20th November 2019
Established 1872. Online since 1996.

Big and ugly things (Christine Lovelock)

I live in Devon, and I run the Artists Against Wind Farms website, which is at the moment featuring the work of Shetland artist Paul Bloomer. His woodcuts express the sense of foreboding that many people feel about the windfarm proposed for the Shetland Islands.

I am also an artist, from an environmental background (my father is the environmental scientist James Lovelock). Many environmentalists, like my father, believe that the costs of industrial wind power to the environment far outweigh any benefits they might produce.

Here in North Devon we have had the 22 turbine Fullabrook windfarm imposed upon our countryside against the wishes of local people. These giant industrial structures now dominate our landscapes – they are visible even from Dartmoor, 25 miles or more to the south. Closer by, local residents are already suffering distress from wind turbine noise.

If 22 turbines (110m high) can change the face of Devon, what will 127 even larger turbines (145m) do to Shetland and to the people in the 75 houses within 2km of them? If our experience is anything to go by, there will be few parts of your main island where the turbines will not be visible.

To quote David Hockney, industrial wind turbines are “Big and ugly things” – out of scale with any landscape. Artists like Paul Bloomer, and others in the island, are right to protest about the proposed windfarm. It may not be possible to put a value on the beauty of the Shetland Islands, but destroying it with the proposed wind farm would be a tragedy. Tourists come to Shetland for its wild beauty, not to see a giant power station.

Christine Lovelock


  1. ian tinkler

    Christine, most Shetlander’s would agree with you. Unfortunately, we have a few very closed minds. No sense, no feeling!!!

  2. Erik J Smith

    Christine, most Shetlanders disagree with you. Unfortunately, we have a few stick-in-the-mud NIMBYs who wish to lock Shetland into dependence on fossil fuels for the next 40 years.

    We already have the most efficient windfarm in the world on these islands and a chance to secure Shetland’s future, both financially and environmentally, for the foreseeable future, with the VE project. Just because you and people like Ian, above, think wind turbines are ugly is not a good enough reason to abandon this prospect. Beauty is, as they say, in the eye of the beholder.

    How many beautiful nuclear power stations have you seen?

  3. Colin Hunter

    It never ceases to amaze me that people expect to be able to come into a room, reach out, and click on the light. And they will continue to do so without wondering what kind of engineering miracle allowed that to happen in the first place, until, that is, the day comes when the “magic” is gone.
    Electricity is created by passing a conductor through a magnetic field, so inducing something known as electromotive force (EMF). In order to produce electricity in a usable form, multiple conductors are arranged in machines known as alternators. They are then turned (spun) in the magnetic field by some form of prime mover, Steam turbines in the case of Coal and Oil (Fossil fuel) Fired conventional Power Stations. Nuclear Stations also use steam turbines.
    Smaller stations such as Lerwick, use Diesel engines to produce the power required. Anything that rotates can be used to turn an alternator. Remember the “Dynamo” on your bike. Well it was actually a small alternator too.
    As “conventional” sources of energy become scarcer (oil &gas) or unacceptable due to emissions (coal), or problems with radioactivity (nuclear), so engineers must perfect new ways of turning the wheels, or in this case, the alternators. That leaves renewables to take up the slack.
    Conventional Hydro stations require huge dams to be built across rivers to utilise the power to turn turbines, some tidal projects use a similar concept, but it only works if there is a HUGE tidal range. Tidal generation that relies on tapping the power in a tidal stream are relatively rare and untried at present. Wave power is, in my opinion, a bit of a non-starter due to extreme weather conditions such as those we have just experienced which would destroy any anchored installation in no time flat.
    So. What’s left? Well….Wind, which we have in abundance, and the machines to make use of its power are getting better by the minute. It’s all very well, and in some cases admirable even, to make a stand against something which you find objectionable, but without providing a VIABLE alternative, these arguments and protests merely descend to the level of nimbyism.
    What do we do then, Build Nukes? No problem as far as I’m concerned, but just wait for the hue and cry from somebodies pressure group somewhere! Would “artistsagainstwindfarms” then become “artistsagainstanyideaanybodyhasforanything”!
    You can paint as many pictures as you like, but I have yet to find one that will keep you warm on a winters night, unless you bung it on the fire that is! Best place for some of the hellery that I’ve seen lately anyway!

