Windfarms like graffiti (Mike Bennett)

With no let-up in the national press coverage of the windfarm debate, it seems that there is a movement away from the emotive issues which the pro-lobby dismiss as nimbyism.

Increasingly we read articles which cast serious doubt over the efficiency and cost effectiveness of wind power as a major player in the energy industry.

As the rose-coloured tint wears off and the cold light of day sharpens the perceptions, we are seeing a recognition that wind power is not the panacea that it has been made out to be. The financial handouts on offer amount to little more than bribes aimed at dividing and conquering local communities and easing the passage of planning applications. These are now increasingly under scrutiny as government subsidies are reduced and the number of rejected planning applications increases.

Nevertheless, the aesthetic and environmental issues still need to be addressed on a broad front rather than on a “my place of sanctuary versus yours” basis. Windfarms are in danger of becoming industrial archeology even before they are fully commissioned.

Saturday’s article in The Press and Journal saw Scottish MEP Struan Stevenson liken windfarms to expensive modern-day national follies with little or no practical benefits to the environment and without the aesthetic merit of our more famous 19th century follies.

This made me wonder if another simile could be applied just as effectively. Windfarms could perhaps be compared to graffiti and in particular to the Banksy graffiti that dominates some urban settings. Large, modern and in your face they are loved by some, tolerated by many and disliked by the silent majority.

They make large sums of money for a few but at what cost to the environment and what return to the community as a whole? In particular, those who are prepared to grasp the windfall and accommodate these things on their land are in danger of letting the tail wag the dog.

In the case of Banksy graffiti, property value has been boosted and sales of “graffiti with house attached” are not uncommon. I mean no disrespect to Banksy or indeed to the windfarm supporters. Both are undoubtedly well intentioned, but what seems impressive at the time can become no more than an eyesore.

To his credit, Banksy hints that you can fool some of the people all of the time as he acknowledges the hysteria that has inflated the value of his works at auction.

Follies, vandalism or rural graffiti, it matters not. What does matter is that you can’t fool all of the people all of the time.

We must see past the gloss, the spin, the rhetoric and the unsubstantiated promises and press for our voice to be not only heard, but listened to by the Scottish government in the hope that they will treat us with more respect and consideration than our own council has done.

Mike Bennett


Add Your Comment
  • Ian Tinkler

    • November 1st, 2011 19:21

    .I for one have no faith whatsoever with The SNP and the Scottish government. Salmond has his own agenda and has shown not one iota of interest in Shetland, or for that matter any Island Communities of Scotland. He will happily sacrifice the environment of Shetland to pursue his goal of an independent Scotland selling green energy to the highest bidder. Any scientifically trained person can see his folly but bankers are not the most acutely trained intellects. He is a typical manipulative politician and will care little about Shetland and the views of Shetland, not many SNP votes here. It is for that reason I would and I am in the process of lobbying for Shetland to become a UK Crown Dependency. Shetland to control its own destiny under the protection of the UK. Free of Salmond, controlling our own oil revenues, fishing, continental shelf and taxes under protection of the Crown. Farfetched? Ask any Channel Islander or Manxman. Polite comment please.

  • Susan Bowie

    • November 1st, 2011 19:52

    And so what else do you suggest, Mike.
    No development. More oil? Depopulation?
    You can’t eat the landscape, as someone said..
    Shetland needs to be as self sufficient as possible for the uncertain future.
    And those who would stop this.How much have you cost this community so far, and will you cost the community with the on going campaign against clean power and jobs.

  • John Kryton

    • November 2nd, 2011 10:28

    Captain Calamity lives long live Captain Calamity.
    Who is going to control things Ian? you don’t have any thing good to say about the council, bankers, energy suppliers, contributors to this column or governments.
    Are you going to stand for president or have you a military coup in mind Admiral Tinkler?
    Sorry Ian this is the politest comment I could think of.

  • Linda Tait

    • November 2nd, 2011 12:07

    You can’t eat the landscape – well that’s not strictly true. Our ancestors used the landscape pretty well to grow and catch their own food, and made the most of what they had. You can also eat the food that’s bought with the money earned from tourism and the small businesses that exist because of Shetland’s unspoiled environment.

    Why not go back to that philosophy and make Shetland a model of self-sufficiency instead of a cash cow for big business.

  • ian tinkler

    • November 2nd, 2011 12:09

    Up to your usual staggering intellect John? Do a bit of research on local democracy. Understand how and why the Crown dependancies of the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man function. Then post a comment with a grain of knowlegde and intellect. Should not be too much for you, I hope.

  • John Kryton

    • November 2nd, 2011 14:43

    We Aberdonians tend to comment from the hip Ian not just around the corner where you comment from. Did you not notice I was not using knowledge and intellect but a mocking tongue, my comment was one of ridicule rather than reason.

