Leaders: North Sea wind power is a priceless resource
THE debate over the rapid development of wind farms in Scotland, the result of the Scottish Government’s ambitious green energy target has, up until now, produced almost as much hot air as the turbines themselves have produced electricity.
Yet while we may have rather enjoyed the splenetic war of words between the scourge of wind farms, Donald Trump, and their Caledonian champion, Alex Salmond, the exchanges over the alleged effect of a nest of turbines on the tycoon’s Menie Estate golf course has overshadowed the wider debate.
News that plans to develop the world’s biggest offshore wind farm – up to 339 turbines with some towering 670ft above the sea – off the Moray Firth have been submitted to the Scottish Government, will hopefully focus attention on the bigger picture in relation to renewable energy.
The first point to address is whether we need wind farms, on shore or off shore, at all? There are those who argue they are unnecessary, that they rely on subsidies paid for by energy consumers and that the United Kingdom should stick to burning coal and gas to provide the electricity we need to keep the lights on.
While wind farms do indeed require subsidy, it is worth pointing out that so does nuclear power, in terms at least of decommissioning obsolete generation plants, but there is more to this debate than that. If we accept the evidence of climate change we need to be less reliant on fossil fuels.
So if we have to have wind farms as part of our energy generation mix – and we believe we do if that mix also includes nuclear generation, which is virtually carbon-free – then the question is what type of wind generators should we have, and where should they be located?
Turbines on land have proved highly controversial and the numbers required to meet the generation targets would be huge. It is not just the Nimby brigade who fear they will despoil some of our finest landscape and there are concerns over the effect the huge structures have on bird life in particular.
So while there is a place for land-based wind farms, there must also be a place for offshore wind farms. When they are sited miles off shore, it follows that they can reasonably be bigger, thereby generating more electricity. Impact on the seascape can be less than that on a landscape. If they are far enough out to sea they will not even be seen by the likes of Mr Trump.
But there are huge challenges. Building them in difficult conditions of the North Sea will not be easy. They require long cables to get the electricity to shore and they will be more difficult to service than land-based farms.
However, the history of the North Sea oil industry shows we can overcome the challenges of a hostile environment to exploit a valuable resource. If Scotland can do it for oil, there is no reason why we cannot do the same with wind power.
Counting the cost of coalition
As CALLS for the defenestration of a political leader go, it had the benefit of a modicum of subtlety.
Liberal Democrat peer Lord Oakeshott yesterday compared his party to Sainsbury’s, warning that they had lost over half their “market share” since the election.
Were they in the supermarket business, he continued, the Lib Dems would be “looking very hard” at both the strategy and the management to see if they could regain some of their
Despite couching the remarks in the language of commerce, the message was clear: it was time to change leader and reconsider the coalition with the Tories.
Many a Lib Dem activist will agrees. Since entering the coalition, the party has taken a hammering in the polls. However, before it gets carried away
with ideas of a coup, the party should carefully consider its
The question is this: why are the Lib Dems so unpopular? The answer is obvious. Not only did they throw away their principles to take office – reneging on a pledge not to bring in university tuition fees – they agreed to a programme of debt and deficit reduction with a party they have little in common with.
If they remain in the coalition, then a new leader – even the more left-leaning business secretary Vince Cable – would inherit the same problems.
So before they try to oust Mr Clegg, the Lib Dems must decide where they stand on a fundamental point: their participation in the coalition.
In other words, before the party gets rid of the management, it must decide on its strategy to regain market share.
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Weather for Edinburgh
Thursday 20 June 2013
Temperature: 12 C to 21 C
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