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Tilting at Windmills

Were I a seaborne Don Quixote, I shouldn't fancy sailing Rosinante through the whirling knives....but, who knows? It may become a new extreme sport and tourism earner. The proposed site is about five kilometers (3 miles) in diameter, 60 towers 150 meters high, midway between Maryport and Balcary point, the closest point on land and a long-established favourite walk for locals and large numbers of visitors.

It will dominate the seaview, dwarfing Hestan Island from Kippford, Rockcliffe, Red Haven, or anywhere else on the coast between Carsethorn and Whithorn, and be a huge presence from Tornat wood, obscuring and appearing higher than the English mountains beyond, but from the top of Screel it will be seen as a factory in the middle of the Solway. There will be lights on bouys around it, foghorns, and red navigation lights atop each tower (shielded to make them invisible except in case of low-lying cloud).

As compensation for this intrusion into an area of recognised national scenic value, littered with sites of special and global scientific importance, a notional contribution to community projects on the order of forty to fifty thousand pounds per year is intimated - this from the promoters of a project with a budget and revenues in the millions!

We are assured that the site rental will enrich the coffers of the Scottish Executive in distant Edinburgh, but will that comfort local residents facing the flight of our children, the closure of village schools, and the turning of such villages as remain into retirement ghettoes? I think not.

Of course, there are arguments aplenty for energy supplies with 'green' credentials,and we are likely to be warned that the alternative is an expansion of nuclear power to provide for our insatiable demand for energy. Most of us would probably rather look at a few windmills than contemplate yet more accumulation of long-lived poisons just around St Bees Head.

The other alternative - using less energy - is rarely mentioned, but sooner rather than later we shall have to face the fact that we will need to do so. The whole world cannot live at anything like the present Euroamerican lifestyle, never mind more roads, more cars, and more electric toothbrushes.

Galloway is already a net exporter of electricity, so perhaps we should consider what benefits the proposed development might bring to the locale. It is a great benefit to have local expertise in renewable and sustainable technology being developed by Natural Power at Forrest Estate. The value of such opportunities for quality employment in depopulated rural areas cannot be ignored.

The ground rent, as noted above, will flow out of the area. The electricity is to be fed to the English grid, the profits to a Texas consortium with Enron connections and a shadowy company in the City of London. Construction is unlikely to provide less than two hundred short-term jobs and perhaps ten 'permanent' jobs. Although the kit is promised to be as much as 80% Scottish sourced, it is likely this will mean buying foreign technology and materials through or assembled by Scottish-located companies, whose investors might come from anywhere, but are unlikely to include many of our ordinary neighbours.

We are expected to be satisfied with a few tens of thousands yearly for community benefits, not enough even to keep one village school open! What do I care? I'm a semi-retired freeholder in the garden of Eden, and my kids are grown. I can eat peas from Africa flown in with taxfree jetfuel while my farming neighbours struggle. I can even buy shares in the supermarket companies (or TXU, but not OERL!) I can walk the hills and cliffs and soon not even notice the carbuncle on the face of my beloved friend, the Solway.

Madame Editor,

I see ("News" 09/03/2003) that Alastair Morgan, MSP is proud that Galloway was in the forefront with the hydro scheme.

In the first of the many years I have been privileged to live here, I wrote my letters on a desk vacated by General Maxwell of Kirkennan, a former County Convener. In the desk were a complete set of documants for the hydro scheme, an initiative led by Sir Aymer's father, also Convener in his time.

The scheme was the result of local landowners and investors pooling their resources for mutual local benefit - electricity and profit for local folk. As well as employment there was considerable scenic and other disruption, but the valleys have weathered in rather well, and the reservoirs add to the beauty of the area.

Would that the same could be said for the proposed windfarm. Instead, its promoters are foreign utility companies,* which change hands in distant boardrooms, and whose profits (and our grants) will leave the area as quickly as our children must.

I don't imagine the Solway will "weather in" to enable the shiny turbines do blend into an enhanced seascape, but tastes change...It seems we have lost our position at the forefront and must content ourselves with tugging at the tail ends of multinationals in the hope of a few crumbs. Sad.

I support Mr Morgan in many things, but on this we have agreed to disagree. Anyone who wishes to get one of the best views of the proposed site should visit Tornat wood. Yes, it is my back yard! ( or is it the front? - I can give you a map).

Ed Iglehart
North Glen

*TXU(Europe), owned in Texas (before bankruptcy), is now replaced by Powergen, owned in Germany.
OERL is a (private) partnership of American (and Japanese?) money with headquarters in California and Amsterdam and windfarms in Italy...

Further tilting at windmills: Grants for Destruction Don Quixote Rides Again Welcome to the Third World What Sort of Folk are the New Neighbours? What is Appropriate in a Scenic Area? Shady Dealings Windfarms Italian Style

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