  4. ian tinkler

    Colin, tidal stream stations are actually up and running. They are tried and tested and for more reliable than wind turbines. Reference: Strangford Lough, Ireland. SeaGen has been operational since 2008. All you need as a tidal flow. It is clean, predictable and not pendant on the wind.

  5. Erik J Smith

    Ian, existing tidal generators are new, untried, prototypes which are currently way more than twice as expensive as on-shore wind, and still variable in their output. Also, being offshore installations, their running costs are vastly higher than on-shore wind.

    Are you willing to pay 3x as much or more for your electricity?

  6. John Tulloch


    If you’re concerned about running out of fossil fuels can I suggest you refer to my ST letter of 19th October, headlined “Hooray for market forces” which was actually about “Peak Oil.”

    You needn’t take it from me, either, there’s an interesting article from Al Fin Energy on methane hydrates at http://alfin2300.blogspot.com/2011/10/japan-and-us-team-to-explore-north.html and if you’re still not convinced there’s an excellent readable report entitled “Shale Gas Shock” written for the GWPF think tank by former editor of The Economist Matt Ridley available free at http://www.thegwpf.org/images/stories/gwpf-reports/Shale-Gas_4_May_11.pdf

    Suffice to say we won’t be running out any time in the future that you need to worry about..

  7. Colin Hunter

    You’re absolutely right for once Ian. Strangford Lough is really the only one of its type I can think of that is operating successfully at present and just as a matter of interest, I think it is brilliant. However, at only 1.2 MW , it’s only one third the capacity of Burradale. Not exactly huge by anyone’s standard. The same problems would doubtless come to the surface if more of these devices were to be built, in that, somebody, somewhere would say they were destroying a unique and valuable natural area.
    That is the one great advantage that tidal power has over wind, in that it is absolutely predictable, in strength, direction and duration. This allows designers to take account of known forces, and make allowances for them. I have often said that, were a bridge to be built across Bluemull Sound, the legs could be used to mount retractable tidal turbines of similar type to Strangford. However, such a thing is a mere pipe dream, We need a solution to power shortages NOW!

  8. Colin Hunter

    John, I appreciate that new sources of oil and gas continue to be found, shale gas being a particularly rich but contentious new resource, and that even existing resources will easily see my boots off. However, with 7 BILLION people very shortly to be on the face of this earth, it won’t take long to chew through it in the grand scheme of things. Especially as more and more countries become industrialised, with China and India leading the way. That is one reason that we need to develop renewables to a point where we can rely upon them for sustainable supplies of energy, rather than just a talking point.

  9. John Tulloch

    There is a place for research and development and a modest amount of operational renewables, not least since that work may, like the space race, lead to lateral discoveries which have benefits elsewhere, That said, given the fact that we aren’t gong to run out of fossil fuels any time soon and that renewables are still nowhere near being competitive, we simply can’t afford to do it on the scale currently proposed by the Scottish and UK governments.

    Somebody has to pay for it and if everybody in the country takes up renewable power, then everybody will have to pay!

    “Then let them (eat cake and) wear anoraks” is all very well, however, more people are predicted to die of cold in the UK this year than in road accidents. Renewables won’t cure that, halving the gas price by exploiting shale gas (as in the US) will.

  10. Colin Hunter

    John, you’re missing the point when you say they’re not going to run out soon. We know that, but as time goes on, they are going to become more and more expensive, and I can’t see the greedy brigade in Westminster (or Holyrood for that matter when they gain fiscal responsibility) taking any lesser cut in taxation than they already do. Can you? This means that Oil in particular, which needs to be delivered by road, will become an even more expensive way to heat your home, let alone run a vehicle. Perhaps Jim Dickson has the right idea, with his personal windyspeil and his battery car, but personally, I wouldn’t care for a thing like that outside my living room window! I’d be feared in case it came through the roof! His choice though. There are those among us who advocate such an approach to renewables, and perhaps there is some merit in that line of thought, but my belief is that, if it is to become a viable and reliable source of alternative energy, FOR ALL, it must be on a much grander scale. A bit like the Model T ford. The more they made the cheaper they got!