  • Mike Bennett

    • November 2nd, 2011 15:01

    I respect Susan Bowie’s passionate comments, however I am sure that she does not believe that I am opposed to clean power and jobs any more than I believe that she would wish to see every available hill in Shetland littered with turbines and scarred with roads and concrete platforms.

    Polarising the situation only leads to unproductive argument when what is required is discussion leading to a coming together around a middle way.

    Susan is right, self sufficiency is a dream that has always engaged individuals as well as communities. However, at the moment it is hard to see how a mega windfarm will make Shetland self sufficient in terms of energy when Alex Salmond, speaking today on Radio Scotland, made it quite clear that much of the renewable energy produced would be for export and would “keep the lights on” in England.

    I guess we will benefit from the “warm feeling” we will get from helping our neighbours who seem more comfortable than us about rejecting large scale windfarms in viable areas on the grounds of tourism and the environment.

    With regard to a desire to find the best way forward resulting in delay and a cost to the community. In financial terms we are given to understand that the biggest individual losers would be landowners and crofters whose land would be used for the windfarm. The Shetland Times (01.10.10) informs us that this particular group “would pocket around £7.8 million a year” from the current proposals.

    Depopulation is a multi-faceted problem and it would be simplistic to suggest that life style is the only factor. Of course jobs and a living wage are vital but a CBBC programme carrying out interviews with young people in Unst earlier this year discovered that quality of life was also a big consideration.

    You can’t eat the landscape – true, but you do not need to destroy it in order to live. I am only too well aware that time is pressing, but how wise are we to leap at the first serious offer on the table ? Renewable energy is a relatively young industry which is still finding its feet. New research is increasingly moving towards a mixed economy whilst we are putting all our eggs in one basket. Developments in technology widen the scope for wave and tidal power. Wind will continue to need a back-up using more traditional methods until storage techniques become viable.

    Turbines themselves are continually developing. Whilst Viking require 127 turbines to produce 457 MW, Enertrag’s proposals in Yell are for 17 turbines capable of producing 100MW. A quick calculation would seem to suggest that more modern technology could reduce the size of the proposed Mainland windfarm to 78 turbines.

    If on-shore windfarms and Shetland are to play a part in the “clean new world” then at least let us get it right.

    Mike Bennett (Sandsound) November 2nd. 2011

  • ian tinkler

    • November 5th, 2011 7:46

    Here we go, Alex Salmond and his brave new Scotland. John Kryton, ridicule me if you wish but I do not think many Shetlanders wish to tie themselves to Salmond’s petit coats. Read this independent report, “expert report that warned Alex Salmond’s plan for a renewable energy revolution would increase the average household power bill by £875 in an independent Scotland.” (
    Not only will Shetland have its “visually stunning, breathtaking, dynamic, dramatic”, environment destroyed, we will all pay through the nose for Salmond’s vision of utopia. ( No wonder the SNP polled so badly in Shetland last year. Is Salmond for Shetland? No, Salmond wants Shetland, its oil, its wind, and its seas, just that and no more, for his grand vision and independence plan!

  • John Kryton

    • November 7th, 2011 11:13

    Ian it is not that long ago you were slagging of banks and bankers now you refer to claims (claims not facts) from banking giant Citigroup. A bit hypocritical is it not to use this as facts to make an argument (if you can call it that).
    You have no choice but to tie yourselves to Salmond’s petticoat or be dragged along with it as you have no political leadership up there with the Lib Dems or the Lib Dem Cons.
    I would not reckon on an independent Scotland as kinks are beginning to show in Salmond’s armour. With papers like the Scottish Express revealing more of them as they appear the Scottish public will be well warned by the time the referendum is announced.

  • ian tinkler

    • November 7th, 2011 11:56

    John we have every choice, to reject Salmond. The SNP is not National Socialism, yet? We are still a democrassy and part of the UK. Shetlander’s free choice is still an option however it irks you and the SNP.

  • David Spence

    • November 9th, 2011 0:39

    If technology and science is based on profit and shareholders (basically short term thinking/planning) and not for the greater good of resolving the problems we have created as a result of past short term thinking/development, then we are all doomed.

    As somebody once accused me of being a Luddite (based on my objection to the VE Project, but they completely forgot to mention wind energy generation has been around for a few hundred years, so it not ‘ new technology ‘ ), my object, as stated above, is the whole basis for the VE Project is to do with economics and not for the greater good of resolving pollution, cleaning the environment, maintaining and keeping alive fragile eco-systems and making sure that the pro’s most definitely out-way the cons……..from what information I have research and read, seems to be swaying more towards the cons……con, quite an appropriate word which would summarise the whole situation regarding the VE Project.


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