Blow to Borders community

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I noticed the two items published in TheSouthern (December 27) about Fallago Rig wind farm.

In the first article, Don Mackay, of EDF Renewables, boasted how EDF had “delivered a renewable energy project ... on time, on budget, with minimal impact the local environment”.

Unfortunately, he then went on to spoil the picture of a pristine project somehow magically put down with the minimal impact he mentioned. This was just a bit further on in the article when he boasted that EDF has built 39km of access roads (all about five metres wide), poured 19,000 cubic metres of concrete with 2,600 tonnes of steel reinforcement, to erect the 48 turbines that are between 110 and 125 metres high.

These statistics so proudly quoted demonstrate the enormous impact this project has had on the wild upland hills of the Lammermuirs. Fallago Rig was just another hill in the middle of the Lammermuirs with nothing more than heather, sheep and grouse – it has now been industrialised.

Whatever EDF says, the enormous civil works, together with the vast quantities of steel, concrete and new roads, have destroyed the natural environment that previously existed, and have replaced it with a large-scale industrial plant. Furthermore, the turbines are visible over a very wide area – not surprisingly as wind farms have to be built on the tops 
of hills.

Close up they appear enormous, but even at considerable distances they transform the skyline. Lauder Common is about 12km distance, yet the Fallago Rig turbines are clearly visible over a considerable arc on the eastern horizon, towering over any other natural feature and instantly drawing the eye to their intrusion into the landscape. “Minimal impact”? That’s a very bad 
joke.

The second item was a eulogy to the amount of money Fallago Rig will provide to the local community – some £250,000 a year. Community benefit is now an accepted way for wind farm developers to put something into local communities as compensation for the intrusion the developments create.

There is an accepted yardstick of payment as a multiple of the notional output as expressed in megawatts (MW). Early developments give payments around £2,000 per MW – however, even in December 2011, the Scottish energy minister, during a Holyrood debate, welcomed news that developers were now offering amounts equating to £5,000 per MW.

The notional output from Fallago Rig will be 144MW, which at £5,000 per MW gives community benefit of approximately £720,000 – not £250,000. No doubt local communities will be looking forward to hearing how EDF intends to meet its moral obligation to fully compensate local communities for the devastation it has wreaked.

The scale of these sums indicates the huge profits that EDF and the Duke of Roxburghe will be making over the 25-year life of the scheme – sums that make the community benefit appear small change. No wonder the duke and the CEO of EDF Renewables have broad smiles in the accompanying photograph.

However, it should be remembered that these profits can only be made through the subsidies that are paid for renewable energy – the infamous ROCs or renewable obligation certificates. These are levied on every consumer of electricity, thereby driving households already struggling with energy poverty even further into trouble.

Readers may find it ironic that the extra “green” levy on their electricity bills go to wealthy landowners such as the duke, as well as huge energy companies such as EDF.

“Minimal impact”. No, that is just a smokescreen – we in the Borders are all paying a high price in many different ways for schemes like Fallago Rig.

John Williams

Crookston Old Mill

Heriot