- Future wind farms located on undegraded peats will not reduce carbon emissions.
- This is due to projected changes in fossil fuels used to generate electricity.
- Future policy should avoid constructing wind farms on undegraded peats.
Onshore wind energy is a key component of the renewable energies used by governments to reduce carbon emissions from electricity production, but will carbon emissions be reduced when wind farms are located on carbon-rich peatands? Wind farms are often located in uplands because most are of low agricultural value, are distant from residential areas, and are windy. Many UK uplands are peatlands, with layers of accumulated peat that represent a large stock of soil carbon. When peatlands are drained for construction there is a higher risk of net carbon loss than for mineral soils. Previous work suggests that wind farms sited on peatlands can reduce net carbon emissions if strictly managed for maximum retention of carbon. Here we show that, whereas in 2010, most sites had potential to provide net carbon savings, by 2040 most sites will not reduce carbon emissions even with careful management. This is due to projected changes in the proportion of fossil fuels used to generate electricity. The results suggest future policy should avoid constructing wind farms on undegraded peatlands unless drainage of peat is minimal and the volume excavated in foundations can be significantly reduced compared to energy output.
Jo Smith, Dali Rani Nayak, Pete Smith
Institute of Biological & Environmental Science, University of Aberdeen
Energy Policy Volume 66, March 2014, Pages 585-591