Wednesday, 27 August 2008

Wind farms and peat cutting on the Isle of Lewis

Visiting the Outer Hebrides today I was struck by the conflict between old energy technologies and new. The islands are rich in peat, which used to be the islanders' main fuel source in the old days but had fallen out of favour. There's evidence now of new peat cutting, motivated by the recent steep rises in energy costs. Of course, peat is a carbon sink so a revival in peat burning will result in carbon emissions; I have no idea though whether substituting peat for conventionally-produced fuels will be better or worse in terms of carbon emissions.

There are three wind turbines on the hillside above Stornaway. I heard that a plan to build a major wind farm with 200 turbines elsewhere on the island was finally rejected in April 2008 after many years of wrangling. There will be more wind farms there, but none on such a massive scale. Of course they will change forever a wild and ancient landscape, but so did the building of the standing stones, brochs and blackhouses of which the islanders are so proud. Could wind farms eventually become the tourist attractions of the future?

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