25 Apr 12 Eddie's Blog Global

Playing the Trump Card

Donald, thanks for the great new golf course.  I look forward to playing it one day soon.  It will remind me of playing at the European Golf club in Brittas Bay in Co Wicklow, where for all of the 18 holes golfers have a splendid view of the wind turbines I built offshore in 2003. 

The Arklow Bank wind farm, built with GE, was the first offshore windfarm in these islands. It was built without a subsidy from the Irish government. It captures the free fuel of the wind that whips down the coast and feeds it into the Irish electricity grid.

I think you said that wind turbines cease to operate after five years, and don’t work without subsidy. Well, come to Brittas Bay, and come out and see the windfarm still working seven years after it was built. I have every confidence that it will still be operating half a century from now. Come and see it, and we can have a round of golf afterwards.

The simple truth is this. Wind energy and tourism are not incompatible. Wind energy is the most cost effective and readily deployable of all renewable energy technologies available today. All new technology has its critics. In Scotland in the 1950s there were protests against the building of hydro power. The Tummel-Garry project, which proposed a large dam at Pitlochry, went to public inquiry because of the objections that it would ruin tourism. The scheme went ahead and today hundreds of thousands of people get out of their cars at the Visitor Centre, bringing their tourist dollars to the many shops and businesses in Pitlochry and other Perthshire towns. The same phenomenon can be observed at Ardrossan, the first wind farm my company built in Scotland. For a while it was the most visited windfarm in the UK. Today, that honour falls to Whitelee, Scottish Power’s great site, which attracts thousands of visitors every year.

Donald, you must know, as I do, that a foreign national cannot dictate policy to any Government.  Particularly so when the First Minister has put so much emphasis on taking Scotland into a world leadership position on renewable energy.  The First Minister has promulgated a goal that Scotland’s future energy supply will be 100% renewable.  He has championed wave and tidal energy, and is spending money on R+D to bring forward commercial scale machinery to harness these sources of power.

You will have done your research and found out that renewable energy is popular with the voters, and that the Scottish National party came back into power with an overall majority precisely because the First Minister had the vision to take a stand on issues such as renewables.

So why are you doing what you are doing now?  Are you not bound to fail? Well, yes is the answer, but then is that not the whole point?

We have seen other developers build resorts in Scotland and we know how challenging it is to turn a profit on such ventures.  Even areas much closer to the International Airports of Edinburgh and Glasgow find it hard to get the volume throughput of paying customers to justify the investment.  A golf resort in Northern Scotland is not near St Andrews, Turnberry, nor Muirfield. 

I suspect that when you did your market research in the US, among your friends, and clients of your resorts and hotels, that you got a bad news answer.  In the meantime you had given a commitment to the Scottish Government, so how to exit without admitting commercial failure.  You got it:  the reddest of red herrings; blame the offshore wind farm.

There is also some return to be had in parts of the US at the moment for opposing wind energy, and indeed any renewable energy venture.  You ran for the Republican Party’s nomination for President. At the back of your mind was there the thought that you could portray yourself to your Party as another victim of the renewable energy conspiracy?

The Republican Party’s current antipathy to renewables is of course a great pity.  President Bush Jr strongly supported renewable energy.  He achieved much popularity for this approach, as he had in Texas when as Governor he set that State in a strong pro-wind direction.  I hold the view that President Bush got voter intentions right, that it is impossible to sustain a case against native free fuels, such as wind and solar. 

So, Donald; I wish you well in your golf venture. Perhaps we might get in a game soon. I am sure that I can convince you over 18 holes that wind farms and golf courses make good neighbours, and can both benefit Scotland.