until Scottish Power gave up on the expense and delays.
Signals at red
This is an industry which is very heavily regulated. It responds to market and regulatory signals.
The signals, for now, are at red for old and new thermal capacity. Cockenzie in East Lothian could have gas turbines fitted where the coal-burners were recently shut down, but it makes no financial sense for now. Fracked gas could cut costs and make gas-burning economic, as it has in the US, but fracking is under a moratorium in Scotland.
The signals are at red for new nuclear power as well. Onshore wind is meeting opposition, offshore wind is failing to get its costs into a commercially viable condition, and wave power is becalmed by a lack of investment capital. At least tidal power is coming up the beach, though very slowly.
We could look to government to sort this out. But the election has thrown up a promise from Labour that it would put much tighter controls on household energy pricing. Not only has that pledge kept prices from falling, it also puts a chill on future investment in generating plant.
There are probably better ways of keeping the lights on.
“There is a powerful convergence of interests among key elites that support the climate ‘narrative.’ Environmentalists spread fear and raise donations; politicians appear to be saving the Earth from doom; the media has a field day with sensation and conflict; science institutions raise billions in grants, create whole new departments, and stoke a feeding frenzy of scary scenarios; business wants to look green, and get huge public subsidies for projects that would otherwise be economic losers, such as wind farms and solar arrays. Fourth, the Left sees climate change as a perfect means to redistribute wealth from industrial countries to the developing world and the UN bureaucracy.”
Save Loch Ness is a new organisation which is growing by the day. Click the link to view the web site and then click the link to sign the Petition to the Scottish Government!
This is not just important, it is essential! For years Loch Ness has been hidebound by Tourism Loch Ness which was controlled by Willie Cameron who has always been a supporter of wind farms. Despite serious concerns raised by others they have been over-ridden by him, aided and abetted by the SNP leadership of Highland Council. Now an independent body has struck out and needs to be supporter by us all, not only for Loch Ness side but for the areas North, South, East and West that rely on Tourism.
Loch Ness and it’s events, Baxter’s Loch Ness Run, Rockness etc, may always attract event tourism but that brings little real wealth to the area. Here today gone tomorrow. And as Rockness has shown it is a fragile draw. It is those that come and stay in the area, walk and climb the ridges above the Loch and frequent the eateries, pubs and hotels that are the life blood of Loch Ness. It is those wild life tourists, the photographers, the walkers and climbers that come back year on year. Now let us stand up for them!
Pretty damn scary and more so when you realise none of the on farm turbines, which in some area have grown like the Pox, are included. This is actually public knowledge available at https://gateway.snh.gov.uk/natural-spaces/ so why are the Government so reluctant to admit that their Policy of a turbine on every hill is close to fulfilment! You may however note that Braes of Doune, Bein Thuirsann, Novar, Nover Extension and Fairburn are also missing. Caithness seems oddly devoid of wind turbines as does Aberdoomshire.
Alex Salmond, in 2007, declared that Scotland could produce all electricity from renewable energy. Picture: Ian Rutherford
THE answer to Britain’s power supply is beneath our feet, writes Stuart Young.
There has been much discussion recently about the unintended consequences of certain decisions, actions, or lack of action, regarding UK energy policy.
Last autumn extensive media attention was devoted to the possibility of power cuts. That prompted me to look at the sequence of events leading to a once great nation not having a reliable electricity generation and distribution system.
I found a number of unexpected and perhaps unpredictable consequences, but I also found a number of unexpected and unpredictable decisions, the consequences of which were entirely predictable.
In 1989-90, Margaret Thatcher privatised the electricity generation and distribution industry. Predictably, the operators’ focus changed from powering the nation economically to powering the nation profitably.
In the following years, global warming became a hot topic and in 1997 Tony Blair signed the Kyoto Protocol to reduce greenhouse gases.
In 2001 when the EU’s large combustion plant directive signed the death warrant for a number of older high polluting plants, we had no coherent plan for the replacement of this generation capacity. Progress toward meeting our Kyoto commitment was stagnating so in 2002 Mr Blair introduced the renewables obligation.
