Fauch Hill Windfarm Debate

You may be aware there is a proposal to build 12 turbines on the community council boundary of Kirknewton and West Calder, called Fauch Hill
The Kirknewton Community Council have arranged this online debate on this project and wind energy in general.
We hope this will inform your opinion if you have not already been consulted on the windfarm (further details are below on how to access the developers website, online consultation and their West Lothian Council planning application).  For the proposal is Stewart McKenna and against is John Thomas. Both are elected members of the Community Council.
You have the opportunity to comment on both sides of the debate.  We welcome your comments as long as they follow some simple ground rules (below).  This debate will end 1st March.  Thanks for your contribution.
1.  Initial proposers and comments will provide information, factual and analytical, for members of the community to be able to read and to help inform their own judgement on the matter. This should be the same for comments to the debate.  Facts, Claims, Opinions from other parties, etc will be removed unless they are supported by references (preferably with web links) to proper sources.
2.  Personal attacks on any other contributor, group of contributors or others, holding potential different views will be removed.
The planning application for the windfarm is at Fauch Hill planning application
The proposal that went to the Kirknewton Community Council (KCC) was should the community council continue to support the Fauch Hill windfarm proposal, based on the results of the previous survey conducted by IBP on behalf of the KCC, or should a new survey be taken to guide the KCC on support for or against the new proposal.  With that in mind the Chair of the KCC suggested the case for the wind farm / wind power be proposed first and then the argument against be presented.
FOR – by Stewart McKenna
When debating the merits and shortcomings of onshore wind power, it is important to remember the context within which these developments are considered. The UK has statutory commitments that require the rapid decarbonisation of electricity generation. Once this is recognised, the question of onshore wind becomes a choice between this and other low-carbon solutions.

It is not a choice between onshore wind and fossil fuels. By the 2020s, even efficient unabated gas can play no more than a niche role in power generation.

Under the Climate Change Act 2008), the UK committed to reducing annual greenhouse gas emissions by 34 per cent by 2020 and 50 per cent by 2025, compared with 1990 levels. The Act has strong political support: it was passed almost unanimously by Parliament, as were the first four carbon budgets legislated under it. The Act and its provisions make environmental and economic sense. They put the UK on a sensible path towards a low-carbon economy.

Under the EU Renewable Energy Directive (2009/29/EC), the UK has to increase the share of energy from renewables from currently 3.3 per cent (in 2010) to 15 per cent by 2020. The electricity sector is expected to play a significant role in this. By 2020 at least 30 per cent of electricity should be generated from renewable sources, and by 2050 the power sector will need to be almost completely decarbonised (Ref1)

Much has been made of the intermittent nature of wind (and other renewables), which cannot produce electricity reliably on demand. However, the cost penalty and grid system challenges of intermittency are often exaggerated (e.g. in Hughes, 2012)(Ref5). The Committee on Climate Change has found that even very high levels of wind energy penetration are technologically feasible and at a cost that will be lower than for other renewables Ref6) and, likely, competitive with fossil fuel prices within a few years (Ref2)

As a society we must all bear responsibility for the infrastructure that delivers the services that we consume. Oil, gas and coal generation together with the CO2 they emit are essentially invisible to most consumers , renewable energy  on the other hand is diffuse by nature and consequently it’s capture mechanisms are likely to be more visible to more of us.  Kirknewton hosts three major power lines, the electrified East Coast railway and it’s troublesome level-crossing, and one of Scotland’s busiest single-carriageway road, the A71. All are part of our modern society, and all are services utilised by everyone who is a consumer of electricity, a rail or a car user.

