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Warning over windfarms' CO2 threat

The construction of windfarms could trigger the release of more carbon dioxide than the technology was created to reduce, according to an investigation into proposals for hundreds of giant turbines on the Western Isles.

The warning has been highlighted by the Views of Scotland (VoS) pressure group which argues that developers routinely inflate their predictions of carbon savings and underestimate the effect of “aggressive construction techniques” associated with building turbines, particularly on peatland.

It argues in an “audit” of projects proposed for Lewis that the disturbance of the terrain results in naturally stored CO2 being released continuously and far beyond the expected 25-year lifespan of a windfarm.

VoS has also pointed to the British Wind Energy Association’s admission, earlier this month, that it was working with the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) “to agree a robust and verifiable set of figures,” after a ruling that its wind-power “savings” could not be substantiated, and were inaccurate and likely to mislead. Developers claim the three major Lewis schemes will save more than 2.5million tonnes of CO2 each year while figures quoted by the Carbon Trust, UK Government and Ofgem suggest it would be perhaps half that amount.

Basing its audit on developers’ construction data, VoS believes the windfarms would cause the emission of 500,000 tonnes of CO2 a year more than they might save.

VoS chairman David Bruce said: “This paper illustrates the implications for every wind-power site proposed on peat, of which there are many in Scotland.

“We call on those environmental organisations campaigning for the restoration of peatlands to emulate the ASA, to stop accepting developers’ claims at face value and independently investigate the dangers posed by the building of wind developments on peat.”

Jason Ormiston, chief executive of Scottish Renewables, said: “The Environmental Impact Assessment process ensures these issues are investigated and researched intensively, and planning officials will make their decisions based on the evidence presented.”

The VoS briefing paper is available on the organisation’s stand at this weekend’s SNP conference in Aviemore. There are full details at www.viewsofscotland.org/snp_conference/

The Press and Journal

27 October 2007