There is a theory in Holyrood that “King Nuke” Brian Wilson’s support for the proposed 550 MW wind power project on Shetland, is based on a desire to see wind power terminally discredited by this over-large scheme.
Of Wilson’s motives I have no view – he was a good man forty years ago at, and immediately after, Dundee University, but like so many his morals appear to have been skewed by contact with Tony Blair.
But wind power needs to generate in serious units like 550 MW if it is to have a real impact on the future of British energy policy. Interestingly, if the Viking project can really be built for £800 million as stated, that is only twice the cost of installing conventional gas turbine plant – and the gas turbines will burn their construction cost again in fuel inside five years, while the fuel for the wind turbines is free.
I confess to having little time for the anti-wind turbine lobby. There are environmental consequences to any energy generation, of course, inclusing wind turbines. All human activity impacts the environment. But compared to the environmental costs of extracting and combusting fossil fuels, the impact of wind turbines is much less damaging.
Yes, you have to join them with roads and cable ducts. Of course that has an impact on the environment – as does mining and smelting the steel, etc. But I am not a fan of closing down human activity altogether to end our environmental impact. Nor is there a great deal of evidence that birds suffer wholesale massacre. The construction will but scratch the surface of the Shetland wilderness – there are no dams flooding valleys, no mountains being moved. That the wilderness should remain pristine for the benefit of occasional sightseers from the cities – who actually never really visit, they just like to think it is there – is not a major priority.
So I hope Viking, and as many other wind projects as possible, speed ahead. Which is why I am furious at the government allowing the closure of the Vestas blade factory on the Isle of Wight. Any amount of public money is available to bail out casino banking young sharps in the City of London – even though it has put us in debt for generations. But it would be “Wrong” to help our too small stake in the wind turbine industry, according to “Lord” Mandelson.
Meanwhile, the taxpayer has been heavily subsidising the nuclear industry for my entire lifetime…
Returning to Norfolk has re-awakened my fury at the government’s abandonment of much of our coastal defences, as impractical and too expensive. Yet the East Coast is full of reclaimed land, around Kent, North Norfolk and the whole of the Fens. We were doing it for centuries armed only with picks, shovels and buckets. The obvious response to the government’s miserable policy is “tell that to the Dutch”. Infuriatingly, erosion on the Norfolk cost is being increased by the Crown Estate dredging sand offshore – to sell to the Netherlands government to improve their coastal defences.
There are offshore wind farms planned around here, including on the shoals off Sheringham. It seems to me that there must be a tremendous opportunity to combine major new coastal defences with renewable energy capture through wind, tide, wave and current. This is the kind of major and imaginative public works project, like building the Hoover Dam, which adds to the investment capital of a nation and provides jobs and economic activity as we enter serious recession.