Approved and Rejected Windfarms in Caithness

Every Last Inch (Copyright Jamie Buchanan).

As one development at one windfarm in Caithness continues apace, permission for another is refused.

Earlier this month, the first of the giant turbine blades bound for the Baillie/Statkraft site at Shebster were offloaded at Scrabster Harbour (captured above by Jamie Buchanan of Northern Light).

(I wrote about the granting of permission for this site, and the owners’ securing of funding the investigate the Cnoc Freiceadain cairn system.)

On the other hand, last week permission for 27-30 units at the Spittal site was rejected by direct Scottish Government intervention (see here for the letter of explanation). A principle reason was the detrimental effect that it would have on the appearance of the landscape.

Views for or against windfarms can be, in a word, weird with us agnostics left scratching our heads. Those against might imagine blades shearing off and taking-out nearby houses; or performing a genocide of local birds (apart from pheasants, for which “bird brain” should have been coined as they select the last possible moment to run out in front of cars before expiring in a cloud of feathers, I cannot see this happening); or the landscape looking like something from a John Christopher novel.

Those for might accuse opponents of nimbyism and wanting to keep their holiday homes unaffected by the necessities of an industrial society.

It is worth pointing out, however, that we have been here before. When the National Grid was being expanded in the mid 20th Century, similar complaints were made about the spoiling effect of unsightly transmission towers appearing across isolated Scottish glens.

In response, just as “wind-turbine” conjures up images of brutal machinery whilst “windmill” suggests pastoral scenes in the Fenlands or Low Countries, the term “pylon” was hit upon to hark back to the monumental gateway in Ancient Egyptian temples or Christian cathedrals.

Likewise, the formerly utilitarian massive poles with electrified wires hanging off them were redesigned to take on a more curved and softer appearance, and given a more friendly name.

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