Mrs Ward’s letter relaying her concerns about wind energy (Courier, 17.2.12) includes a welcome expression of her support for renewable energy technologies generally. But most of these technologies are still far from viable. Wave and tidal power are years away from being commercial. We need to deal with the ‘here and now’, and weigh up the case for wind power against the finite, wasteful and inefficient non-renewable technologies currently in use – something the anti-wind farm lobby are reluctant to do.
Every electricity-generating technology has its downsides. Burning gas is extremely wasteful. 50% of all gas burnt in power stations goes straight up the chimney, heating up the atmosphere – yet we pay for all that waste directly through our electricity bills. Coal is even less efficient. Two-thirds of all coal burnt in power stations is wasted, which we again pay for. And do we want our sons and daughters to spend their working lives down coal mines? Nuclear power is also inefficient and is costing the taxpayer billions of pounds in decommissioning costs and in radioactive waste management, for which not one kilowatt-hour of electricity is generated.
So yes, wind power is currently subsidised, but Highlands and Islands Greens view such support as necessary until wind can stand alone in the commercial market. For us, the downsides of these other wasteful and non-renewable technologies far, far outweigh those of wind power.
But we also recognise the need for sensitive siting of windfarms, which is why we welcome The Highland Council’s democratically-agreed planning guidance, which describes preferred and less-preferred areas in the Highlands for windfarm development.