If we are to decarbonise our world then we also must accept responsibility for hosting sources of sustainable, renewable energy.  Given the abundant wind resources available in our community, and the technological maturity of onshore wind technology, which represents the most economically attractive option for the transition towards a low-carbon future for generating electricity( Ref8), we must accept the proximal siting of wind turbines as part of the cost of our use of electricity

The impact of renewables on our electricity bills was through the Renewables Obligation cost (ROC). According to the Department of Energy and Climate Change, the contribution of the ROC to an average household’s electricity bill was about 0.5 p/kWh in 2011 This is important at a time of heightened sensitivity about the cost of green policies and their impact on fuel poverty. In 2017 we face paying a subsidy through our electricity bills for previously  consented windfarms,  for nuclear generation  ( £90+ per MWh guaranteed  for 35 years to  EDF for Hinckley C)( Ref3) and for schemes to help insulate our homes, the overall impact being about 9% of the overall bill (Ref4)

Importantly  the Fauch Hill proposal  will claim no subsidy and will compete in the marketplace against coal, oil gas and nuclear derived electricity.

When making technology choices for renewable generation of electricity (and heat) it is important to factor in the environmental and social impacts of all of the alternatives considered. Most energy sources have environmental side-effects, including, for instance,  global warming through unabated CO2 emissions, land use and habitat change (e.g. by open cast coal mining, tidal barrages, biomass and biofuels), visual impacts (e.g. to onshore and coastal landscapes, caused by wind farms), disturbance (e.g. related to seismic surveys for oil and gas production), infrastructure construction (such as new power plants and transmission systems), air and water pollution (e.g. from oil spills, acid mine drainage from coal pits, biofuels and eutrophication impacts from nitrogen oxides from coal power stations), and the accidental killing of wildlife (e.g. by power lines and tidal barrages) (Ref9)

Most of all we must accept responsibility for our actions. When we switch on the immersion heater or the central heating we must accept the impact that inevitably arises. We should not expect future generations to bear our debts. Without genuine sustainability man has a very limited future on board this ball of mud.

It’s time to act and embrace local renewables. After all we may just get economical “local”fusion power in 20 years anyway? (ref7) Until then we are going to have to rely on the old and existing fusion reactor, sited a safe 93 million miles away and highly visible to to viewers (except those living in Scotland) during daylight hours.

Ref1  Her Majesty’s Government, 2011a. The Carbon Plan: Delivering our low carbon future. http://www.decc.gov.uk/en/content/cms/tackling/carbon_plan/carbon_plan.aspx

Ref2  Committee on Climate Change (CCC), 2011a. Renewable Energy Review. [pdf] London: CCC.  http://www.theccc.org.uk/reports/renewable-energy-review

Ref3  http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-36897180

Ref4   https://sse.co.uk/help/bills-and-paying/costs-make-up-energy-bill

Ref5  Hughes, G., 2012. Why is wind power so expensive? An economic analysis. GWPF Report 7. [pdf] London: The Global Warming Policy Foundation. http://docs.wind-

Ref 6 Committee on Climate Change (CCC), 2011b. Costs of low carbon generation technologies – 2011 Renewable Energy Review – Technical Appendix. [pdf] London: CCC.  http://hmccc.s3.amazonaws.com/Renewables%20Review/RES%20Review%20Technical%20 Annex%20FINAL.pdf

Ref7  https://phys.org/news/2017-01-fusion-power-limitless-energy.html

Ref8  Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC), 2011a. Digest of UK energy statistics (DUKES). [pdf] London: DECC. http://www.decc.gov.uk/en/content/cms/statistics/ publications/dukes/dukes.aspx

Ref9 Tucker, G., Bassi, S., Anderson, J., Chiavari, J., Casper, K., & Fergusson, M., 2008. Provision of Evidence of the Conservation Impacts of Energy Production. [pdf] London: Institute for European Environmental Policy (IEEP). Available at: www.ieep.eu/assets/414/conservation_ impactsofenergy.pdf

AGAINST – by John Thomas

The proposed turbines, 12 towers 125m to blade tip, will be on the edge of a regional park, in an area reserved for its natural beauty. An area at the southern edge of Kirknewton’s electoral ward, this is a rural area quite different to the centre of the village where most consultees live. The turbines, if permitted, may become the eastern edge of a band of industrial turbines stretching along the northern  edge of the Pentland Hills Regional Park from Harperrig to Carnwath.

