Thar He Blows: Trump Tussles With Scots Over Wind Turbines U.S. tycoon Donald Trump is waging a war on a proposed wind turbine facility off the northeastern coast of Scotland. 'The Donald' is spending millions creating a luxe golf resort there, which would overlook the 11 turbines, part of Scotland's ambitious push to convert to renewable sources of energy.
NPR logo

Thar He Blows: Trump Tussles With Scots Over Wind Turbines

  • Download
  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
Thar He Blows: Trump Tussles With Scots Over Wind Turbines

Thar He Blows: Trump Tussles With Scots Over Wind Turbines

  • Download
  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript


In Scotland these days, it is hard to miss these big wind turbines. They're on the rolling hills. They're also out on the sea. This is no surprise Europe is leading the way in generating renewable wind energy. But at least one person hates those turbines in Scotland.


His name: Donald Trump. The American tycoon has made news in Scotland before, clashing with local residents, environmentalists, even the people who make the Scotch whiskey Glenfiddich. Those battles were over the development of a golf course in the north of Scotland.

GREENE: The latest legal tussle is about wind and a planned luxury hotel. NPR's Philip Reeves reports on the dust-up.

PHILIP REEVES, BYLINE: Donald Trump is inspecting his fiefdom, says a scrum of photographers. There always is whenever Trump jets into Scotland. This place was once a stretch of rolling dunes and grassland overlooking the North Sea. Trump's spending hundreds of millions, creating a resort here. Last year, he opened its star attraction: a championship golf links. Now he's flown in to look over plans for a second golf course.

DONALD TRUMP: It will be truly spectacular and truly beautiful, and the first course has become such a tremendous success.

REEVES: Yet there is one big problem: some wind turbines are going to be built in the waters overlooked by Trump's resort. Trump is not happy.

TRUMP: Wind farms are a disaster for the environment. They kill the birds. They're very expensive in terms of energy. They're made in China.

REEVES: Trump was planning to put a big luxury hotel here, too. Now he's threatening to change his mind.

TRUMP: I will not build this hotel if they're going to build this ridiculous wind farm. Who would build a hotel where the windows are looking right into an industrial turbine?

REEVES: Trump's resort is a few miles north of the city of Aberdeen. The area doesn't have the dazzling beauty of the Scottish Highlands. Their dark hills and salmon rivers and whiskey distilleries are just over the horizon. Here, amid the beaches and harbors of Aberdeen Bay, the landscape has a subtler charm.

I'm looking across an iron-gray sea. There are seagulls wheeling overhead and swooping low over the waters. Beyond that, rolling sand dunes with bursts of yellow gorse. And on the horizon, these wonderful stone houses.


REEVES: Trump opened the championship links last year. He says it's one of the best in the world.


REEVES: He celebrated the occasion by playing the first round.


REEVES: The wind turbines he so detests will be visible from the course, about a mile and a half out to sea. Scotland's government gave the go-ahead for the wind project this March. Trump's counterattacked with a lawsuit seeking to have that decision overturned. This sounds like an unremarkable zoning dispute, but much bigger issues are in play. Next year, Scots vote in a referendum over whether to secede from the United Kingdom. Their government's semi-autonomous, much like a state in the U.S. The Scottish Nationalists who are in office right now want full independence. Green energy is part of their vision. They aim to generate the equivalent of all of Scotland's electricity consumption using renewables by the year 2020. Wind power is a big part of that plan.

LINDSAY LEASK: That's a hugely ambitious target, and it is one of the most ambitious in Europe, if not the world.

REEVES: Lindsay Leask is from Scottish Renewables, an industry organization for Scotland's renewable energy companies. There will be 11 big turbines in the waters off Trump's resort. It's not really a wind farm, says Leask.

LEASK: It's a testing facility, and it's to test all sorts of different construction methods, different technology aspects of turbines and installation techniques.

REEVES: The project is officially called the European Offshore Wind Deployment Center. It's a joint venture led by the Swedish company Vattenfall. Leask says Scotland needs it.

LEASK: If it's not built, we would lose what could be a world-class testing facility, and that would be a great shame.

REEVES: Trump's fighting for his cause with typical aggressiveness and flamboyance. He wrote a tirade in a British newspaper, calling the head of Scotland's government mad. He says Scotland's going to end up erecting thousands of wind turbines that'll have to be junked. They're unreliable, inefficient and require heavy subsidies, he says.


REEVES: Trump appeared last year before the Scottish parliament's energy committee with this warning.


PATRICK HARVIE: Well, I think Scottish energy policy is frankly none of Mr. Trump's business. He doesn't live here. He doesn't vote here. He doesn't have a say.

REEVES: Patrick Harvie is from the Green Party, and sits in Scotland's parliament. He hopes Scotland will stick to its energy plan.

HARVIE: If the Scottish government was to be distracted from that by, frankly, an arrogant bully like Mr. Trump, I think that would be a terrible shame, a terrible opportunity wasted. We should be pressing ahead with turning that renewable energy vision into reality.

REEVES: Trump's dislike of turbines is shared by plenty of others, says Linda Holt, spokeswoman for Scotland Against Spin, an alliance of groups that's campaigning against Scotland's wind energy policy.

LINDA HOLT: I think there are tens of thousands of people, if not hundreds of thousands of people. I think in rural communities, they are so against them now, there are hundreds of local groups who think that the policy is ridiculous, is uneconomic, and has gone far enough.

REEVES: Trump claims wind turbines kill sea mammals and thousands of birds. That's another reason he doesn't want turbines anywhere near his resort. Lang Banks of the Scottish chapter of the World Wildlife Fund says the plans were carefully checked by nature preservation groups.

LANG BANKS: They have even changed the set-up and configuration of that site to make sure it causes the minimum amount of environmental impact.

REEVES: There's another twist: Vattenfall, the biggest investor in the wind-testing center off Trump's resort, recently had a slump in profits. It says it's not pulling out of the project, but it is significantly reducing its stake.


REEVES: As he inspects his resort, Trump takes heart from that. He thinks it's a sign he'll get his way in the end.

TRUMP: Look, Vattenfall has already taken a pass. Whoever buys it is going to lose a tremendous amount of money. So nobody's going to buy it, and I don't see it getting built. So I think we're very close to having that thing abandoned.

REEVES: Anyone who's seen "The Apprentice" on TV knows that Trump is a tough adversary. He says he's willing to fight the lawsuit against the Scottish government for as long as it takes. This worries Lang Banks.

BANKS: It's a real shame that taxpayers' money is going to have to be used to defend a case from Mr. Trump. And it's a real shame that one man may undermine an entire nation's ability to do the right thing in cutting emissions, creating jobs from cleaner energy sources.

REEVES: Banks fears this legal fight will consume a lot of time. And in the battle against climate change, time is in short supply. Philip Reeves, NPR News.

Copyright © 2013 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.