Construction of the largest wind farm in the Scottish Highlands will require almost 10 times the amount of stone used to build the Berlin Wall, according to one of Britain’s leading environmental charities.
The John Muir Trust (JMT) warns that an obsession with wind power is inflicting industrial-scale damage on the country’s wildest and most remote areas because vast quantities of stone are quarried to build access roads and create the foundations and bases for giant turbines.
The charity is particularly concerned about plans for 67 turbines in the Monadhliath mountains overlooking Loch Ness in Inverness-shire.
The Stronelairgwind farm, it warns, will wreak havoc on wet blanket peatlands that play an important role in “locking up” carbon.
Figures published by Scottish and Southern Energy (SSE) suggest that about 22m cubic feet of stone will be needed for the wind farm. The stone, which would be sourced on-site, is needed to support the 443ft high turbines and for hardstandings at turbine bases and access tracks.
The energy giant had stated in 2012 that about 28m cubic feet of stone would be needed, but that figure was based on 83 turbines – about 20% more than the number now proposed.
JMT calculates that about 2m cubic feet of stone went into the outer ring of the Berlin Wall, which was 69 miles long and 13ft high.
It means the amount of stone needed for the Stronelairgwind farm could build a wall of the same height and thickness (6in) as the Berlin Wall but stretch for more than 600 miles, roughly the distance from the Pentland Firth to the English channel.
“Most people will be staggered to discover the sheer scale of the quarrying involved in building a mega-wind farm on the scale of Stronelairg,” said Stuart Brooks, chief executive of the JMT.
“Our objection to this development is not just to visual impact on the landscape of 67 giant turbines – it is about the ecological destruction of a massive area of upland.
“All of this disruption will take place on a site which consists of more than 70% wet blanket peatland – Scotland’s miniature version of the rainforest – which locks in 20 times as much carbon per acre as the average woodland. A serious strategy to cut greenhouse gases would include protection of Scotland’s natural carbon storehouses.”
According to SSE, the Stronelairgwind farm could potentially generate power for 114,000 homes and bring £30m worth of benefits to the region.
The energy company insists that the proposed site of the wind farm has been extensively surveyed and that the development will not affect areas of deep peat.
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