Graham is surrounded by piles of papers. Some are newspaper clippings but most of them are letters relating to the opposition group he is running in his village in Caithness in Scotland.
“We recently had a vote in the local community about whether people want a wind farm here, and over 60% of people turned out – much more than even do so in a general election. And 60% of them were against the development – people feel very strongly about this,” he says.
Group Mobilises to Oppose Wind Farm
Graham heads a group with 12 local organisers who have formed into a committee to represent the views of the majority of people who live within a 20 mile radius of the planned wind farm. “The first thing we knew about it was a local meeting, where only a few people went. I didn’t even know about it, so I only heard from a neighbour,” explains Graham. But when word got around, feelings started to run high.
“Within three weeks of the meeting we arranged another meeting – our own this time – to discuss what was being proposed. We then decided to form a proper group to plan how we could maximise our objections, which all had to be lodged within 6 weeks,” says Graham.
The Wind Farm
The wind farm that was being planned for Caithness is in quite a remote part of Scotland but within the neighbourhood of 10 000 local people in several villages. The area is noted for its natural beauty. Graham’s house, which he built himself 20 years ago, is just 200 metres from the planned siting of one of the enormous turbines.
“One of the selling points was that the first phase of development would create enough electricity to power nearly 20 000 homes. Its not that we object to the technology or the concept of wind power – we do understand the need for making more use of renewable energy sources – but we only have half that number of households. What we object to is that the wind turbines are being put on our back door to provide power for people miles away,” stresses Graham.
Another sore point with the development is that, although considerable investment is being made in the project, very little of it is going into the local community. “Building and development will go on until 2020 but most of the contractors are coming in from sites in the south of England. Only 2 or 3 local jobs are going to be created at most. We just have to put up with these enormous white turbines in our landscape for nothing in return,” explains Graham.
All of the profit from the electricity generated by the wind farm will go to the company putting up the money – and this is a French company, which also has not gone down well.
“Everyone else is getting the benefit of our loss of quality of life.”
The outcome of the wind farm in Caithness is unknown and will probably be a matter for several more months, even years of wrangling. In the long term, wind power could make a valuable contribution to the power needs of everyone in Europe, the UK included but siting wind farms near to human settlements is always going to be unpopular.
One solution, which is being explored very vigorously, is putting wind farms out at sea, close enough to shore that they can be maintained, but far enough out that they can’t really be seen. “That would be an excellent option – let’s hope we see more of that and less of land-based wind farms,” concludes Graham.