Each turbine is rated at around 3MW peak capacity. At maximum output that’s enough to power just 1000 domestic kettles. The standard “capacity factor” from the manufacturers of turbines means that on average that figure will  be 300 kettles per 125m turbine power.
In fact it’s been stated that to power the world with wind turbines, 100% of current demand with no growth in demand, given the average space required by land-based wind turbines, we would need just one more planet Earth!

All the turbines operating together are equivalent to a small power plant, at peak one twenty-fifth of a standard 1GW power station, or on average around one hundredth of the output of a standard power station. It’s insignificant in national electrical energy
terms but locally covers nearly two square kilometres with industrial plant.

The access roads required to install the turbines will disrupt water courses. The turbines are mid-scale industrial plant in the countryside for at least 25 years. Birds, some rare, will be killed flying into the blades.

There are residents of Kirknewton in the area around the blades. Not great in numbers, they have their homes there because they, or their families, chose to live in a rural zone, far from shops and services. Or because their original family businesses were in farming.

Some have diversified into accommodation for fishermen and those seeking wilderness for recreational purposes. Those small businesses’ existence is threatened by the turbines as their main selling point is peace and quiet in a rural setting.  Those seeking a break from busy lives will not be attracted by premises with a view of major industrial plant.

These Kirknewton residents do not stand to benefit from the “community benefit” payments which will fund KCDT services unlikely to reach out to them.

Another local village, Forth, has seen a community centre built out of “community bribe” funds, but has not seen the promised riches originally proposed by the developers. Conditions on the money sees most of it soaked up by lease payments on the land, maintenance costs and no doubt hidden profits. The £4-5 million dangled by the developers at Fauch Hill, if it ever materialises, will amount at most to around £50,000 per year for Kirknewton. Sounds a lot, but it’s less than £25 per head.

Of course that money, if it ever appears, comes off the bottom line of the wind turbine operators accounts. Which of course ultimately comes from our electricity bills. Are you really so enthused about the carrot, when part of your £1000 a year bill comes back to the community at £25 per head?

At 30% capacity factor, around 70% of the turbines peak capacity will be produced by fossil-fuelled generators – currently the only technology available to the national grid that can replace gigawatts of wind going offline when the wind stops, as it regularly does.

Personally, I’ve done what I can. We have 4kW of solar panels on our roof. When all the kettles go on, at around 6pm in the UK, solar produces next to nothing, particularly in winter. Some days in January, our own panels produced half a kilowatt hour a day, barely enough to keep the LED lights on, let alone power a kettle or a cooker. See for yourself:


PVOutput.org – share, compare and monitor live solar photovoltaic output data
We need to get rid of carbon emissions in electricity generation – and industrial, transport and food production sources – not replace a small proportion of existing capacity with unreliable “clean” production that destroys local environments, kills birds and
locks in 70% fossil-fuelled capacity for generations.

Don’t take my word for it, look at a live picture. See how small the blue line – representing 9GW of built turbine capacity, around 25% of average UK demand – is compared to the fossil fuelled generators, and how often in a day, week or month, the blue line goes
near to zero output.


Then click on the map of France. A country that has reached 80% of electricity production from non-carbon emitting sources. Doctrinaire “Greens” are religiously opposed to the message contained in those facts. Experienced scientists like James Hansen (former director of NASA GISS) and James Lovelock FRS say we need to take notice of the facts and start producing real carbon-free electricity sources, even if there are some risks from those sources in the medium term.


Given all of that, is it really worth turning an area next to a regional park, the inspiration for much of Robert Louis Stevenson’s writing, an area appreciated by many visitors every day, into a pseudo-industrial park mainly for the profit of large international companies?  Maybe we should all offer to pay £25 per year each to KCDT instead, and save our wild spaces.


