Sunday, December 04, 2011

Tilting at renewables?

This observer quite enjoyed a trip out to Auldearn on Wednesday night to see the new line up of the village’s Community Council take its first tentative steps. The Lethen Hall was rather cosy, if perhaps a little in need of a makeover, and there were enough community councillors and members of the public to add a bit of gravitas to the occasion. Seated at the top table were Roger Milton the outgoing (and new Chair) and Louise Clark of the Highland Council who was at the first meeting as part of her civic duty in regards to the recent elections for all of Nairnshire’s Councils. On either side of the top table the other councillors were lined up along with John Dolan of the Nairnshire Telegraph. A police representative duly arrived and also sat at the top table next to Roger. Graham Marsden of Libdem fame was also present on the public benches. Sandy arrived a little late but Louise shifted to make room for him at the top table. She then sat behind the Highland Convenor. Occasionally Sandy leaned over to speak quietly into Roger’s ear. It all seemed so apt really, after all, Sandy is the main man of the Highland Council, and what better advisor for Roger than the high heid yin himself. Auldearn is lucky indeed, not just to have Sandy in the room, but to have a Community Council that represents the Community. It just makes sense for this growing village to be able to discuss the issues facing it with a body that, although at the bottom tier of government, represents the entire community. Contrast Auldearn with Nairn where there are three Community Councils and different opinions emerging in their midst. Auldearn can speak with one coherent voice in its dealings with the authorities, especially those that control the dwindling funds that can be harnessed to bring about improvements in communities.

So, there were a few things discussed but in this article we are concentrating on the application for a windmill on the Community Park or, perhaps we should say, the present lack of an application (it was withdrawn and a new one is anticipated). At this point in the article perhaps Green Dad should now go and have a dram before reading on? The chair gave the hall details of a meeting between community councillors and the engineers and the planning department. Roger had heard differing views and received correspondence too, he outlined the belief by some that the position of the turbine should not be near the road areas and further from the school towards the Forres end of the community Park. There was no compulsion, it was up to the community he told the meeting. The windmill was part of an ongoing initiative across Highland Region to create more energy from renewables. A member of the public wanted to know what the advantage to the school would be. It seemed like it would lead to a 9% reduction in the electricity bill once the initial outlay of 28K had been paid back. This would take 5 years and then there would be a £800 per year saving to the school . Sandy told everyone how the Council had an obligation to get as much renewable energy and carbon capture as they can. If not there was a hefty penalty to be paid but if there was real resistance in Auldearn Sandy said that the Council would have to look elsewhere for that contribution.

David Brownless then pitched in: “I’m going to play Devil’s Advocate and say, that with a view to minimising absolutely carbon dioxide, we should build mini nuclear power stations in every school playground.”

Another member of the audience then asked if the Community Trust would be entitled to rental. Comparison was made with the way Highland Council got planning gain from Sainsbury’s and the suggestion made that 10% of all electricity generated by all the wind farms in the Highlands should go to the Highland Council as planning gain. The debate then moved on to the safety issue and David Brownless pointed out that people naturally associate wind turbines with things falling off them and mentioned problems elsewhere in Scotland with similar turbines failing.

One of the female members of the audience stated: “It’s going to cause more heartache than it is going to cause any good and I think the very fact of climate change, that’s questionable too.”

Roger then began to wind up the discussion: “It has been made very clear that if the community as a whole are not happy about this, then it won’t be foisted upon us.” There was then some angst expressed as to how representative the Community Council was as to expressing the views of the whole community and the desire to see more people coming to meetings was expressed. This observer would suggest that compared to the turn out at some CC meetings in Nairn, Auldearn is doing very well as regards to bums on seats. There was worry that seeking views outside of meetings without full discussion could be a fruitless stance. There had already been two meetings and it seemed the Community Council were up for another one when, and if, the application comes back again. Judging by the feeling on the public benches however, this observer would put a fiver on the windmill being a lost cause.

We’ll put up more from the Auldearn CC meeting if time permits, but once again, this observer would like to say he was pretty impressed by the calibre of leadership and the accompanying debate from both the councillors and members of the public. Auldearn has a great opportunity now to build on the considerable achievements of the previous council and add further to the well being and sense of community in the village. It will interesting to see how things progress as Auldearn CC moves further into its term of office.


Anonymous said...

Most wind turbines, like most engineering products, are well designed and well engineered.

There is always likely to be an odd exception though and the incident that was mentioned at the meeting the Gurn refers to must have been the one in this article.

Now, there will be those who say that the chances of any harm being caused by a errant shed turbine blade are very rare, and that's true but better to engineer any risk out of the scenario and ensure that , if a turbine is to be sited in the school field, it should be separated from the children by a fence, and some reasonable margin.

The devil's advocate comment about mini nuclear power stations is interesting in that it highlights the dichotomy (or is it a false dichotomy) pervading the green movement at the moment as they are bolstered by the Scottish Government mantra of massive broad based investment in renewables, as long as it's a wind farm, without the same Government offering a truly realistic projection on how they will meet future energy needs.

Nuclear is non-persona at the moment but , like it or not, all of us ( including the green sector with which I would loosely associate myself ) will be using electricity produced by nuclear means from either England or France for many years to come.

No doubt anyone who has the audacity to speak out directly against the proposal for the turbine in Auldearn will be pilloried as being in denial but I sense a change in opinion and it may potentially not go the way the green lobby are hoping.

A system where surcharges are applied to all electricty bills , allowing large profits to be accrued by those that have the money to invest, at the direct expense of those that don't, will not be tolerate by the peoples of the UK, who are increasingly pressured and unable to pay utility bills.

A great step forward would be major works to decrease the level of waste of energy, be it through poor insulation, inefficient glazing etc.. and transfer the money from feed in tariffs into those works.

That way the move towards a more sustainable future would benefit everyone and not just those who, fortunately (and understandably), are using the current system to see an exceptionally good return on the money they have to invest.

Anonymous said...

The link in the previous article doesn't work :(

Try the longhand version

Graisg said...

You have to put in a bit of code to make a link work in the comments. Anon obviously knows the code but there must have been a bittie missing in the URL This will save anyone having to copy and paste

Here's where to get the necessary code, a nice little page over at Blogger UniversityBlogger University

Anonymous said...

What about hydro electricity, has that been forgotten about?