I applaud the Scottish Government’s decision to refuse planning permission for the Lewis wind farm. Destroying deep peatland, as would have been the case on Lewis, would create more carbon emissions than it would ever save.
The previous Labour/LibDem executive had no coherent strategy for wind energy, simply offering lucrative inducements to power companies and landowners that led to a stampede to erect giant turbines. Hundreds of applications are still in the planning pipeline, many of them in wholly inappropriate locations that would threaten endangered flora and fauna and industrialise some of Scotland’s most spectacular landscape.
Peat is a global carbon sink, storing millions of tonnes of CO2 during the tens of thousands of years the peat is formed from rotting tress and plant material. The first thing a contractor does before building a giant windmill on peatland is to drain the area, thus releasing all of the stored CO2 into the atmosphere. The peatland is also subsequently destroyed as a carbon sump, stopping any further carbon storage.
Taken together with the construction of mammoth steel towers, huge glass-fibre blades, vast concrete foundations under every turbine, borrow pits, drains, connecting roads, overhead power lines and pylons, the carbon footprint from every wind farm built on deep peat far exceeds any environmental saving it may aspire to.
The decision to refuse approval for the Lewis wind farm is hopefully the first of many such decisions. Similar applications for giant wind farms on deep peatland on Dava Moor (Grantown on Spey), Kergord Valley (Shetland) and at many other locations should all be stopped. Wind energy certainly has a role to play in a diverse renewable energy mix, but it must be properly planned and sited.
Struan Stevenson, MEP, The European Parliament, Rue Wiertz, B-1047, Brussels
22 April 2008
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