This carrot and stick device unpredictably handed over the responsibility for meeting Kyoto commitments to the electricity generators, along with a huge financial incentive which predictably led to the industry taking the least expensive and most profitable way of meeting the obligation by wholesale development of onshore wind.
The first completely unpredictable, technically unsupported, game changing bizarre decision came in 2003 when Ross Finnie declared that Scotland could meet twice its allocated burden of carbon reduction. The result was greater pressure on Scotland to produce more electricity from wind.
The period from 2002 to 2007 was a sort of “false peace”, during which the imperative to reduce carbon emissions essentially translated into an imperative to generate by renewables.
The second bizarre decision came in 2007 when Mr Blair went to Europe to agree a target of 20 per cent of EU electricity consumption from renewables but returned having persuaded his EU colleagues to agree a target of 20 per cent of total energy from renewables. The action was unpredictable but the consequence – a more than doubling of electricity generation by wind – was entirely predictable.
In 2007 Alex Salmond “out-Finnied” Mr Finnie by declaring that Scotland could produce all its electricity needs from renewables. Predictably, Scotland became open season for predatory windfarm developers.
The Climate Change Act of 2008 committed us to a huge 80 per cent reduction in greenhouse gases. Only six MPs voted against it; the other 640 or so supported it without asking how it was to be achieved. Who could have predicted such a lack of scrutiny? The predictable result was an even greater rush for wind.
Some things which followed the Climate Change Act could not have been foreseen. For example, feed-in tariffs reward people for generating electricity using small-scale renewables and penalising their neighbours by making them pay for the extra cost of generation. Scottish planning policy removed the right to the enjoyment of one’s home from windfarm development in the pursuit of Mr Salmond’s 100 per cent vision.
Next, “connect and manage” was introduced following wind industry pressure to reduce waiting time for grid connections, allowing windfarms to connect to the grid when the windfarms were ready, whether or not the grid was. Before privatisation, this would have been unthinkable.
The subsequent compensation costs for unavailability of grid capacity were entirely predictable – and predictably underestimated. The UK electricity industry became supply-led with the Energy Act of 2013. The existence of remote generating stations now dictates the requirement for transmission, not the need for electricity.
Possibly the second most bizarre outcome is that recently National Grid has recruited a large bank of commercial diesel generators as short term operating reserve. Nobody could have predicted the burning of oil to support going green.
Government is not open. For instance the SNH August 2014 Wind Farm Map is yet to be published because it will show the vast extent of windfarm development in Scotland, unpredictable and unimaginable ten years ago, which will be bad for SNP prospects in the election.
I was motivated to write this piece by what is possibly the most bizarre decision in the process so far: in spite of having the solution to our energy crisis and carbon reduction target literally under our feet, Fergus Ewing has called a moratorium on fracking for shale gas.
The only similar sequence of bizarre-solutions-leading-to-unintended-problems-requiring-even-more-bizarre-solutions that I can think of began when an old lady swallowed a fly. She’s dead of course… and so is UK and Scotland energy policy.
Well this is an aspirational story but one that, had we not spent billions on useless wind farms, we may well have lead rather than, as painfully factual, been in the rearguard. In this case, not even on the starting blocks. Read the story here!
The plan is to build a 300MW reactor by 2016, which should have a runtime life of 100 years. India’s Thorium Energy Program, which is behind the system, aims to expand from the prototype so that 30 per cent of India’s energy comes from Thorium reactors by 2050.
That is a small reactor capable of the capacity of 100 large wind turbines of 3MW but deliverable 24/7/365 with a lifetime of 100 years, four times the planned(possibly ambitious) life of a wind turbine.
I looked at this and thought how those comments could as well be attached to all those rural dwellers in the Highland of Scotland. We too are an endangered species to be sacrificed at the alter to the Gods of Climate Change. As the ex Chairman of the IPCC Pauchori stated in his resignation letter, caused by his lack of respect for another co-worker, “Climate Change is my Religion”. And yet we are told these measures are to protect our ecology and environment. From whom I hear you say. Because Climate has been here for thousands of years and 5000 years ago we know it was considerably warmer with fields and settlements at much higher altitudes than we could survive now.
