Tuesday, 28 June 2022

Independence referendum #2

Another independence referendum. Let's count down. 478 days of sheer hell, independence overload, division and rows in families. This at the time when we're all struggling with near 10% inflation, a war in Ukraine that shows no sign of abating - and we in Scotland are once again going to navelgaze? This will weaken the united front against Putin's megalomania, and worsen the threat of his war in Ukraine spreading beyond that nation's borders. Who does Nicola think she's kidding?

Wednesday, 22 June 2022

An electrifying muddle

Yesterday evening, I went to the Caberfeidh Hotel in Stornoway, where SSEN (which maintains the electricity network in this part of the world) were hosting a public meeting. In this meeting, they were presenting their plans for a HVDC Converter Station and GIS Substation, which are pencilled in for the industrial site at Arnish Point. HVDC is a high voltage direct current converter station, GIS is a gas-insulated sub station. What would happen there is that the alternating current electricity, generated by on-shore (sic) renewable energy sources gets converted to direct current and transmitted to the Scottish mainland through a 600 MW subsea cable, also known as an interconnector. This 50-mile line comes ashore at Dundonnell, from where the power will be reconverted to A/C and transmitted to an existing switching station at Beauly, west of Inverness.

This is a long-standing project with which I am well acquainted. Some years ago, SSEN had to abandon the idea of an interconnector, because there was insufficient input from on-shore renewable sources. At the meeting, I was reminded this was only 180 MW, whereas a cable is only economical from 600 MW upwards. SSEN told me that sufficient projects were going to be consented, upon which I asked what the likelihood was that these projects were going to receive consent. One major development would be the proposed windfarm, nestled between the Lochs Road (the A859 Stornoway to Tarbert road) and the Pentland Road, the old A858 to Achmore. 

My next question was regarding the Gas-Insulated Substation. It would appear that the chemical compound Sulfur Hexafluoride is widely used for insulation purposes, to prevent arcing from high-voltage cables. SF6 is a potent greenhouse gas, 23,500 times more powerful than CO2 in fact, and it is being phased out. SSEN was not entirely sure what compound was going to be used instead of SF6, which itself is a gas. 

As this project relates to on-shore renewables, the question about the input from the offshore renewables was not factored into this project. The N4 Northwind project could generate 2GW (2,000 MW), which obviously needs to be transmitted to the mainland as well. Part of this would be used to produce hydrogen, which would be coupled with nitrogen into ammonia at an on-shore facility at Floday, off the west coast of Lewis near Carishader and Geshader.

It strikes me that the Arnish project is still bedevilled by many uncertainties. The required throughput is not certain, and SSEN will probably need to revisit it again in view of the Northwind project off the West Side of Lewis. The completion date of 2027 looks more hopeful than realistic.

Sunday, 19 June 2022

Srebrenica - an apology?

The Dutch government have apologised to former members of the Dutch battalion of the UN safekeeping force that was supposed to protect the enclave of Srebrenica in Bosnia during the war there in the mid-1990s.

This is a very difficult subject in the Netherlands. At the time, I was working for the Ministry of Defence there, and I have known some of the members of Dutchbat personally. Some of them were eye-balling Mladic and could have pulled a gun on him. But the aura of power is irresistible and to be fair, in the face of overwhelming firepower, resistance is sometimes futile.

Dutchbat were poorly equipped by the UN to carry out the task that they were ordered to perform. Mark Rutte's apology is one by proxy; it should have been the UN apologising. That would have carried more clout. None of it, though, will bring back the 8,000 men and boys from Srebrenica who were murdered back in 1995. The UN failed them. The verdict by the Dutch Supreme Court that the Netherlands were partly responsible is an accurate reflection of shared guilt.

Monday, 30 May 2022

Imperial measurements

When I read that the government is going to review the use of imperial measurements, I thought they meant to phase them out. It would appear, however, that the government wants to bring back pounds, ounces, yards, miles etc. The UK went decimal more than 50 years ago, although miles remain standard measurements for road and other long distances. This is being touted as a benefit from Brexit. If adopted, I think it is one of the more stupid results from that decision. Even if the UK is no longer politically integrated with Europe, having one system of units of measurements still makes sense. It is called the SI system. However if we're so bent on returning to the past, why not turn the clock back even further and bring back hanging, public flogging, child labour and slavery.

Friday, 27 May 2022


A list was recently published of shootings at American schools. I have come to call it a List of Anguish. Each mass shooting is followed by an outpouring of anguish, grief and anger, a call to disarm (sic) - and then everybody goes back to the way things were.

Through my social media contacts, I discern a sharp division of opinion regarding the issue of guns in American society. Some feel more controls are necessary. Others hold the opposing view. It's not the guns, or their availability, that's at fault. There should be MORE guns, so you can all defend yourselves against the nutcases.

As long as that dichotomy, that delusional paranoia, exists in American society, this List of Anguish will only continue to grow. I cannot think of a way to resolve this. It's something that American society as a whole will have to address.

However, with institutions like the NRA in existence and people like Trump and Cruz taking its endorsements, I see no hope for the future.

Thursday, 26 May 2022

The Minister for Bikesheds

Scathing headline in the Gazette today. The Minister for bikesheds has visited Lewis. Now, bikesheds, and particularly perambulations to the rear of such, have this strange connotation. Also, bikesheds tend to be rather open and draughty affairs, which has a particular relevance in the policies of improving home insulation, which has ground to a halt. Current Scottish Government policies do not take into account the particular circumstances in this "àite gaoithach" (windy place) with its many stonebuilt houses. C'mon Pat, post us a more constructive message.

Wednesday, 25 May 2022

Uvalde TX

Another shooting. Nineteen children are killed, as well as two teachers. An outpouring of grief and outrage in the US and around the world. Which will peter out in due course and nothing will change. What is required to make a change? Not another shooting. Not another election. Hearts and minds need changing in America. Move from the 18th into the 21st century. It is the people using guns that kill. The fact is that guns are too readily available to everybody, including those that are unfit to hold a firearm. Speak to us in Europe, where the ownership and sales of guns &c is heavily regulated. Use us as a template for legislation, and ditch the gun lobby. But I've written this all before, and nothing will change.