26th July 2017

Green spin is a disgrace (Robert Sandison)

We are all individual, but for some who never leave the comfort zone their concept of place and perspective is completely different to some who prefer and who enjoy being in the outdoor environment and in the more remote areas of Shetland, places such as the hills and lochs of Scallafield.

There are bound to be differences of opinion for that very reason alone and for some it matters not one jot if the whole of Shetland was covered in a turbine forest as far as the eye can see, just as long as it can be seen as potential for financial gain at any cost.

For individuals who do not find recreation in these kinds of remote areas can we say that out of sight is out of mind? If that is Shetland’s case then it becomes an even greater tragedy and one of blind ignorance from grey men in grey suits surrounded by grey concrete.

I would urge these individuals who are able to do so to walk into the hills and view the scene from the top of Scallafield and perhaps try to understand the loss that will be experienced by people who have an affinity with Shetland’s natural landscape and heritage.

The land and the landscape is deep rooted in the psyche. To drastically alter or change such a fundamental thing will induce a mental conflict with great sadness and tragedy for Shetlanders like myself. Nothing could be more painful than to watch helpless as blanket bog, heather and moorland fall before the bulldozers and metal monsters.

When the Viking Energy project was first mooted it was presented as a green project to help save the planet. Now it has grown fat on broken promises to mutate its true form, a subsidy derived money machine full of new uncertain promises to feed the gluttonous system and damn the consequences to either people or the environment.

Meanwhile we fight among ourselves while Viking Energy dangles gold carrots before greedy eyes and drooling mouths. For those who accept that, take time to reflect if you have a conscience that you have sacrificed both people, birds and wildlife for the sake of blood money.

Shetland Charitable Trust millions have been earmarked for the project and who knows at the end how much will be sucked from the cash cow before completion.

In short it is one extreme high-risk venture and could bankrupt Shetland. With a shift in governmental policy regarding wind-power subsidy we may be left with a colossal white elephant and environmental disaster rusting in the hills.

This project is all about making money, not saving the planet, and the green spin that has accompanied this development from day one is a disgrace and a slur on the intelligence of all Shetlanders.

All blanket bog is protected by legislation and destruction on the proposed scale for this colossal windfarm brings the question of negative carbon saving during its projected life.

No matter how the so called experts onboard try to spin the figures on carbon payback and benefit to the environment.

The industrialisation of vast areas of blanket bog is slowly being recognised as one of mans greatest follies in the battle against global warming.

If the destructive windfarm is built, then for me they will have removed the desire to go and walk among these once peaceful hills and lochs they will have removed the choice that I once had.

They will have sanctioned the death of Shetland’s landscape. They will have placed in the midst of nature an unrelenting and hellish noise from grotesque man-made structures that have no place here and that is what I believe to be so tragic.

Ask yourself a question: if this vast and expensive project running into billions does not reduce fossil fuel usage and help prevent global warming then why are we doing it? If all the natural world had a choice what would they tell you? Mankind – the destructive force and the insatiable greed for gold.

Robert Sandison
Tripwell,
Whalsay.

34 comments

  1. Robin Barclay

    Well said, Robert.
    I think some of what you say might have been in the SIC Planner’s recommendation to refuse planning, which the then SIC councillors willfully ignored. As for wild places, among my favourites are the hills west of Sandwick, from Deepdale up to the wartime mosquito wreck and memorial (how many Shetlanders have visited it?), and including the summit of Royl Field from where the views out over Burra and north as far as Ronas are superb, and the moorland is populated by mountain hares which turn white in winter and raingeese nest in the lochans. I don’t think I have ever met anyone there who wasn’t actually accompanying me on that walk. You are right – maybe few do have an affinity for such places. It used to be visited frequently when folk caa’d da hill communally, but few seem to use the scattald now – and I doubt the days when da Wast Banks Crö gatherings were almost a social event are long over. I dread the thought that someone may soon slap a set of windmills from Maywick right along the hills above Clift Sound to Scalloway – they seem ripe for picking in any next phase of development to justify the cost of an interconnector – so feel a sympathy with the folk who will have their local hills spoiled by the Viking Energy development. Do scattald communities and/or lairds benefit from any such development, and would they be greedy enough to promote for that return it as they sit neebin by their radiators.