  11. ian tinkler

    Most Shetlanders disagree with you Christine, according to Erik. “Unfortunately, we have a few stick-in-the-mud NIMBYs.” to quote the man. Now Erik J Smith, let’s list a few NIMBYs… Scottish National Heritage. The John Muir Trust. The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, Shetland Anglers Association, Shetland Island Council planning Departement plus about 2000 others on record. Now Erik, just who are your NIMBYs. Name a few if you have the balls.

  12. The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds are in favor of wind turbines as it is felt that the damage from climate change is the greatest threat to birds. Anyway, far more birds are killed by cars, buildings, pesticides and cats than wind turbines.

  13. ian tinkler

    Susan,. The RSPB have formally objected to Viking Energy as a direct threat to already endangered and protected species and habitats. They have also broken any links with SSE due to poor environmental practice by that company. You state “Anyway, far more birds are killed by cars, buildings, pesticides and cats than wind turbines” please give me your proof; I would hate to think you made that statement up like so many pro VE untruthes. How about raptor deaths, I for one have no evidence of Golden Eagles hitting cars! Try this web site (www.west-inc.com/reports/avian_collisions.pdf)

  14. John Kryton

    Your a bit of a velocer raptor your self Ian, I think you still live in the land of the dinosaurs. Your research is as good as ever if you had looked a bit further you would have found that in some countries far more birds including eagles are killed by cars than wind turbines. Not necessarily in this country but you use other countries to boost your argument Ian and other countries have cars and wind farms.
    Car accidents are one of the leading causes of injury and death to birds of prey. Raptors that feed on carrion, such as eagles and vultures, are frequently hit by cars when they feed on road kill and find themselves too gorged to fly quickly. Furthermore, many birds of prey hunt along roadways and can be struck by vehicles as they fly.

  15. ian tinkler

    The fact that more people die in car accidents than fire arms incidents hardly justifies the free access to fire arms? A typical fallacious argument to try and justify the unjustifiable I do not deny that cars and buildings kill birds John, but there are not too many cars on the top of the Shetland hills!.. Anyway would not mind being a velocer raptor if I had to become extinct. At least that would be natural, not minced and beaten by a turbine blade. Rather that, than die like an ostrich with my head in the sand or stuck where the sun does not shine!

  16. John Kryton

    You just shot yourself in the foot Ian as there are no eagles on the top of the Shetland hills either.
    I think there are a few people who would not mind if you were a velocer raptor and were now extinct as you are the master of fallacious argument. Oh and by the way if you go and look you will find what Susan Smith said on the RSPB’s web site.

  17. ian tinkler

    Back to insults again, John. You are on the same them again. I think the Raptor at risk from VE is the Merlin, the endangered listed species is the Whimbrel. Unfortunately Shetland eagles were persecuted to extinction some time ago, White Tailed and perhaps Golden. I have seen a White Tailed at Flawton, probably Norwegian. Out of interest what did Susan say on the RSPB web site, enlighten us?

  18. John Kryton

    You asked Susan to prove what she said and I said you would find what she said on the RSBP web site, I found it there so it should not be to difficult for you. As far as insults go Ian I just reversed your insult right back at you if you cant take it don’t give it. As far as the Whimbrel is concerned I believe there are less than 10 which will be affected by the Viking wind farm project.
    Nature works in strange ways and I am sure they will either move and settle some other way or they will come back when the construction is finished. Besides they are waders and tend to live lower down nearer to the shore so I don’t think that there is much of a threat to them.

  19. ian tinkler

    Why did the RSPB put in a formal objecttion to the VE project then John.? Are they velocer raptors also. Perhaps they know a bit more than you and Susan. It would not be hard.


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