Posted by: anthropologyinthewind | October 17, 2012

Wind Turbine Stories

The Baillie Wind Farm begins to be erected.

Wind turbines seem to be inescapable up here in windblown Caithness. I see them everywhere: in cross-country views from atop the hills; in the pages of the local newspapers; travelling slowly along the narrow roads on the back of mammoth lorries with their police escorts; and I hear about them often in the conversations I have with people.

For me, this is part of the reason I am here. The wind farms offer me an entry point for my research into how people value the Caithness environment. I want to hear the stories that people tell about the turbines and I want to know how they come to those conclusions. I am intrigued by the messiness of the debates surrounding wind farms in Caithness. The stories I have heard so far encompass so many diverse perspectives that I shall not even attempt to turn them into a coherent narrative here. Rather, I shall embrace the confusion, and then, after reading, perhaps you will contribute your own story to my ever-expanding collection…

One of the turbines at Forss overlooking St. Mary’s Chapel, Crosskirk

I have heard stories about the beautiful alien flowers which appear in the landscape offering the possibility of renewable energy and stories about the sick feeling in a stomach that a wind turbine prompts. I’ve heard stories of fear about the immediacy of change imposed by wind farms and stories about the difficulty, or indeed impossibility in a small community, of objecting to a friend or relative’s desire to install a turbine on their land. I’ve heard how Neil Gunn, a novelist and sometimes philosopher from Caithness, would have objected to the wind farms had he been alive still. People related to me how a person might learn to adapt to the change in environment that a wind farm creates and how to determine where is ‘the right place’ for a wind farm. I’ve heard stories about how who owns the land makes a difference to the perception of a wind farm and about contributions to the community and bribes to landowners offered by energy giants. I’ve heard stories about emotion and about reason, the wild and the industrial. I have listened to fears that the energy produced by wind farms will all be sent to London and tales of a long history of exploitation and extraction from Highland people by powerful southerners. I have heard how the lack of clear policy guidance about wind farms is allowing uncontrolled development similar to the uncontrolled planting of trees on the Flow Country in the 1980’s and that before anyone realises there is a problem, the Highlands will be an industrial wasteland. And I have heard how this is all a storm in a teacup and that I should concentrate on stories about really important things like forestry or crofting.

I’d love to know your point of view about existing and potential wind farms in Caithness, and, more than that, I’d love to know why you think as you do. What is your opinion based on? How did you come to your conclusions? Who shares your point of view and who disagrees with you?

You can leave your comments below or you can contact me privately using the contact form. I am also looking for people to interview on this subject, so if you’re willing and interested, live in Caithness and have an hour or so to spare over the next six months, please get in touch and we can arrange a suitable time and place. Interviews will be tape recorded and anonymised, unless you request otherwise.

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Responses

  1. Hi Louise, just found your blog, very interesting and very readable. Looking forward to updates, and see you at the next Health & Happiness Friday work party. 🙂

  2. Thanks Katie, glad you enjoyed reading!

  3. Really enjoyed reading this post Lou. Personally, I am all for wind farms. I think they add to the landscape and if they can create energy then surely that’s a good thing. I don’t know much about them but thought I’d share my opinion with you anyway 🙂 Happy writing honey xx

  4. Thanks for sharing Jolene. it’s always interesting to hear what people have to say on this topic.

  5. I’m loving this. You’re planning on writing a PhD thesis on power in Caithness but you haven’t mentioned Dounreay at all. Amazing…

    You’re lucky I’m not your external examiner. 🙂

  6. Good point! But don’t worry, I’ll get to it in the end – I think any examiner would fail me if I didn’t (and rightly so!) 😉 I’ve heard the display on Dounreay at Caithness Horizons gives a good overview…any other suggestions for where to start?

  7. I had a quick look at the Dounreay exhibition at Caithness Horizons just after it opened, and I haven’t been back since. But it looked quite good to me.

    After you’ve read the official story, I suggest you search out some old Dounreay worthies and speak to them.

  8. Seems like a worthy task. Watch this space for a Dounreay post sometime in the new year.

  9. Hi Louise Very interesting research topic. Industrial wind energy in Caithness is a very emotive subject for some. I am very uncomfortable with the level of wind energy development proposed for our county. Yet I have found it difficult to explain why. I’m certain it’s not the look of the windfarm itself – though when driving through the countryside and seeing developments in all directions I feel a strong sense of dismay at the sight. It is confusing as you mentioned and fills me with unease. Having lived in Caithness all my 50+ years (most of that time in the country) I value the landscape and the environment very highly – it really is quite precious. So do the benefits of turbine development for generating electricity outway the costs – to our unique open landscapes and diverse environment? Caithness is defined by its’ landscape and environment – that is Caithness. I feel a huge sense of loss at what is occurring. Is it worth it? Is this yet another political mistake? How many windfarms before developers, planners, politicians, consultees etc decide enough is enough. Will there come a point of saturation? Are we actually saving the planet by erecting these wind turbines?

    As for the wind in this wonderful county. I love it, I hate it, I’m indifferent to it – depending on what’s needing doing outside, what direction it’s blowing, how cold it is, how strong it is. But sometimes it’s hard to beat a walk in a gale force wind for clearing the head.

    Good luck with your research.

  10. Thank you for your detailed comment DoubtfulDreamer. You’re right: there’s definitely nothing like a windy walk to rejuvenate a tired mind.
    As for the turbines, I wonder whether you feel you have a say in what is happening in the Caithness landscape? For example, through the planning application process?
    I keep hoping the situation will become less confusing, but the debates about turbines are so complex and entangled – there’s certainly no shortage of research material!

  11. By the way, I’m always looking for people to interview on this topic. If you think you’d be interested in taking part, please use the contact form to get in touch privately.


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