    Reply
    • Brian Smith

      Royl Field was the site of a splendid scuffle between combatants from Burra and South Cunningsburgh in 1771.

      Reply
      • Robin Barclay

        I think the Cunningsburgh folk were among the first to successfully oppose the power of the lairds in Shetland. Rumour has it some might not be so strongly opposed to putting wind turbines on their scattald.

      • Robin Barclay

        Any idea of the derivation of the name “Royl”? There is a strain of red grass that grows extensively on that moorland giving it a red colour. Could that have anything to do with the derivation of that name (probably “anglicised” by the first OS map makers – maybe one of their best was to turn “Vit Fugl” (white bird) into Fitfull, but it is somehow appropriate)

      • John Tulloch

        Robin,

        I waakit up ower yondruw last time at a wis hem an saa’ da ridd girse (“deer girse”, doon here a’ Argyll).

        Whit aboot “Roe Fjell” (“Ruyea fieel'”?) an da mappin’ fokk addit da “l” an da “d” ta mak hit “Royl Field”?

  2. iantinkler

    February 13th, 2015 12:05
    Robin, I had the pleasure (joke) of being invited by Ratter and SSE to the first ever open discussion about VE, many years ago. I had that privilege as I am a registered Crofter (Flawton) with the VE project on part of the hill right. I, as a Crofter was offered about £1000 per annum (rent). The same sum to every other Crofter on that hill right. I understand that every penny paid to the crofters would be matched with a similar compounded payment to the Lairds. The usual balance being the Crofters would receive £1000 for the loss of hill grazing, the lairds would be played £10,000 to £20,000 plus per annum for sweet FA. Nice one for a few wealthy lairds, a small bribe to try and appease the Crofter. They call it rent, it basically means , a huge payment to the landowners, a few crumbs to the Crofter. All that money is raised by a hike in our electricity bills! Exactly what Ratter was paid was not disclosed, maybe he organized this project as an act of charity and goodwill for hard up Lairds!

    Reply
    • Robin Barclay

      Can you shed some further light on this, Ian.

      Did those of you with hill rights arrive at a majority decision to “rent” land to VE, or how was that arrived at?
      If it had been opposed by majority, what would have happened?
      We’re you threatened with compulsory purchase, if so by whom?
      What role did lairds have in that process – did those with hill rights have priority?
      Is the rent offered a promise, or has the rental payment already started, deal done?
      Will you still be able to run sheep around the wind turbines (and qualify for subsidy, which has a component for protecting landscape) – if not, the vegetation will change if not grazed?
      Are the rules different for crofter tenants and croft owners – how is that resolved?
      Could it have been blocked by the land users (crofters and/or lairds)?

      Personally I think you’d be daft not to take the money even if you are opposed to the development, or hand it back (maybe give it to a charity but not SCT), since why let them off with not paying – but it would have been best if it had never happened – I presume agreements are in place.

      Reply
  3. Jennie Atkinson

    A very well presented and heartfelt letter. I used to regularly (almost daily) walk in the hills above Tingwall Valley but since the erection of the Burradale Wind Turbines I have no desire to walk within what is an industrial site which is noisy and intimidating and that site is small in comparison to what is proposed. I do hope the population of Shetland will think very carefully about the effect the turbines will have on Shetland’s stunning natural environment and its users (not just people but the natural environment too) when it is sadly just for profit. As you say the green ticket has been a disgrace from day one.

    Reply
  4. Wayne Conroy

    For those of you reading this who aren’t aware of the damage this project will cause you need only look at a photograph on the viking energy website.

    http://www.vikingenergy.co.uk/assets/images/enlargeable/Construction.jpg

    Now imagine that photograph multiplied by 103 times (and that’s before you even attach the huge wind turbines).

    Reply
  5. Tom Stove

    So right, Robin. It is the rest of the windmills that we will have to worry about. They will have to fill that interconnector with something.

