The gold of modern times (John Scholtz)

In a Viking-bashing open letter to Scottish energy minister Jim Mather, Ian Tinkler of Clousta, a gifted dentist, floats the original idea of installing the interconnector cable that will link Shetland to the mainland grid. Mind you, not for the use of the planned Viking windfarm (“a horrific project that disgusts me”), but to pave the way for “other renewable technologies which will in time [sic] harness the vast renewable energy resources present in the North Sea”. In time indeed.

And then, may I ask, what kind of other renewable technologies are meant here? Wave power. Tidal power? Or some other underwater technology, fraught with problems of complex movement in a briny and highly corrosive environment, where at every mishap divers must go down to inspect, let alone repair things gone wrong.

Oil and gas are finite, their availability and price subject to political forces and vulnerable to all kinds of disasters, natural and man-made. And forbye dat, hasn’t it been sufficiently hammered into us that for the sake of the planet fossil fuels should be used less, not more? Isn’t that why we’ve got our own Harriet Bolt?

With the prices of those fuels skyrocketing, the move to renewables has increasing urgency. New nuclear? After Japan, forget it. That disaster will only put an extra squeeze on fossils, and transport will suffer accordingly.

Oil will become, or already is, the gold of modern times. Burning it in order to drive around and keep warm will become unsustainable. Heating your living room may become a problem next winter. And when eventually the lights do go out, what then? Back to the peat hill everybody? Oh no, heaven forbid, think of all the carbon such a scenario would release!

By now, it should be plain to almost all concerned that wind power is the best option by far. A big-size windfarm will provide us with adequate power to fill our needs and export the excess south, to the benefit of the owners on the one hand, the Shetland community on the other. The four or five whimbrels in the area will get the message and, if they read da paper, are already packing their little bags.

Many words have been uttered about a desecration of the Lang Kames and adjacent hills. All of a sudden, many folk woke up to their pristine qualities, as if that stretch of hills embodied the very essence of the Shetland landscape, yes of the Shetland soul.

Come on! At long last those mysterious, hallowed, yet rather gloomy hills will be put to imaginative use. At last they are going to show what they are good for, and good at. They may not be very eye-catching, but wind-catching they are.

And the visual impact of the generators? Ask the Danes. Ask the Dutch. Plenty of wind generators over there, and people just love them. With their majestic wings, churning a free, otherwise unused resource into electric power with every turn, they are perceived as a symbol of ingenuity, self-reliance and hope for the future. As far as Shetland goes, Burradale has shown us the way.

And please, Billy Fox, allow Tavish Scott a little more time to come out. Of course he supports Viking, that much we all suspect. But look here, he is what you are not: a politician. He is not crazy.

John Scholtz
Bridge of Walls.


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