Sadly, tycoon is Trumping the vital debate about wind energy

Maitland Mackie: Communities should embrace wind turbines

Five years ago, my wife and I returned from holiday to find a 65-metre wind turbine towering behind our house, installed by our offspring to power our ice-cream dairy.

Quickly, I came to love it and started to learn about the physics and economics of wind power.

We now have three wind turbines on site, powering Mackies dairy, and share another with two neighbours. It’s fun having others investing with you and there are big opportunities for communities to raise money and invest in projects to get very good returns over a long period.

Our wind turbines pay for themselves in four to five years; apart from maintenance and insurance, costs are negligible once a turbine is up, with running costs about half a pence a kilowatt generated. Wind is free – and if you can guarantee a speed of 7m a second, it’s really worthwhile. I advise people to have courage and take full ownership if they can. Capital costs are high, but once you get past planning, banks will throw money at you; there is not a better investment for them.

However, the planning process is tortuous; some councils get it, like Aberdeenshire, but many maintain a policy of prohibition, instead of promoting local ownership.

I understand the aesthetic objections, but people get used to them; usually, less than 10 per cent of a community continues to object and 90 per cent are supportive or neutral. Opponents tend to be those who haven’t experienced turbines or tried to understand the economic and environmental arguments.

This is an extreme view, but if a Nimby philosophy prevails, we risk the lights going out – and bills going up and up until stabilised by renewable energy sources.

To guarantee energy supply, we need to embrace renewables – and onshore wind is the cheapest form of generation.

Offshore wind power is two to three times more expensive – in capital costs and the costs of energy produced too.

The cost of energy is going up and renewable energy, especially onshore wind, has a big part to play in filling the gaps.

Maitland Mackie is chairman of dairy ice-cream makers Mackies of Scotland,