    Reply
  6. Kathy Greaves

    It always was a risky project, financially, morally and environmentally. Time they knocked it on the head.

    Reply
  7. Jim Wiegand- Wildlife Biologist

    It is not green spin. Call it what it really is, Green Fraud

    Here are some facts that will astound readers ………………

    Every day Americans consume about 19 million barrels of fossil fuels, 73.3 billion cubic feet of natural gas, and about 2.2 billion kWh of nuclear energy. When fossil fuel and natural gas are converted to their kWh equivalents, the wind energy production today available to consumers amounts to a mere 0.4% or 1/250 of our energy consumption. This figure could even be lower due to losses in transmission and other factors.

    These wind energy figures are based upon America’s 61,000 MW of installed capacity operating at 20% of capacity. For the sake of comparison Europe’s turbines operate at about 19-20% of capacity.

    In 2015, total US liquid fuels (oil) consumption is forecast to grow by 290,000 bbl/d (1.4%). Once again when converted to kWh, just this increase in energy consumption far exceeds the production of kWh energy from every wind turbine spinning today in America. It has been this way with wind energy for decades and this will continue indefinitely. Europe’s figures are not much better.

    Keep in mind that Coal energy was not included in these figures.

    With wind there so much destruction for so little benefit. What readers should be thinking is, why aren’t bank accounts being frozen and perpetrators going to prison?

    Reply
  8. Lyndsey Ward

    No words to express how sorry many across the Highlands and the rest of Scotland are that this development has been approved. Many supported you in the fight to preserve this wonderful place. It is a terrible decision made by short sighted politicians. Unfortunately this scenario is being played out again and again as some of our most precious places are targeted by relentless multinationals. We can only hope that subsidies are cut so that this farce can end because, although they have the power through devolved planning to stop further development, the Scottish government are hellbent on allowing it to continue and making the rich even richer at the expense of the environment, wildlife and us all. There are far too many dis-benefits in a scheme such as this to ever make it acceptable or appropriate.

    Reply
    • James Howitt

      How do folk propose to keep the light on then?

      Perhaps a few more coal fired p.s? I am sure the residents of the Aire Valley will be delighted with that….

      Reply
      • John Tulloch

        If the residents of the Aire Valley, or anywhere else, want their electricity supplied by wind farms, instead of fossil fuel power stations, they should go ahead and build some in the Aire Valley.

        The residents of Shetland do not need a 350MW wind farm to “keep the light on” and frankly, as a Scottish mainland resident, neither do I – nor do I wish to have to pay for the proposed £115/MW, on top of, at least, £0.5billion for a submarine cable, not counting the £1-2billion being squandered on a submarine cable and associated grid reinforcements, required to transport renewable energy from Caithness to Banff.

        There is a major gas terminal 25 miles from Lerwick, from which it is proposed to pipe gas to a new Lerwick Power Station at Rova Head, should the Viking Energy wind farm not go ahead, providing a far more sensible option for both Shetland residents and the Shetland Charitable Trust who could invest in a raft of associated businesses, possible, including appropriate-scale renewable energy, which would, if not actually be “guaranteed” to be profitable, could hardly fail.

        And by the way, Ed Davey, DECC, has just granted planning permission for the world’s largest offshore wind farm to be built in the Dogger Bank area of the North Sea, so you’ll be able to use that to “keep the lights on”, in England, at least, as long as the wind is blowing – and if it isn’t blowing, what then?

      • Laurence Paton

        Dear James ,

        Did you read the excellent comment from Mr Jim Wiegand ?