I looked at the new Highland Council Wind Farm maps and wondered which muppet had drawn them. Approved, but not yet constructed, wind farms had mysteriously disappeared as had those in planning and scoping. It was a sanitised wind farm map that might well have been drawn by Scottish Renewables spin machine. Then to add insult to injury the Highland Spatial Framework Map appeared and effectively the whole of the Highlands reaction was “WE’RE SCREWED!” Almost every nook and hollow, every pimple and molehill was categorised as Areas with Potential for Wind Farm Development. You really must hate the Highlands to produce that or be totally ignorant. Now the Highland Council has outsourced their web site to a company in Leicester down in the East Midlands of England (despite a mass of capable and experienced web companies in Inverness and the Highlands) and to say it is not the best website around would be the understatement of the year! Could it be that these maps were drawn in the upstairs office on an industrial estate in England? They certainly would seem to have been created by someone with no knowledge or understanding of the area. Now staggering under the sucker punch of two misleading maps I decided to see how they compared with the Wild Lands Map. Well whoever drew the Spatial Framework Map had never considered the conflicts with that map. Now there are tests in the offing on Wild Land, non less so than the appeal for Carn Gorm on the western flanks of Ben Wyvis. Wild Land is not a statutory designation but more a wish list. We see how easily it was redrawn to allow Stronelairg to proceed. Launched with a fanfare of bagpipes(?) by the Scottish Ministers last year it has yet to be fully tested.
The ‘problems’ with Longannet have polarised views in the hierachy of the SNP with the First Minister now announcing open season for the wind weasels. That Longannet is owned by the subsidy junky Iberdrola masquerading as “Scottish Power” it is not surprising that this was a high risk poker game about Longannet receiving the same subsidy stream that Whitelees enjoys. Pay if you do and pay if you don’t (generate power). There are issues for fossil fuel generation in that technology is designed to run 24/7/365 and preferential rules for wind results in under use of capacity which quickly can turn to heavy losses. It is now an eschewed market. That the Scottish Government and Ofgem are such poor poker players has much to do with the fact that Iberdrola was dealt all the Aces! The result though has been that the First Minister has bowed before the Wind Industry and given them the Green Light. Virtually everything is back on the table! The result is an aggressive launch of appeals in the sure knowledge that they will be approved as well as the need to tag on to the ROCs payment before the more competitive CfD system kicks in. The Gravy Train may soon be leaving and they all want their seats first!
Now back to the maps. Well I thought to create my own but I have been diverted to other issues of late and Alan Sloman has produced a set far better than I could ever hope to do. So I shall refer you all to his Blog and his assessment of the true state of affairs. Click here for the Truth Over to you Alan!
Murdo Fraser, Convenor of the Enterprise, Energy and Tourism Committee and a rather isolation voice of reason on that Committee has written a piece about Scotland’s energy future. Please read as it is a breath of fresh air in the corridors of Holyrood. Click on the link.
A little while back, a Scottish pen-smith posed a little rhetorical on the subtle art of skulduggery:
Oh, what a tangled web we weave
When first we practise to deceive!
There have been few industries that have had more practice, and as much success, in that subtle art, as the wind industry.
STT has popped up 880 posts in the, just over, two years since we cranked into gear – on our mission to destroy the wind industry.
A fair slice of them have concerned the topic of the adverse health effects caused by turbine generated incessant low-frequency noise and infrasound; the woefully inadequate, indeed, utterly irrelevant noise standards written by the wind industry; and the institutional corruption that:
a) allowed those standards to become the “benchmarks” in the first place; and
b) witnesses public authorities, with a responsibility to protect public health, not only sitting on their hands, but…
Ruth Davidson and Murdo Fraser addressed the inequalities of wind farms at the Stirling Mart recently. However this only partly addresses the issues and aims to bring us in line with Denmark who amended their compensation scheme in September 2014. In that people who are financially disadvantaged by the construction of wind turbines/farms can apply to the government for compensation which is calculated by an independent adjudication panel. The government then claim that money back from the developer. As the Scottish Conservatives state the SNP Parliament is totally besotted by their land reforms which could be seen as another target in the independence ambitions and surely runs contrary to it’s wind farm targets.
