I went and attended a public consultation at Culbokie in respect of the planned industrial development of the Carn Liath Wind Farm.
Now let's start with that. It's not the "Carn Liath" development, it's a development on Ben Wyvis. So trick number one is always, ALWAYS come up with a nice cuddly name that doesn't conjure up images of iconic mountains being covered in metal.
I read the information boards and I chatted to one of the representatives, not from the company who are actually doing the development, but from what is effectively their PR fronting company. I was not in any way confrontational, asked pertinent questions and gave him every opportunity to respond and convince me that this was a necessary development.
First and foremost, I recognise that the SNP are 100% committed to onshore wind power, and therefore it makes no sense to argue the case against because this will have no effect or purpose.
Therefore, it seems to me, each wind factory proposal has to be looked at on its own merits and arguments made for or against development in a particular area. And this was the gist of most of my questions.
And what came out of reading the boards and talking to the representative were;
i) Photo montages are put up to show what the view will be. But, and this is a huge but, they are clearly "photoshopped" so that colours are dulled, taken on a day when skies are grey, and thus it appears as though you can hardly see the turbines against the background. This, of course, in reality is patently untrue and they stick out like sore thumbs.
ii) The representative simply could not answer a number of my questions. They weren't, in my opinion, difficult questions and I would expect anyone involved in the development to know the answers (eg what is the optimum wind speed in mph for the turbines? How often has this occurred on this site during testing?).
iii) The other "trick" is to say that an expert (peat expert, ornithology expert etc) has undertaken studies, but then inform you that they are neither present at the consultation nor will there full results be published at any point!
iv) There were a couple of pieces of information which I requested but was told they would not be available unless a FOI request was made at a later date. Very transparent!
v) Did you know that turbines need to use a percentage of their own electricity to start the turbines up after being switched off and to heat them in cold conditions? I didn't. Of course, this amount ISN'T deducted from what they say the power output of the turbines is.
vi) The emphasis is constantly on telling you how much money the community and individuals (through "community investment") can make out of the turbines. Doesn't it strike you as odd that individuals, landowners and energy companies are ALL making huge returns on these things. Doesn't that say that this is NOTHING to do with climate change and CO2 and everything to do with profits? It does me.
vii) My understanding is that local councillors and MSPs should represent their community...is that not correct? The local community has come out strongly against this, as was evidenced by them collecting signatures to say as much, and yet I'm told the local councillor is backing it 100%. Democracy at its finest if that is true!
Anyway, I came away with more insight and I have registered my disapproval on the basis that THIS wind development is one too many because of the visual impact it has on an iconic mountain. I'm not overly hopeful, but then some interest is being generated and some reasonably influential people are against it, so who knows.