  9. iantinkler

    Strange is it not, Mr Howitt, that Sturgeon and Ewing have now complained to Cameron about the probable demise of filthy coal burning Longannet power station. Scottish electricity generation, after all the wasted money and destroyed environment by wind farm development in Scotland, the closure of this coal burner will leave Scotland totally dependant on English generated electricity topped up by French Nuclear, every time the wind does not blow. Well done SNP, well done Greenies, what a bunch of idiots you have proven you’ve selves to be. Scotland’s generating capacity reduced to this!! Ban fracking?, ban nuclear?, ban coal?, certainly a lot of lights will go out and Scotland’s power will be the most expensive in Europe, bring on fuel poverty after all we can always just blame Westminster.
    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/scotland/11418721/Scotland-could-rely-on-England-to-keep-the-lights-on.html
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-edinburgh-east-fife-31490010
    http://www.scotsman.com/news/green-scotland-relying-on-french-nuclear-power-1-1523147

    Reply
    • James Watt

      Before Mr Tinkler gets to excited, maybe he could explain how the closure of Longannet is entirely the SNPs fault, when the operators themself state it is the £40 million annual charge imposed on them by Ofgem, because of the location of Longannet in relation to the majority of the population which is in England.

      Reply
      • John Tulloch

        @James Watt,

        Ian will, doubtless, speak for himself, however, I didn’t actually see him blaming the SNP for the possible closure of Longannet which you rightly blamed on the grid connection charges imposed by National Grid, with the blessing of regulator OFGEM.

        The SNP – hypocritically – absolve themselves from blame about the size of renewable energy subsidies and the forcing of utilities to buy renewable energy at 2 x the price of conventional energy and pass the cost on to customers by saying that is a Westminster-reserved power, as if they had nothing to do with it.

        However, they did pass the Climate Change Act (Scotland), 2009, into law, requiring 42 percent carbon dioxide emissions cuts by 2020 and 80 percent by 2040 and adopted the target of supplying 100 percent of Scotland’s electricity from renewable.

        The objective was to establish Scotland as the “Green Capital of Europe” and these targets would be impossible to achieve without, either, energy prices, or tax bills, soaring.

        They have finally realised they can’t supply Scotland’s electricity by renewables, alone, and they’ve painted themselves into a corner with nuclear and fracking, hence, the sheer panic at the suggestion Longannet may close and the resulting, knee-jerk, U-turn on coal power.

        And what did the SNP do to encourage development of the proposed new, state of the art, coal-fired power station at Hunterston, even though it could have replaced the ageing nuclear plant there which they so despise?

        Nothing. They did nothing because they imagined the wind would never stop blowing and the last thing the “Green Capital” needed was another coal-fired power station.

        Did they listen to anyone who knew the first thing about it?

        No. They listened to the charlatans in the renewable energy lobby and the so-called “green NGOs” i.e. WWF, Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth, etc., who promised them “good” PR, especially, if the governments and companies provided them with funding to campaign about “climate change”, completing a self-reinforcing loop of increasing mutual reliance and increasing folly, in respect of decisions by politicians, about the power supply and its cost to consumers.

      • James Watt

        @ John, it’s fair enough to disagree with the SNPs renewables policy but I’m still not convinced that it’s fair to say that it’s responsible for the state of the more traditional forms of generation. The UKs grid has been in need of modernisation longer than the SNP has been in power.

        If you were to give your impartial advice to any of the power generation companies about where in the UK is best to invest in the National Grid, would you suggest somewhere like Fife, where your investment will face an annual charge for connecting to the grid or would you suggest they invest somewhere like The Midlands where you will receive a subsidy?

      • John Tulloch

        @JW,

        It depends, on the source of energy and where it comes from, distance to the transmission grid, demographic, logistics, safety and environmental factors, etc., however, all other things equal, your money would probably be safest in London/SE England (see my longer comment, below).

    • John Tulloch

      Quite, Ian.

      Isn’t the Longannet U-turn by Sturgeon, simply, delicious!

      Reality has come home to roost at Holyrood…er…the…ahem!…er…”Green Capital of Europe”. (“Sprr-oo-oo-tt!”)

      🙂

      Expect another spectacular U-turn, after the election – this time unconventional gas and fracking will tumble off their hierarchy of demonology.

      Reply
    • Bill Adams

      Now come come Ian, in addition to Hydro pump-storage schemes, there the nuclear power stations at Hunterston and Torness. Surely you are aware of that – or perhaps not !

      Reply
      • John Tulloch

        A bit complacent there, if I may say so, Bill.

