Donald Trump hailed Alex Salmond as an “amazing man” for championing the financial benefits of his golf resort in northeast Scotland. Now the two are at loggerheads over the linchpin of the Scottish leader’s economic policy as he strives to gain independence from the U.K.
The New York real-estate entrepreneur will tomorrow tell lawmakers at the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh about his opposition to a proposed 230 million-pound ($371 million) experimental offshore wind farm in sight of the golf course he is opening in July. Trump’s warnings about the effect of the wind energy industry on tourism aren’t borne out by the facts, according to the government.
“I am very disappointed with him, these wind turbines will destroy Scotland,” Trump said in a telephone interview on April 19. “Other countries are stopping building them. Alex is 20 years behind the curve.”
Salmond aims to make Scotland the hub of European wind power as part of a strategy to generate the equivalent of all of the country’s electricity from renewable sources by 2020 and underpin an independent Scottish economy. A referendum on leaving the U.K. is planned for 2014.
Agree to Differ
The semi-autonomous government in Edinburgh, run by Salmond since 2007, predicts the industry might create at least 28,000 jobs. Scottish Enterprise said in a report that offshore wind could boost the Scottish economy by 7.1 billion pounds, or about 5 percent of current gross domestic product, by that year. Scotland is also developing wave and tidal energy.
“I’m afraid Donald Trump and I are destined to disagree on this matter,” Salmond, 57, said in an April 18 interview in his official residence in Edinburgh. “It would probably be best to allow energy policy of the country to be determined by the people who are democratically elected to determine it.”
The European Offshore Wind Deployment Centre, a venture between Vattenfall AB, Technip SA and Aberdeen Renewable Energy Group, applied in August for planning consent to build 11 next-generation offshore wind turbines in Aberdeen Bay. The turbines are 195 meters (640 feet) high to the tip of the blade and will be 2.4 kilometers (1.5 miles) out at sea, according to David Rodger, a spokesman for the venture.
The 65-year-old Trump identified his site at Balmedie, north of Aberdeen, as a potential 750 million-pound golf resort in 2005 and battled for almost three years to gain consent to build two courses, a 450-bed five-star hotel, 500 homes and 950 short-term rental apartments.
Trump bought the 1,400 acre (567 hectare) Menie estate, which is in Salmond’s electoral district, in March 2006. His planning application was rejected by Aberdeenshire Council in November 2007, six months after Salmond’s Scottish National Party won elections and its first term in power. Finance Secretary John Swinney overturned that decision in December 2008 because of “significant economic and social benefits.”
Everything apart from the main golf course was put on hold in January pending the decision on the wind farm, which is also opposed by Royal Aberdeen Golf Club and the Scottish Golf Union. Trump told the Scotsman newspaper he felt “betrayed and lied to” by the government, according to a report published today.
“Trump has obviously got an agenda,” Jonny Clark, an Edinburgh-based director of the WSP Future Energy consultancy, whose clients are involved in renewable energy, said by telephone yesterday. “There don’t seem to be any statistics to support his claim that wind farms are damaging tourism.”
In a series of letters this year addressed to Salmond and sent to news organizations, Trump said Scotland’s first minister is in danger of becoming “Mad Alex” who turns Scotland into a third-world economy by building “monstrous” turbines and destroying tourism. Salmond won a second term last year, this time with an overall majority in the Edinburgh legislature.
Trump told the British Broadcasting Corp. in a January 2008 interview that Salmond was a person “who believes strongly in Scotland and he wants economic development in Scotland.”
Scotland is the windiest country in Europe and could have about a quarter of Europe’s offshore turbine capacity, according to the government. Commercial farms will be sited further out to sea and won’t be visible from the mainland, Salmond said.
“The demonstrator plant is about consolidating the northeast of Scotland’s position as an energy capital of the world,” Salmond said. “Frankly I don’t think 11 turbines off shore is a difficult proposition for most people to accept.”
Mix of Power
Public opinion supports the principle of wind farms, while preferring other forms of renewable energy.
Pollster YouGov published two polls on April 23. One survey, commissioned by Scottish Renewables, found that more than 70 percent of people in Scotland supported the continued development of wind power as part of a mix of renewable and conventional methods of electricity generation.
The other poll, on behalf of Friends of the Earth, showed that 32 percent of Scots favor tidal and wave power as their first choice for future energy, almost twice as many as the 18 percent that have wind power as their first choice. Solar power is the top choice for 17 percent.
Bloomberg New Energy Finance estimates that global demand for wind turbines will be 14 percent lower this year than in 2010 and won’t surpass 2011 levels for another two years as governments cut subsidies. Installations increased 5 percent in 2010 and 2011 combined, compared with annual growth of 36 percent between 2005 and 2009, according to the research.
Doosan Power Systems Ltd., a unit of South Korea’s biggest equipment maker, announced it was scrapping a 170 million-pound plan to develop offshore wind turbines in Scotland because of concern over the European economy.
Gamesa Corp. Tecnologica SA, Spain’s biggest turbine maker, said last month it would build a 150 million-euro ($196 million) wind hub in Edinburgh, while Samsung Heavy Industries Co. is planning a 100 million-pound project for its 7-megawatt machine.
“Wind turbines will destroy one of the great environments of the world,” Trump said in the interview last week. He will appear at the Economy, Energy and Tourism Committee in the Scottish Parliament tomorrow morning. “It is a very, very dangerous time for Scotland,” he said.