The truth is, and although Murdo Fraser understands it I am not sure Ruth Davidson does, that the impact of wind farms has little to do with property values but with quality of life. A cheque for the estimated loss in value (c. 20%) is little benefit if your views are trashed and you can’t sleep for the incessant noise during the limited times that the turbines are actually working and you can’t enjoy a summers day in the garden due to the persistent shadow flicker. Nor does it take account of those that have had their homes on the market for years with no viewings and no offers. That often happens from the day the wind farm goes into scoping and can last a minimum of three years even in the case of refused applications. For an approved application this can extend to the twenty five years life of a wind farms, not taking into account weasel words from Planners suggesting extensions to forty years will be normal. Of course we may suggest that wind farms have an expected life span closer to sixteen years but we are already seeing windfarms in Devon being re-engineered with new bigger turbines on the original footprint.
In a world where work often means you have to move half way across the country if not the continent, this can cause real stress to those involved.
So we have a government that can’t care a damn, sees land reform as a great move forward (think Mugabe and Zimbabwe) and a system that is morally corrupt. That a great number of opponents to wind farms are seen as incomers encourages the SNP to snipe and vilify opposition. However look deeper and consider that without inward migration these areas would be a disaster area with real grinding poverty not seen since the Clearances. Inward migration brings investment, jobs and even tourism. Had not those resident in the Glens sold their properties and moved from the area, inward migration would never have reached the levels it did. The necessary investment in these deprived areas would have been in the hundreds of millions whereas the investment has been in growth and infrastructure. A win-win situation for the country. Now we have the opposite with investment from off-shore companies buying turbines built all over europe and profits directed everywhere but Scotland. Just a trawl through the myriad of small operating companies will show that most make losses so no tax revenue for the UK whilst operational/financial charges go to offshore tax havens. Even the absentee landowners would make the latest HSBC tax avoidance schemes small beer.
So, yes, Scottish and rUK residents should be entitled to compensation and in fact for buy-out when the property won’t sell. If the wind farm company are so sure that properties won’t drop in value then surely, with their sqillions of profits, they would find no conflict to buy such properties at the accepted valuation and sell them on without loss. Of course we know that they know that these properties would be un-marketable. That is why they have proved so resistant to such suggestions.
However in discussing compensation we must not lose track of the fact that most people have invested a great deal both financially and emotionally in their properties and the only answer is to stop building on shore wind farms, move to new technologies including fracked gas, clean coal and nuclear on existing sites and stop trashing our beautiful scenery(accepted as the greatest reason for tourism in Scotland). In fact I would go so far as to call for a total moratorium on applications, to rescind any approved wind farms and to consider decommissioning and removal of all wind farms/turbines that were originally refused by local councils and subsequently approved by Ministers. I would also make mandatory a minimum distance, as agreed by a forum including residents/homeowners and representatives of walking/climbing groups etc, from wind turbines. In other words not just SNP appointed government officers, WWF, RSPB and Scottish Renewables, as has been the case up until now! Any on-farm/domestic/council turbines already built within those minimums would have to be decommissioned and removed or sited outwith the proscribed minimums. Compensation is nothing more or less than a bribe.
Any alternative is truthfully no alternative at all!
In a recent article on these posts it was commented that US gas prices will rise as exports start. We know Ineos at Grangemouth is building a massive gas storage facility for US Fracked Gas. Now the caveat. We know what prunes our government ministers are and the not fit for purpose DECC. If we support Fracking in the UK can we guarantee they only take as much as we need protecting our resources for generations or will the mantra of free trade result in the rape of the UK and selling our birthright to the rest of Europe. Just like they did with oil! Big profits for big overseas developers and a few well paid seats on boards for retiring ministers. Any bets folks!
"The trouble with wind farms is that they have a very large spatial footprint for a piddling little bit of electricity. You would need 8oo turbines to produce the output of a coal-fired power station."
Sir Martin Holgate, Chief Scientist at the Department of the Environment of the British Government - October 2004