        If the two cross-border interconnectors are brought down by a major ice storm, and the nuclear stations need to run on steady output, for which the Scottish demand profile will very likely be in sufficient without the interconnectors, even, with pumped storage hydro; and if the ice storm is followed by hard frost with still conditions so no wind and no Longannet, what then?

        Provided EVERY PIECE of generating plant was available (unlikely, and not a way to run a grid) it might be possible to maintain supplies, using a combination of nuclear/pumped storage/hydro, plus a small contribution from what is left of the gas-fired power station at Peterhead, however, the chances of meeting the daily peak winter demand for more than a couple of days, if that – and it could be weeks if the interconnectors were badly damaged – are slim.

        Most likely, great swathes of Scotland would, either, be off supply, or subject to power cuts, especially, if, even, one large generator has to be taken out of service,

        Hence “such panic lying within their breasties”, at Holyrood.

        Reality has dawned and Nicola Sturgeon, to her credit, has had both the wit to avoid complacency, and the guts to make the humiliating U-turn of admitting – after all these years of SNP denial – that wind power is insecure and Longannet’s COAL-FIRED POWER IS ESSENTIAL to the security of Scotland’s electricity supplies.

  10. iantinkler

    James Watt, I never claimed Longannet’s probable closure was the SNPs fault, but is it not a bit ironic supper green Sturgeon and Ewing fall flat on their faces and now have to advocate Cameron to keep a filthy coal burner open to enable Scotland’s lights to stay on! Have to laugh when they do such somersaults about wicked fracking when gas is ten times less polluting than coal. What a pair of clowns, would it not have been catastrophic if Scotland was now independent. No power, little money from coal, well and truly stuffed, nice one SNP. Just thing Grange mouth soon to using fracked gas from the USA, says so much about green energy idiocy does it not. Not much to get excited about here Mr. Watt. The SNP energy policy would be utterly hilarious if it were not so sadly ruining bonnie Scotland!

    Reply
  11. John Tulloch

    @James Watt,

    Westminster are no better than the SNP and the grid connection charge on Longannet is iniquitous, but we’re talking about the SNP U-turn, their admission that Scotland’s electricity cannot be supplied by renewables, alone, and that the “only game in town”, for security of supply, is coal.

    National Grid’s connection charge did not always exist, it is new-ish. They justified it to OFGEM on the apparently reasonable basis that power stations should be close to the demand they supply.

    But take away our two nuclear plants, which are near the border – or Longannet – and the output from everything else will be dissipated within Scotland; indeed, we would require to import electricity from England to meet Scottish demand.

    So why should Scottish power stations have to pay a trumped up “grid connection charge” designed to “encourage” them to build plants nearer to South-East England?

    Surely, it doesn’t make sense and it needs to stop?

    The problem is, the SNP’s “Green Capital” and “Saudi Arabia of Wind Energy” ambitions have added major wind instability to existing oversupply in Scotland – in which National Grid, doubtless, foresaw the reverse of the effect which has panicked the SNP; namely, SE England would be depending on grid interconnectors to bring power from Scotland and Wales and if they failed, large areas of England could be blacked out.

    Excess wind power has also lead to partial-loading of fossil fuel plants, causing many to close, throughout the UK, because they are no longer viable due to lost income, causing problems on both sides of the border.

    The people at National Grid would understand the inherent instability of wind power but would be unable to speak out for fear of vilification as “climate change deniers”, not to mention, that climate change targets are now “the law”.

    So cynics might speculate that the intention was to encourage plants to be built near London, in the knowledge that there’s little wind or open space for wind farms and no water or mountains for hydro, so it’s likely to be some form of fossil fuel plants which would be built in that densely-populated region, thus solving its power deficit, securely.

    In Scotland, already, Cockenzie has closed and Peterhead’s output has been drastically reduced. Now Longannet, too, may close.

    So it appears the combination of emphasis on renewables and grid connection charges has resulted in the closure of essential fossil fuel plants in Scotland and incentivised their relocation to England where, we hear, there are vast shale gas resources, soon to be exploited.