  1. This letter was sent to the Chair of the Community Council, who agreed to include it as a comment to this debate

    Dear Hugh,

    I really appreciate your offering me the opportunity to circulate this to Councillors and any others before your meeting on the 10 th February

    First, is it useful to quote the core reason why the original Fauch Hill proposal for 23 turbines was turned down after lengthy consideration by the 2 Reporters at the 2 week Public Local Enquiry in 2013? The Reporters found that there would be “unacceptable landscape and visual impacts. In their view the proposal would introduce an unduly prominent development on the north western slopes of the Pentlands and detract from the Pentlands as the main visual backdrop. They are also of the view that these impacts would be seen and appreciated by many people over a wide area to the north west and south west and that it would also affect some of the panoramic views from some of the hill tops.

    Overall, they considered that the proposal would not comply with the aim of the development plan to avoid unacceptable impacts on the Pentland Hills Area of Great Landscape Value within West Lothian, which is part of the wider Pentland Hills.

    They also considered that the proposal would also not comply with an important aim of Scottish Planning Policy to avoid unacceptable landscape and visual impacts.

    Chapter 10 of the report contains the Reporters reasoned conclusions and recommendations with regard to the Fauch Hill proposal. Part 4 of the report contains the Reporters; overall conclusions in relation to cumulative impact for both the FauchHill and Harburnhead applications.”

    I appreciate that we do not yet know the full scope of the new planning application, which I understand involves a reduced number of turbines and how it will impact on the landscape and neighbours

    However, if any of you have not travelled along the A70 recently, I would invite you to do so and view the full impact of Harburnhead and Pearie Law windfarms which are up and running on the north side of this road (and Camilty has been granted planning permission.). Additionally, slightly further away there is an unbroken ribbon of 20 kms. of windfarms mainly based in West Lothian which also include Pates Hill, Heathland, Tormy Wheel and Black Law phases 1, 2 and 3.

    Our family have lived and farmed at Crosswoodhill on the A70 for generations and are part of the community known as Harburn Residents Association. This is the recently expressed view, made to the windfarm developers by the Chair

    “ In my capacity as chairman of the Harburn and District Residents Association, I have done my best to inform the local community in Harburn of your proposal and planned public consultations. However I have had no opportunity to objectively assess opinion of your plans. Those who have expressed a view to me are strongly opposed to the proposal and are very disappointed that plans for wind farm development on the Fauch Hill site are not dead in the water following the previous failed application. I think I can safely say that the feeling in Harburn is that we have already suffered and continue to suffer from more than our fair share of wind farm development and that we cannot reasonably be expected to take any more both in terms of disruption during construction and the long term impact on the local environment.

    In my view the Pentland Hills should be protected from any wind farm development south of the A70. Thus far this has rightly been the case with the rejection of both the previous Fauch Hill proposal and the Harrows Law proposal.”  

    I should declare a business interest. We run 4 very much loved holiday cottages on the farm, which straddles both sides of the A70. Craigengar, our 5 STAR lodge which sleeps 12+, would have been less than 900 metres of turbines sited on the south side of the A70 hillside if the last application had been granted permission.

    Visual and noise intrusion is not something guests are looking for when they choose a property like ours to relax in and enjoy the hills, fields and skyline unbroken by man-made industrialisation. The relief when the last application was turned down was immense. But this business interest has always been subsidiary to my love of the Pentland Hills and desire to preserve this iconic landscape for future generations to enjoy and love. An emotion shared by the thousands of motorists who travel along the A70 as well as hill-walkers.

    I fully understand that you may wish to sound out the view of Kirknewton community and decide whether a new consultation is appropriate or not. What I would ask is that, if you do, the questionnaire is carefully constructed.

