Friday, January 25, 2008

Mointeach gun Mhuileann - Moorland without Turbines

The Isle of Lewis in the Hebrides is home to the stunning sacred landscape that surrounds the Calanais standing stones. Looking over the moorland from Calanais you cannot fail to see Cailleach na Mointeach (the old woman of the moors) a recumbent landscape Goddess often known as the Sleeping Beauty. Every 19 years the moon rises from the Sleeping Beauty's womb, travels along her body and passes through the Calanais stones. The moorland itself is one of the most important peatland areas in Brighid's Isles and a haven for wildlife.

In 2004 plans were put forward to build the UK's largest onshore wind farm on the peatlands of Lewis. The plans proposed the construction of 234 turbines along with their supporting infrastructure. This was reduced to 181 turbines when the plan was revived in 2006. The hope was that the 181 turbines would provide renewable energy to 425,000 homes and also provide new employment opportunities for the remote island.

Campaigners are concerned that the wind farm would cause severe irreversible damage to the peatland. The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds are concerned about the impact on the habitat of important populations of eagles and black throated divers. A survey of the people for whom the island is home showed that 41% supported the wind farm and 40% opposed it.

Opinion is clearly divided. One member of the Scottish Natural Heritage Board famously said, "If it comes to renewable energy or the rape of the countryside, I am for the rape of the counryside."

In February 2007 councillors on the local council voted 18 to 8 in favour of the wind farm but the final decision rests with the Scottish Government. Today the BBC's Gaelic news service, Radio nan Gaidheal, has announced that Scottish Government ministers are, "minded to refuse" the 181 turbine scheme because of environmental concerns. It is now up to the developer to respond with any new evidence for the wind farm before a final decision is made.

I would love to know what readers of this blog feel as the issues are complicated. As a sacred goddess landscape Lewis is second to none and any development close to Calanais or the Sleeping Beauty would have a huge impact. Deep within me there is something that cries out, this must not happen. On the other hand like any goddess loving person I am aware of the importance of renewable energy, particularly in a country which is once more contemplating following the nuclear option. And of those who live on the Island there will certainly be many who echo another local councillor's comment, "They must make clear what the vision is for the islands. Are we to become an environmental museum? Is any development at all to be allowed in the Western Isles? Clearly the young of Lewis need to feel they have a future on the Island for if they leave for the cities of the mainland a vibrant gaelic speaking culture may itself be in jeopardy.

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Blogger Aquila ka Hecate said...

Gods, that's a tough one!

I love how the Scots ministers are minded to refuse..that's a lovely phrase, but then - they're Scots.

My immediate reaction is against the wind farm.
I don't have a whole lot of rational reasons for it-it's a knee-jerk emotional reaction.

I hear that James Lovelock has come out in support of nuclear energy. It may, just may, be the way forward as we love to say over here. Although my gut is still in turmoil over it, having been a child of the '60s and '70s.
Is there not some other option ?
I fiind myself asking this with respect to our own power problems in South Africa.
As you may or may not know, we're in national crisis regarding our electricity supply.
Oh.. I know! Let's get rid of 50% of the world's population.
That should fix it.

Terri in Joburg

Blogger Paul said...

Hi Terri,

Thanks for your thoughts. My immediate reaction was against too and it does look more likely that that is how it will turn out.

I am not against wind farms. We have small ones on the hills near here and they have a certain grace and beauty but the sheer scale envisaged on Lewis coupled with the special landscape made me feel it was just wrong.

I have just read a (possibly tongue in cheek) quote from a member of the Welsh assembly who said that the best place for wind farms to be sited to provide energy for Wales would be Scotland!

The nuclear option has the huge downside of radioactive waste with very long half life. What would we be handing on to countless generations to come.

Population growth is the elephant in the room isn't it? We are literally outgrowing the Earth. But it is a huge taboo to even mention it.

Yes, there has been quite a bit of news coverage about power cuts in South Africa.


Blogger BBC said...

I often wonder why they insist on making windmills when squirrel cage type turbines are more effective and safer for birds to be around.

I also think that putting a generator on each windmill is sort of stupid, but the folks that make them love the idea I suppose.

I think the windmill or turbine should be driving a simple air compressor, the air gets piped to a power station that has a large generator in it, like in damns.

It's easy to make and maintain air compressors and motors.

It can also be stored that way for use when the power is most needed.

That's how I would do it, but what do I know. Other than I would reduce the need for a lot of copper wire being as copper is getting scarce.

But suggesting that to the people that make power just results in them thinking I'm a babbling idiot.

Who knows, maybe I am.

Blogger BBC said...

Cruel as it may sound, getting rid of half of the people would help a lot. Most of them are too needy and destructive anyway.

My omnipresence doesn't require 7 billion people, 3 billion would be just fine.

Blogger Paul said...

Hi bbc

One of the arguments against is that much of the power generated will be lost due to the resistance of the cables. Lewis is a long way from any population centre.

Heh, 3 billion worshippers should be more than enough for any deity. Eck in the past there was many a deity happy to have one village as worshippers.


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