A RECENT, authoritative study hinted at the future potential of onshore wind when it said that Europe’s untapped capacity in the field could produce enough power to meet the world’s energy needs until 2050.

The study suggested that the sector’s horizon was ‘bright’. Its authors emphasised that they were not recommending that turbines should be erected in all the sites they identified, but merely that the ‘huge wind-power potential’ across the Continent should be harnessed if a ‘climate catastrophe’ is to be averted. The study, they continued, was simply a guide for policy-makers.

As governments increasingly announce ambitious carbon-neutral targets, onshore wind has emerged as a key component of renewable energy. The Scottish Government has described onshore wind as being among the lowest-cost forms of electricity generation. in 2017, it said onshore wind played a key role in empowering local communities, with over £12 million in community benefits payments distributed the previous year.

But opponents of onshore wind have considerable ammunition, too. They point to what they describe as turbines’ unreliability when the wind drops, to their visual impact on the landscape and subsequent impact on tourism, to the noise nuisance.

In the Shetland Isles, as we report today, many residents have been fighting a sustained battle against a proposed 103-turbine development to be built on peatland. The Viking Wind Farm will likely be the third-largest in the UK, but the sentiments of those who oppose it are eloquent: they speak of a loss of cultural-heritage landscape, of loss or damaged habitats, of long-term impacts on the health and mental well-being of people who live in the vicinity, of the amounts of carbon that will be released into the atmosphere were 103 turbines to be installed on peat-land.

On the other hand, SSE and the Shetland community who are behind the Viking project hope that it will become the most productive such venture anywhere in the world. Millions of pounds could find its way into the Shetland economy, they add, as a result of the community investment.

Many feel instinctively that Scotland is already over-provisioned in onshore wind, and see no need for further developments that would ruin the landscape. But those who support onshore wind point to numerous factors: the urgent need to reduce worldwide CO2 emissions; the long-term decline of North Sea resources; the ageing nature of coal-power stations and nuclear power plants; the drive to become less dependent upon imports of energy resources from overseas. Scotland’s success in sourcing its energy from renewables cannot be gainsaid, but there is a case for assessing the future role of a windfarm when its turbines reach the end of their lifespan, and whether the land could be put to other use - for the planting of trees, for example.

Slavery links

THERE are lots of uncomfortable truths for many UK institutions in historic connections with slavery. Cambridge University has embarked on a two-year-long investigation of its own links, examining how it might have gained financially. The eventual findings might embarrass it, but embarrassment counts for little when set against what has been described as ‘that dark phase of human history’. Glasgow University has, commendably, shown the way with a £20 million programme of reparative justice. Prof Sir Hilary Beckles, vice-chancellor of the University of the West Indies, is correct to say Glasgow’s decision is a “bold, moral, historic step” in recognising the slavery aspect of its past.