    For example if you had a question asking “Are you in favour of renewable energy? “ I would anticipate a near 100% response of “yes”.

    But if you were to include a question asking “Are you in favour of renewable energy even when it may mar a beautiful landscape and the output is intermittent dependent on the wind?” this is likely to yield a lot more “no” responses.

    I didn’t see the questionnaire that was circulated round Kirknewton last time round, but hearsay suggested a few responses included phrases like “we have nothing to lose as we would not see the turbines from here, but our community would benefit financially.” It would be heart-breaking if the same view was to be widely replicated.

    Thank you for reading this.

    Mrs. Geraldine Hamilton

  2. David Mackay’s Book, Sustainable Energy, is a “must read” for anyone, who has a serious interest in the future of energy. It is authoritative. Beyond those pages suggested by John Thomas, I would recommend that one also looks to pages 203 and following, where he outlines 5 plans for going forward, each of which is tuned to different societal pressures. None of them are prescriptive, but merely indicative, slightly humorous, but well worth while a quick read

    • He is authoritative. But he is also clear with some verifiable and fairly basic arithmetic that wind can make a contribution to zeroising emissions only if 1200 GWh of grid storage can be built. Existing pumped storage – the most cost effective solution – can store only 26GWh. Prof Mackay does some work to show that the missing storage COULD be built. However, that requires a LOT of funding. It is also interesting that the 1200 GWh depends on a five day outage being the maximum outage ever encountered. While five days of no wind is not likely often, it is along way from impossible.


      That storage could be topped up from nuclear when the wind’s not working and demands is low, but Greens won’t allow that needs to be built.

      Prof Mackay concludes that we could achieve zero carbon, but only if we include everything in the mix, including nuclear.

      There is so far no sign that storage on the scale of 1200GWh is being considered.

    Of course I am in favour of renewable/green energy so that this country can meet its obligations. My view is that nuclear generation should be further up the agenda. We need a mix of energy generation. Wind power is one option and not the only option as our Scottish Government sometimes imply.
    My postal address is Kirknewton although I live very rurally so any money the good citizens of Kirknewton might receive will probably not affect me one iota. Indeed, partly thanks to Scottish Government policies, I have a single wind turbine situated 600 metres from my home. What an eyesore.
    Whatever renewable/green source of energy generation one chooses, the production site has to be sensitively placed. This is so for wind turbines just as much as a nuclear power station.
    So, am I in favour of Fauch Hill? No, I am not. The plans I have seen put turbines far larger than the turbine with which I am afflicted too close to homes and will completely spoil yet another area of rural tranquillity. I support the argument of keeping the south side of the A70 clear of such monstrosities.
    Finally, before the good citizens of Kirknewton decide, perhaps they would like to come up Leyden Road and view the turbine there. How would they like several much larger turbines in their vicinity?

  4. As someone who used to live in Kirknewton I am aware of these plans.
    I have moved.
    I now drive along the A70 frequently.
    The road has changed out of all proportion.
    The north side of the road is simply turbine after turbine.
    No more views of the Ochil Hills as one drives along.
    I can count 40 turbines from my back garden.
    The area is now saturated, and is becoming just plain ugly.
    No more turbines in this area please.
    It’s the Caledonian Forest, and not pretty at that.

