Going with the energy flow

The Energy Saving Trust has estimated that up to 40 per cent of the UK’s electricity could be generated by small-scale renewable energy systems such as hydropower.

Though there is a micro system exploiting the Archimedean screw established in Selkirk, to the best of my knowledge it seems not to have been involved in a broader study corroborating the trust’s contention that a 63kW Archimedean screw turbine could generate 240,000kW of electricity per year.

All that is required is a suitable stream or river to harness its potential energy. I wonder where we might find such a source. Could it be that in the Borders we have the vanished triumph of the last industrial revolution offering new life for its future? Before the introduction of steam power, the Borders was awash with mills drawing their energy needs from the rivers about us. Why are we not primarily debating this as a feasible alternative to wind farms? – and while we’re on the subject, I object to the use of the word “farm” in association with sterile eyesores such as those looming over the good people of Stow.

Generally speaking I am not against wind turbines, but rather the reckless obsession and the heedless urgency to rush headlong into a technology from which, as yet, the anticipated paybacks are relatively unconfirmed.

Scottish wind turbine manufacturer Proven Energy was last month teetering on the brink of financial collapse following the emergence of “acute” technical problems with a significant number of shafts affected, advising owners to place their wind turbines on brake as soon as it is safe to do so. Such teething troubles so early in the game do not bode well and do not inspire faith in its future.

The willingness to scatter across our stunning landscapes erections entirely alien to the natural environment in the name of that environment and at the speed and scale we do is irresponsible – especially as we have well-proven, viable and sustainable alternatives such as hydropower in the Borders.

The rivers and streams throughout our region have such a high flow/head ratio of rolling water that not to embrace its potential as eagerly as we do that of wind power is at least foolish, worst immoral, considering the potential gain for local business and employment such an undertaking into hydropower would provide compared to that (zero) which wind turbine installation offers.

I applaud Scottish Borders Council which seems to have a level-headed resistance to the large numbers of applications from energy companies wishing to “give advice, assist and develop” (forgive the scepticism) the Borders, but would urge that it visibly promotes and supports equally alternatives, together and evenly with wind power.

Hugh Lovatt