An answer to some of Mr Johnston’s points in his letter of 27 September (‘No mention of climate change’).
The reason I didn’t mention climate change is that it had nothing to do with the peat slides and bog bursts in central mainland.
The main cause of these was the local topography, which combined with a series of meteorological factors that in themselves would not have been outside the norm.
What was unusual is that by pure chance these meteorological factors happened to come together in just the right spot over the hills for the hills to act as a ‘trigger’ for convection and the locus for a convergence zone. None of these factors were a result of climate change.
As to the natural inherent instability of peat, it is evident that Mr Johnston has never had any experience of maintaining hill fencing or has spent very little time on Shetland’s hills. He would do well to read Mr Mackenzie’s letter (‘Peat facts and fears’; SN 29/9/10).
It is the British Geological Survey that has identified the central mainland as being of high risk of peat slides. Cramming Europe’s largest onshore wind farm into the central mainland with over 100km of 10m wide access roads, 13 large rock quarries, 127 turbine bases, 104km of cable track etc, etc, is the most invasive activity imaginable.
Most of the Viking Energy wind farm area has no existing hill tracks or roads because of the deep and extensive blanket bog in the area, and certainly none capable of taking 130 ton loads and 55 metre long trailers.
If heavy rainstorms are indeed becoming more frequent and increasing the chance of peat slides then this just underlines the irresponsibility of Viking Energy by choosing the central mainland with all its topographical and environmental difficulties.
Far from approaching the engineering aspects with very great care as Mr Johnston suggests, Viking Energy intends to blitz this vast project right across central Shetland in just five years!
Some of the wind farm areas display erosion features such as gullies that are flanked by active bog, but nothing like his nonsensical statement that 60 per cent of the wind farm area is eroded. Most of the erosion occurs on the hill ridges and was due to a combination of natural changes in hydrology and overstocking. The main cause of erosion was invasive activity by man by overstocking of sheep.
Cutting 127 turbine base quarries into the hill ridges, each filled with 2,500 tons of concrete, will exacerbate erosion due to dieback of vegetation from alkali run-off and dust from the concrete. As far as I know there has been no successful restoration of bog burst, peats slide or erosion anywhere in Shetland and if Viking Energy fails in their claim to be able to reinstate then we will just have to put up with the barren wastes they have created.
The single most effective thing the human race can do to combat climate change is to stop ripping out the lungs of our planet, i.e. stop destroying our carbon sinks such as the rain forests.
Shetland’s blanket bog is an active carbon sink which is even more efficient than rain forest at removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Most of Shetland’s blanket bog is active and growing due to increased rainfall.
Viking Energy’s ‘forest’ of turbines cannot remove one single molecule of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, but the project will actually increase carbon release and accelerate global warming.
So called ‘carbon payback’ is no more than a theoretical model used by developers to justify the destruction of active carbon sink and has little bearing on reality, especially in the Shetland context.
It is ironic that the sheep overstocking in the 1980s was due to EU subsidy on headage and now the environmental threat is from another kind of subsidy farming. Wind farms can only earn money through government subsidy, otherwise they make huge financial losses. The Viking Energy project is a high risk attempt to farm ‘subsidy money’ by exploiting and destroying Shetland’s environment in the process.
I make no apology for using what may appear to him as emotive phrases. We have a duty to preserve and protect a unique and fragile environment. Unlike Viking Energy, its shareholders and directors, I actually care about Shetland, its environment and its long term future.
Meal, Hamnavoe, Burra. ZE2 9LB