  5. What will power our future electricity needs? We have contributions that suggest it should nuclear power, and while I perhaps support that nuclear must have a role to play I doubt that even the most pragmatic supporter would support my hypothesis which is along these lines:
    Good design is an iterative process, take the bicycle which looks simple in engineering terms, yet every component of a modern bike has evolved through exploring materials and technology into what you see today. On a worldwide basis thermal nuclear reactors have been produced in very small numbers and no single design seems to have evolved that is inherently safe or free from latent defects which are inordinately expensive to remedy or economic to build which explains the paucity of new reactor s being built and the cost runaways of those under construction.
    The only mass-produced nuclear reactors are those located in the super-power’s fleets of nuclear submarines. The USA alone developed 27 different plant designs, installed them in 210 nuclear-powered ships, put 500 reactor cores into operation, and accumulated over 5,400 reactor years of operation. The electrical output of only one of these submarine reactors is sufficient to power a small town say 40MWe. The thermal output, at around 100MWt would be sufficient to provide central heating and all the hot water for the same small town… and so I ask myself why such a common sense solution has not been proposed or encouraged?
    Could it be that we are happy if nuclear power is located in someone else’s backyard, but surely do NOT want to be under our house, our children’s school or in our neighbourhood? A similar argument to that for and against wind-power but with fewer side-effects!
    Would we, as a community, welcome a small nuclear power plant ? Would we get excited if NIREX suggested that Kirknewton Airfield would be good place to begin test-drilling for a proposed Nuclear Repository for spent nuclear fuels and their associated radio-nuclides. Guaranteed to be safe of course for the 24000 year half-life of Plutonium 239 or the 2,000,000 year half-life of Neptunium 237?
    Yet we have to have responsibility for the means of production if we are to consume electricity.
    We must act now, and in many ways to prepare for the future of successive generations. This must mean consuming less in all ways, driving less, walking and cycling more, generating electricity locally through sustainable technology, storing electricity in electric cars, building a grid network that is smart and fit for the 21st century and many more ways that will not contribute a burden to our descendants.
    I am a little saddened that there were not more contributors to this online debate but I do wish to thanks all those who did contribute either positively or negatively. I do wonder if there may have been a few more contributors if the discussion would have centred around building a new nuclear plant ( even a tiny one) burying nuclear waste in our backyard, or even building an incinerator?
    Stewart McKenna

    • Once again this page shows a live view of electricity demand and production in the UK.


      Look at the blue line for any day, week or month. See how the blue line goes from over 8GW down to zero in a short space of time. That’s wind production.

      Look at the much larger red line. See how it quite often shrinks when the blue value is large. That’s gas turbine production. Fossil fuelled power.

      As far as I know, no-one has proposed a nuclear waste dump in our back yard. But we do expect electricity to be available when we turn on a switch, and most people now agree that we must stop emitting carbon into the atmosphere, must stop burning fossil fuels to reduce lung disease and stop incinerating valuable materials that took millions of years to make for other reasons.

      Now click on the symbol of France in the top left corner. Have a look at the live grid picture of a country that already generates more than 80% of its electricity without emitting carbon. (They have a lot more hydro-electric capacity than we do, but they have much bigger hills and more land.)

      Around 70% of the capacity of currently configured low-level wind turbines produces electricity from fossil fuels – the increase in the red line when demand is high and wind is not available.

      If you can stomach the vast pages of statistics in the following you will see that the UK gets a significant proportion of its electricity from France – nearly 4/5ths of which comes from nuclear – so are we happy to pay the French to have a nuclear industry while building gas turbines ourselves to fill the gaps in the wind?

      Click to access DUKES_2016_INTERNET_FINAL.pdf

      Buried in there somewhere are also some facts about how much wind capacity has been built in the past decade, and the tiny contribution the vast structures make to overall electricity usage.

      Doctrinal “Greens” will tell you that storage can fill the gaps in the wind. They are wrong. No amount of storage will ever cover all the gaps, and the final few percent of storage becomes infinitely expensive because it is almost never used. Investors who finance pumped storage want a return on their money just the same as investors in wind turbines. If the storage is almost never used they demand a very high return to cover the risk.

      Stewart is asking you to ignore the stress, noise, and defacement industrial wind turbines inflict on some of our neighbours and fellow community members because it’s largely invisible to those of us who live near the centre of Kirknewton. If the well-financed company behind the latest Fauch Hill project wanted to put up a 125m turbine with a blade sweep in excess of the size of two Olympic swimming pools in the field in front of Roosevelt Rd, what would your reaction be then?

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