AS A former nuclear power industry employee, Barra resident Mary Bell Galbraith is one of a legion in the Western Isles who welcome moves toward renewable energy – evident in the 31 small wind-turbine installations completed throughout the islands over the last 12 months by local business West Electrical Services & Testing Ltd (W.E.S.T) writes Eilidh Whiteford.
Ms Galbraith, whose property holds planning permission for a small private wind-turbine, commented: “I knew years ago exactly what the dangers of nuclear power were and it’s not what you want to have near you.
“I think nowadays more people are looking at wind power and green energy and it’s a good thing to see, far better than the alternatives.”
Yet the realities of a greener future – the erection of turbines within rural areas of natural beauty – are often not so favoured with a recent application for installations in Great Bernera attracting a petition of nearly 100 names against the proposal.
Compromises between preserving the islands’ landscapes and reducing carbon emissions are feasible, with the need to apply for planning permission and guidelines regarding where a turbine can be sited closely monitored by the local authority.
One council planner said that the Comahairle’s Planning Department are ‘more than happy’ to discuss turbine plans prior to residents application and detailed that many of the considerations regarding turbine planning permission are similar to those for new housing: the visual impact, noise, the make and model of turbines proposed and designation of the area (ie: Site of Special Scientific Interest etc).
W.E.S.T Director Angus Macdonald added: “It’s not really a case of people putting up wind-turbines in their back garden though, one of the main planning constraints is that the turbine must be situated at least 100 metres away from the nearest neighbour.”
At an outlay of around £28,000, alongside gird connection charges, installing a private wind-turbine is not a light decision.
The green energy system does offer individuals living in outlying areas more options however, such as the case of South Uist resident Andrew Cordell – erecting a wind-turbine at his Lochskipport property has allowed him to live in a house where connection to mains electricity was cost prohibitive.
“When I moved in I hadn’t mains power and the cost of getting it installed was just out of the question,” he said. “With the wind turbine I have power 24 hours a day and with the battery back-up I always have enough power to last over calm days.”
To read Eilidh’s full news feature on the pros and cons of private wind turbines see this week’s Stornoway Gazette out NOW!