Keele University’s somewhat triumphalist claim that the removal of Ministry of Defence seismic restrictions on wind farms will allow a further 1.6 GW of wind-power generation in the Borders concerns me.
As I understand it, Keele was employed to calculate the acceptable level of seismic activity for the Eskdalemuir nuclear monitoring station. I did not know the university was also involved in wind farm policies. A cynic might conclude that is was encouraged by the Scottish Government to find justification for opening up the Borders to more wind generation, and that they have managed to do so.
What this means in practice is that this region will become the generating hub of Scotland, providing power north to the Central Belt and south to England. Strategically, that might make sense. The population is low, the topography well-suited to gathering wind and the location would reduce the cost of transport of power.
If that is the case, then the Scottish Government is effectively sacrificing the Borders to its policies for renewable energy. And if that is the case, the time has come perhaps for a proper debate about the policy which, so far, has resulted in a rash of landscape-shattering developments all over the area, without any apparent strategic direction.
In other words, the policy is driven by three factors – willing landowners, complicit developers and subsidy. Underpinning the whole thing is the authorities’ assessment of the quality of the Borders landscape.
The failure to assess landscape other than parochially within the Borders ignores its proper place as one of the most beautiful and unspoiled regions within the UK. This and the reluctance to designate more than a few Special Landscape Areas (which carry no protection), or even National Scenic Areas or national parks (which do), along with the even more bizarre refusal to include more than an acre or two as “Wild Land” means that we are sitting ducks in the Borders for development which is at best no more than 30 per cent efficient in generating electricity, and which even the Scottish Government admits destroys landscapes.
Perhaps, as my wife suggested, wind farms should be concentrated into large units around the nation’s nuclear and coal power stations. Such concentration would reduce infrastructure costs, remove the need for subsidy, allow proper compensation to be paid to those affected and prevent the further desecration of an internationally-renowned landscape.
At the very least, the Scottish Government should come clean with the people of the Borders about its intentions for the area and instigate a proper debate about the continuance of its policy on renewable generation.
J. E. Pratt