    Reply
  12. Christopher Davis

    Well said. When will people wake up to the truth about wind turbines; nothing to do with saving the planet, just a greedy money grabbing exercise.
    I was lucky enough to be working in the Shetland Isles a couple of years ago and have wanted to return as a tourist. But not now. What is the point; the industrialisation of the landscape means you have lost me and certainly many others as prospective visitors, and all the money we would have spent.

    Reply
  13. David Spence

    What a disturbing irony Chris. It has been because of the greedy few (mainly those in the industrial west – aka across the loch) that has caused much of the environmental damage to the planet, and is, yet again, the selfish few who profess to be saving the environment but dismiss and neglect the fact they are destroying it by other means.

    As long as ‘ number 1 ‘ has a healthy bank account, why should they care about anybody or anything else is the philosophy of the average capitalist, and their insatiable appetite to go well beyond their means to get richer and richer at any cost.

    A man-made concept of money, wealth and prosperity has no relevance to any natural laws of nature or the Universe, but tell this to those who have caused environmental damage, destruction of the planet’s natural habitat, the death of all the species of animals (it is estimated that over 30% of all mammals will become extinct due to human activity before 2050) and the very essence of life itself due to their greed.

    But hey, as long as ‘ number 1 ‘ is ok?

    Reply
    • John Tulloch

      Thank you for enlightening me, David, I hadn’t picked up on that before – about the United States being to blame for Viking Energy and Chris not coming back to Shetland for his holidays.

      Reply
    • Sandy McMillan

      Davie, do you know how much of the power generated in Shetland will reach the mainland, via the cable, as i have been told that there will quite a lot lost.

      Reply
  14. David Spence

    May be you did not John, but the principle of greed, profits and selfishness is promoted very much by our friends across the pond, and it is this psychology of looking after your own interest, financially, regardless to what damage may be done or what people may be harmed or worse……………but the principle of making money has no morals whatsoever……….unless you regard the more negative aspects of human behaviour, which most capitalists have due to their selfishness and self importance.

    But you know me John, it is not like me to sing the same song over and over again. lol

    Reply
    • John Tulloch

      David,

      You wrote: “……but the principle of making money has no morals whatsoever……”

      Bill Gates and Warren Buffett were two of the top three richest people in the world – capitalists, par excellence. Gates started out in a garage and wound up creating employment for tens of thousands of people, not to mention millions of jobs, globally, in downstream activities

      He retired from Microsof early and set up the Gates Foundation to assist global healthcare and poverty, and education and access to IT in the US. Funds currently stand at over $42billion and Warren Buffett, who pays himself $100,000pa and lives in a modest house in Omaha, Nebraska, is a trustee of Gates Foundation and has pledged to donate 99 percent of his $72 billion fortune, gradually, over time.

      No morals?

      Reply
    • John Harman

      The ‘American Dream’ which is the principle that anyone regardless of background can through their own wit and hard graft can achieve success is a wonderful principle we should all embrace and work hard to ensure is embedded into the fabric of our society. I’m sorry David if you feel hard done by by your lot in life but the world doesn’t owe you or anyone else a living and there is nothing wrong with expecting people to work for it. I hope at some point in the future you are able to come to terms with whatever in your life has driven you to hold the views you do. God bless you.

      Reply
  15. David Spence

    John H. Where does the American Dream lay in regards to American Foreign Policy and their banking system attributed to the death of millions all in the name of providing loans to dictators, Tyrannical Rulers and Leaders who oppress their people?

    Where does the American Dream lay in regards to millions of people who forced into workshop/Labour Camps on behalf of American companies wishing to maximize their profits by having their products made in third world countries?

    Where does the American Dream lay in regards to sustaining and perpetuating the Arms Manufacturers of American providing the necessary machinery, weapons (including WMD’s) land mines (killing and maiming thousands) and laying down the foundations of war and conflict on behalf of their banking systems?

    Where does the American Dream lay in regards to a country obsessed with violence, power and domination (82% of US Movies contain more than 23% as violence) and forcing its will and political agenda onto many other countries?

    John H. are you saying that ‘ wealth, greed, profits and the power to maintain this is good morals grounds in which a society should be taught by?

    Look at the bigger picture and not just a small part that pleases your eye.

    Reply

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