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Wind’s greatest PR disaster? 

Credit:  The Shetland News, www.shetland-news.co.uk 28 September 2010 ~~

Laughton Johnston’s paranoia with informed opposition to the Viking Energy wind farm shines through in his letter “No mention of climate change” (SN 27/9/10). Allen Fraser’s informed opinion piece is based on his professional qualifications and makes no mention of Sustainable Shetland.

Having drawn us into this however I would like to quote the following from the Scottish government publication – “Peat Landslide Hazard and Risk Assessments: Best Practice Guide for Proposed Electricity Generation Developments”. In particular the latter section indicating anthropogenic triggering factors:

“2.3 Triggering factors

Triggering factors act to initiate slope failures, which may be slow to rapid movements and spatially extensive or relatively limited in extent with associated implications for their impacts. Triggering factors may be natural or anthropogenic and can result in either peat slides or bog bursts dependent upon peat characteristics and topography at a particular site.

Natural triggers are reported as follows:

(i) Intense rainfall causing development of transient high pore-water pressures along pre-existing or potential rupture surfaces ( e.g. at the discontinuity between peat and substrate);

(ii) Snow melt causing development of high pore-water pressures, as above;

(iii) Rapid ground accelerations (earthquakes) causing a decrease in shear strength;

(iv) Unloading of the peat mass by fluvial incision of a peat slope at its toe, reducing support to the upslope material; and

(v) Loading of the peat mass by landslide debris causing an increase in shear stress.

Factors (i) and (ii) are most frequently reported for peat mass movements in the UK. Anthropogenic (i.e. human induced) triggers include some of the following:

(i) Alteration to drainage pattern focussing drainage and generating high pore-water pressures along pre-existing or potential rupture surfaces ( e.g. at the discontinuity between peat and substrate);

(ii) Rapid ground accelerations (blasting or mechanical vibrations) causing an increase in shear stresses;

(iii) Unloading of the peat mass by cutting of peat at the toe of a slope reducing support to the upslope material;

(iv) Loading of the peat mass by heavy plant, structures or overburden causing an increase in shear stress;

(v) Digging and tipping, which may undermine or load the peat mass respectively, and may occur during building, engineering, farming or mining (including subsidence);

(vi) Afforestation of peat areas, reducing water held in the peat body, and increasing potential for formation of desiccation cracks which are exploited by rainfall on forest harvesting; and

(vii) Changes in vegetation cover caused by burning, heavy grazing or stripping of the surface peat cover, reducing tensile strength in the upper layers of the peat body.

Natural factors are difficult to control, and while some anthropogenic factors can be mitigated, some cannot. For these reasons it is essential to identify and select a location for the development and associated infrastructure that avoids or minimises the impact of the development.”

The full publication can be accessed on the following link. http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Publications/2006/12/21162303/2

Out of the seven anthropogenic triggering factors, four or five would apply in the case of the Viking Energy project, so it would appear the Scottish government at least are aware of the risks!

This project presents enormous environmental risks; not only would it be a disaster for Shetland, it could end up being the biggest public relations disaster the wind generating industry has yet faced. To compare this project with existing hill roads shows an inability to comprehend the sheer scale of it. Industrialisation is not emotive in this case – it is a fact.

Billy Fox
Sustainable Shetland

Source:  The Shetland News, www.shetland-news.co.uk 28 September 2010

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

The copyright of this article resides with the author or publisher indicated. As part of its noncommercial educational effort to present the environmental, social, scientific, and economic issues of large-scale wind power development to a global audience seeking such information, National Wind Watch endeavors to observe “fair use” as provided for in section 107 of U.S. Copyright Law and similar “fair dealing” provisions of the copyright laws of other nations. Send requests to excerpt, general inquiries, and comments via e-mail.

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