Archive for January, 2012

Come, walk wi’ me on Scottish hills,
Or by her comely lochs,
And see the footprint in the peat
Whaur ancient farmers walked.
Stop to drink fae water fresh,
Sae cauld it chills your hand,
And think o’ ancient fisherfolk
Who fed thus fae this land.

Born o’ you in ancient days, in ancient days were we,
Wi’ life fae you in many ways, and many ways to be.

Come, walk wi’ me on Scotland’s roads,
and to her busy heart
Whaur city folk ha’ toiled long
Through daylight and through dark.
Walk through halls o’ industry
Whaur working folk did tread,
Or ponder wi’ the thinking men
Who changed the world wi’ lead.

Drawn by you through history, through history were we,
And thus we grew in industry, in industry were free.

Come, walk wi’ me whaur pylons stride
across the misty hill
And tether thus each hame and hearth
to coal plant or wind-mill.
Ride on electricity
Throughout our thriving land
And feel the pulse o’ life and worth
You’re holding in your hand.

Guided now through modern days, through modern days are we,
And much we learn through modern ways, in modern ways to see.


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Dear Donald Trump,

Welcome to Scotland! We’re a relatively small place, and our native population are poor compared to our neighbours in London and certain parts of the US. In the international community we’re known for our tartan, our friendly football fans, our whisky, the Enlightenment, and, of course, golf.

We are, of course, pleased that you have chosen to invest some of your vast fortune here. It may be true that, without a golf course, Scotland’s laws allow all of us to enjoy access to some of our wonderful views and unspoilt land, whereas a luxury resort tends to belong mainly to the rich who can afford to use it. It’s also true that golf courses pose risks to the environment, as they’re highly managed with pesticides and chemicals and provide poor habitat for local flora and fauna. Still, water use is less of an issue in Scotland as we get plenty of rain to keep your grass green all year round. So that’s some consolation, at least.

I was concerned, several years ago, with some of the things I read about your company’s aggressive approach to gaining planning permission for your golf course, though. I read about the misuse of council compulsory planning orders and actual false statements used in planning applications. It seemed the local community felt they would not benefit from your golf course and fought against you (even amidst a hostile environment, as one councillor claims she is “used to abuse from the Trump organisation”). You pushed through the application and gained planning permission. Of course you did that by listening to your opposition, being open to changing your plans appropriately, and showing due consideration for the nation and environment which was to house your ambitious project, rather than by bullishly throwing your money and influence at elected officials until they caved to your preferences. Naturally.

And now, you want control over land that is not yours, and that you cannot buy. You try to hold the Scottish people to ransom, forcing them to choose between an offshore wind farm (and a small one, only 11 turbines; in fact the site is planned as a research and development base for offshore wind technology) and your luxury golf resort.

Your golf resort was never intended for the people of Scotland. You want the land to be a scenic backdrop where rich tycoons and executives can sit in luxury. But the land is our home; it is not simply a painted backdrop, but the source of all of our resources. Its farmland feeds our families, its people educate our children, its landscape inspires our artists and songwriters. We must be able to provide energy to our population. This is a basic need for us to continue to function as a modern first-world country.

This offshore wind hub could provide Scotland with additional security of energy supply; it allows us to take advantage of the resources we have to meet our daily needs. It will provide our graduates with jobs here in Scotland, so our best people don’t feel obliged to move to London and the South East. It does not burn fuel, therefore does not release smoke or chemicals into the atmosphere during operation. It reduces our carbon footprint. It helps to move an immature technology forwards, working towards a better and more secure energy future.

Not everyone in Scotland likes wind farms. Generally anti-wind-farm people seem to prefer offshore wind farms, because they’re not close to peoples’ homes – so fewer (purported) health impacts and noise concerns – and the wind resource is better offshore anyway. But you have railroaded people into giving you what you want, making a mockery of the planning process on the way, and you expect us to listen to your objections? Did you listen to our objection then?

So tell me now, Mr Trump, why should we, as the Scottish people, care what you think? Do your tax dollars pay for our roads, our schools, our hospitals? Have you shown due care and consideration for our valuable ecology and environment? Have you cared for our population? Have you done anything other than bully us in an attempt to profit from our worldwide reputation as the home of golf?

No. You’re a billionaire in a snit, and, whatever you think of offshore wind farms, we’re a better place without you.

Yours Sincerely,

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One thing about windy weather is that it keeps wind farms in the news. It continues to amaze me how obvious newspapers can be in picking the stories that reflect the particular views they either hold themselves or expect their readers to hold.

Some recent pro-wind power headlines:

  • UK national grid glides through windy challenge (Guardian)
    A commentary on the challenge facing the national grid during the storms and the fact that power outages were due to equipment failures rather than an inability to react to unexpected wind variability on the part of the grid.
  • Weather ‘doubles’ UK wind farm output (BBC)
    Report that turbine capacity factors doubled during the storm compared to the more usually-reported 30% figure.
  • SSE wind power passes milestone (BBC)
    A report that energy company SSE has now installed more than 1GW of onshore wind power and has more onshore wind capacity than hydroelectric capacity.
  • Wind energy output up 18% in 2011 (Ecotricity)
    Ecotricity reports that its like-for-like wind generation is up 18% compared to 2010 in 2011. (Misleading, in my opinion*).

I particularly liked the first one, which struck me as a very thoughtful piece on the way that, despite the undeniable challenges it presents, our mostly-aging electricity network is actually coping with the variability of wind without blackouts. I suspect that this is mostly due to a lot of legs paddling furiously behind the scenes, and it’s nice to see their hard work getting a mention.

Some recent anti-wind power headlines:

Now, I am a firm believer in free speech, within the usually accepted limits of appropriateness and accuracy. Wind farms do not provide a “magic bullet” that will solve all our energy problems, and anyone who tells you otherwise is either deluded or trying to sell you one. Further, these are large, industrial machines which have to be clustered together on our hillsides — some people will not like them.

That’s all fine. What worries me is the lack of balance. We’re a nation of busy people and most of us are either time-limited or money-limited. Few of us are going to get out each morning and buy all the newspapers to get a balanced view of the pros and cons of each issue. Instead, we tend to buy the papers, watch the TV channels or visit the websites which most strongly reflect our existing views. And we visit them not to be challenged or in search of accuracy, in the main, but in search of confirmation of our existing bias. So those people who see the pre-wind propaganda will dismiss the anti-wind propaganda, and vice versa. If they even notice it at all.

If I have a point, it’s that I’d much rather live in a world where people are presented with facts, read them with an open mind and come to their own conclusion. Even if it means they disagree with me, that’s fine. Instead, we’ve set up a world in which people become further and further immersed in their own prejudices. There’s not much we can do about this, as far as I can see, but we should have our eyes open to it, at least. Especially when it’s our own prejudices we’re affirming.

* The Ecotricity article is misleading because it compares a year which will likely turn out to have been windier than average (2011) with one of the lowest wind speed years in recent history (2010). It’s basically presenting two extreme points on a graph and pretending there’s a useful message there. Sure, it’s probably true, but that doesn’t make it meaningful. (Back)

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We don't like change.

We don't like change.

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Today saw the return of some extremely windy weather across Scotland. The met office has already reported some of the headline wind speeds on their website as a comment dated 03/01/12 17:55 (links to a live website which will be updated and overwritten). I thought it might be good to see the locations of these reported wind speeds on a map:

Some of the windiest locations in Scotland

Data from the Met Office, image produced using Google Earth. Image may be reproduced freely if credited to @turbinetastic.

“Gusts” are short term wind speeds, usually measured over about three seconds. They can be very damaging, as we saw today in Scotland.

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