The self-righteous Central Belt

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Tragically, 20 years of relentless and cleverly orchestrated media and environmentalist pressure and propaganda campaigns have led to misguided, dogmatic and politically expedient policies that are systematically destroying Scotland’s only remaining unique natural asset – its beautiful landscapes.

Nowhere is this more evident than in the Borders. We are paying a heavy price for our proximity to the energy-hungry urban central belt whose voters/residents refuse to have to look at or listen to wind turbines on the Pentlands, yet want to feel self-righteous about “saving the planet”.

Unprecedented numbers of intrusive, industrial-scale wind turbines and their associated paraphernalia have ruined far too many breathtaking views across the Border hills. Not an attractive outlook for future tourism or our quality of life, and now the most beautiful areas of the Yarrow and Tweed valleys are under threat from further steel forests of 400ft-high turbines spread across the skyline at Broadmeadows and Minch Moor, right along the Southern Upland Way.

The extent of this wanton destruction of the peace and tranquillity of our natural heritage appalled me when I recently “came home” to the Borders after a 40-year absence.

Scotland has an installed electricity generating capacity of approximately 11 gigawatts (GW), against a peak demand of about seven GW, leaving a margin for losses and export (approximately 20 per cent goes to England). Five generating stations exist, producing 38-40 per cent of our needs from nuclear (two), 33-35 per cent from coal (two) and 16-18 per cent from gas (one), while eight-10 per cent comes from distributed hydroelectric stations.

More than 30 per cent of this capacity is due to be decommissioned in the next five-10 years, and all of it within the next 20-25 years. Efficient, effective, economic and reliable state-of-the-art replacement power stations at these existing sites are essential to guarantee long-term energy security (and jobs) for our future.

To stand by and watch these stations close while desecrating most of rural Scotland’s wonderful landscapes with wind turbines and pylons is inexcusable.

Wind power is an inefficient, unreliable and grossly expensive so-called “alterative” energy source. The huge masts and turbines, access roads, pylons and concrete foundations (1,000 tonnes per pylon) are far too extensive and invasive, damaging to wildlife, to rural peace and tranquillity, and, ironically, to the environment for the meagre and intermittent electricity they generate.

Politicians’ obsession with wind turbines is a weak, naïve and politically correct response to media and environmentalist pressure. Wind power is vastly expensive (each unit costs twice that produced by conventional coal, gas or nuclear power stations) because of the high costs of installation, maintenance and low efficiency (turbines can only operate for 20-25 per cent of the time, and do so at 20-25 per cent efficiency).

From the major turbine manufacturers in China and Denmark, to the predominantly EU companies who install and run the farms, to the payment of compensation (approximately £2,000 per megawatt per annum) to local communities who have these machines imposed upon them, the entire wind industry only remains viable because we, as consumers, have no choice but to pay for it through our utility bills and Government subsidies.

All UK power companies are compelled to accept wind-generated electricity, whenever it becomes available, through Government-imposed renewables obligation certificates, and must power-down their reliable, efficient, conventional 24/7 generating stations.

A recent study in the USA showed that such “cycling” of major power plants reduces their efficiency, thereby increasing their CO2 emissions, which negates the alleged savings in CO2 attributed to the use of wind turbines in the first place.

No matter how many romantic-sounding wind farms are imposed upon us, the UK must still retain its conventional (gas, coal, nuclear) base-load power-generating capacity.

The voting public will not take kindly to living in the dark and cold for 75 per cent of the time when the right type of breeze stops, and during times of high atmospheric pressure in summer (hottest days) and winter (coldest days) when there is no wind.

Dr Michael Wilson

Clovenfords