Alyn Smith MEP fulminates about my opposition to building wind farms on deep peat (Letters, July 9). He accuses me of “bad science” and says my arguments are “illogical.”
I must point out to Alyn that my arguments are based only on the findings of four of the UK’s leading scientific experts on peat who addressed a recent seminar in the European Parliament in Brussels and were unanimous in their view that wind turbines should not be constructed on peatland.
Dr Helaina Black from the Macaulay Institute, Aberdeen; Dr Sarah Crowe from the University of the Highlands & Islands; Dr Richard Lindsay from the University of East London and Professor J Holden from Leeds University. They were unanimous in their view that the impact of building wind farms on peatland will cause damage to the environment that is irreversible and questioned the benefits of wind farms in those circumstances. Dr Richard Lindsay said “The wind farming industry is designed to reduce CO2 but they are focusing on a landscape that is our biggest carbon store. If we release carbon from peat, then we negate the benefits from wind energy.”
Alyn Smith puts great store in a recent report produced by the renewables industry, which claims that carbon released by construction on peat bogs can be paid back in around three years. Such claims are, of course, self-serving and utterly fatuous. They assume that wind farms will be de-commissioned after 25 years, when of course most wind farm developers intend to “re-turbine” their investments to ensure they last for at least half a century or longer. The spurious idea that deep peat, which has taken several millennia to form, can be bulldozed, dug up and drained and then somehow restored to a fully functioning bog within three years, must have stretched even Alyn Smith’s vivid imagination.
Peat bogs are Europe’s rainforests. They form a crucial part of the world’s air-conditioning system. Peatlands and wetland ecosystems accumulate plant material under saturated conditions to form layers of peat soil up to 20-metres thick – storing on average 10 times more carbon per hectare than other ecosystems. Peatlands occur in 180 countries and cover 400 million hectares, or 3% of the world’s surface. Scotland has a unique role to play in preserving and maintaining this global resource. Over one-sixth of the world’s blanket bog is located in Scotland, despite the fact that we have only one-sixtieth of the world’s total landmass. This is something we should cherish and take care of, not bulldoze.
The current headlong rush to cut carbon emissions has encouraged the Scottish Government to throw money into renewable energy without any coherent planning strategy to determine where wind farms should and shouldn’t be built. The result is that there are dozens of outstanding planning applications to build giant wind turbines on blanket peat bogs in Scotland, causing immense damage to the environment and releasing vast quantities of CO2 – in other words achieving the exact opposite of what was intended.
I’m afraid that Alyn Smith has wandered into a peat bog and is now up to his neck in it, and is rapidly in danger of getting out of his depth.
Struan Stevenson, MEP, The European Parliament, Brussels.
It would now appear that the Macaulay report on building wind farms on peat has been thoroughly debunked. There is little or no evidence to support the report’s claims, and one of its authors has admitted that the report is mostly hypothesis.
To add insult to injury, as a result of an inquiry under the Freedom of Information Act, the Scottish Government admits to having no idea how much CO2 has been saved or what climate change impacts there have been as a result of 15 years of building wind farms in Scotland.
This revelation is really quite stunning, particularly when you consider that the energy minister, Jim Mather, has approved seven giant wind farms in Scotland since taking on the job in 2007. It is worth recalling that the SNP, prior to the election and clearly desperate for votes, were hinting at a moratorium on wind farms. It is, therefore, quite ironic that without the support of the anti-wind farm lobby in Lewis and North Cunningham in Ayrshire, the SNP would not now be in power.
Bob Graham, Craigsview, Inchberry, Moray.
Alyn Smith states that opposition to the construction of wind farms on peatlands is based on bad science, citing a study performed by Aberdeen University and the Macaulay Institute (Letters, July 9). Unfortunately, Mr Smith fails to appreciate that good science is often characterised by impartiality, and the absence of any potential conflicts of interest.
The Macaulay Institute’s commercial arm, Macaulay Enterprises, performs research and consultancy for the renewables sector. This organisation’s website, adorned with images of pylons and wind turbines, is linked to the Scottish Renewables Forum, the Aberdeen Renewable Energy Group, and the British Wind Energy Association. For this reason, I will remain concerned about the deployment of wind farms on peatlands.
Bill Starkey, Innerdownie, Kinross.
10 July 2008
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