We can take back control

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Your lead article (21 June) quotes Murdo Maciver as saying that wind turbines on a massive scale are “needed in order to secure the interconnector.”

In one way he’s right. The island’s capacity to absorb more renewable energy is currently full.

At first sight, the only way to increase financial benefit to the island’s communities is to yield control to multinational corporations.

I don’t doubt that many who pursue this line of logic, and especially the Stornoway Trust, have the greater good of the community at heart.

However, the technology of renewable energy is fast changing. New options are opening for local initiative at local scales.

The interconnector, requiring turbines on a scale that would be ruinous to large areas of the island’s beauty, might have been yesterday’s solution.

It might have been a 20th century solution. But consider what is offered by tomorrow’s world.

For example, in Norway, the proven success of the world’s first electric vehicle ferry has led to a further 53 orders for the shipbuilder, Fjellstrand.

Meanwhile, the Norwegian airport authority expects that all of their short haul flights will be electric by 2040.

Indeed, their first commercial route, operated with a 19-seater electric plane, is scheduled to start in 2025. We’re not talking never never land. We’re talking only seven years’ time.

This is all made possible by fast-developing battery technology. What’s more, the noise nuisance from such planes and ships is cut by half. Their greenhouse gas emissions is cut by 95%.

Imagine an island future built without the interconnector.

Where local power is generated for local use from the providence of wind, rain and sun.

Where the power produced runs not just lights, the TV, an electric fire and kettle, but heat pumps, ferries, buses, cars and planes.

Where pump storage using sea or mountain lochs can even out the fluctuations in supply, and fossil fuels used only for the backup.

Where planning consent is granted only to community land trusts.

After all, there is a world of psychological difference between a vast wind farm built to export profits to a landlord or to venture capitalists, and a community scale of endeavour based around Iain Crichton Smith’s principle of “real people in a real place”.

These emergent 21st century alternatives to an interconnector are fast becoming reality.

On Eigg, where I was closely involved with the 1990s land buyout, 90% of the electricity comes from renewable sources.

Their “national grid” is run entirely by their own crofters. What goes around comes around locally. Here is a Hebridean community that has enacted a 21st century future that has pulled the community together, not split it apart.

I understand why people might think that the interconnector is their only salvation.

It was the same on Harris, in the 1990s, with the superquarry proposal. But look at Harris now. Thanks largely to the new-found confidence and opportunities of land reform, a matrix of employment opportunities have sprung up that do not depend on trickle down handouts from corporate and landed power.

Lastly, imagine jumping on a plane to Norway to bring the likes of the Fjellstrand electric shipbuilders over to Arnish.

We don’t have to be some corporation’s latter day colony. We can take back control, and do so to give life.

Alastair McIntosh

Glasgow