March 2, 2011
Letters, Scotland

Wind farm costs

The Scotsman, 2 March 2011

Niall Stuart of Scottish Renewables (Letters, 24 February) enjoins us to fight climate change and not wind farms. All human activity has costs and benefits. When a turbine blade rotates, a trickle of electricity is beneficially made.

The costs, however, of his recommendation are enormous. A 2011 report from Accenture and Barclays Capital (Carbon Capital: The role of banking in financing the low carbon economy) indicates it will cost Europe, €2.9 trillion (£2.4trn) to get a 20 percent reduction in emissions by 2020.

This might reduce world emissions by a few per cent but have no measurable effect on climate change for at least 40 years if present models are correct.

Our competitors will do nothing. In the very likely absence of any world agreement on emissions reduction, the European gesture becomes futile and economically damaging and renewables pointless.

Cheap, abundant shale gas, probably sufficient for a century at current use, is shortly to appear. Change the world to shale gas and world emissions reduce by 80 per cent. Who then will want expensive renewables, never the choice for stable electricity supplies?

When Cockenzie power station on the Forth shuts in 2014, the electricity it reliably produced could be generated, on average, by 1,500 x 100 metre turbines.

Given the limitations of space in which these turbines can be situated by roads, houses, towns and villages etc, estimates indicate these turbines will occupy 300 square miles of wild Scotland. And that is only one sixth of current Scottish electricity usage.

The fundamental problem with renewables is their low density of energy collection. When you take the purity of the wilderness and thrust into its heart 400ft-high metal turbines, the grandeur and majesty of the land is industrialised and debased.

Wilderness becomes little more than a municipal park with whirling Ferris wheels. Half of our tourists come to see wilderness, not funfairs in the mountains.

The John Muir Trust knows this, even if Mr Stuart and the Scottish Government remain in aesthetic ignorance. That is the ultimate cost.

(Prof) Anthony Trewavas FRS, FRSE

Croft Street


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