The Scottish Mail on Sunday

Wind farms ‘can harm the planet as much as oil’

Digging up peat bogs and felling trees to build turbines releases 4.9m tons CO2

- By Mark Howarth

SOME of Scotland’s wind turbines create so much carbon pollution it will take a decade to repair the environmen­tal damage caused, say researcher­s.

Around 4.9 million tons of greenhouse gases have been released into the atmosphere as a result of digging up ancient peat bogs and felling trees to build wind farms.

Aberdeen University scientists claim many wind farms remain years away from generating enough renewable electricit­y to cancel out the deficit – and say they are as damaging for the planet as burning coal or gas.

Turbines are a cornerston­e of the SNP’s drive to reach net zero carbon emissions by 2045. But the study shows the environmen­tal toll of damaging delicate ecosystems.

Disturbing soils and forestry unlocks massive amounts of carbon that has been shut away for centuries.

The Aberdeen researcher­s calculated the carbon footprints of the 3,848 commercial onshore wind turbines in Scotland in 2019.

The wind farms’ carbon emissions were then balanced against the amount of fossil fuels they are substituti­ng. From there, their carbon ‘payback’ was calculated, with some facilities taking as long as 10.8 years to wipe the slate clean in terms of the environmen­tal damage created.

The academics’ paper, published in the Journal of Cleaner Production, concludes: ‘In the worst land-use change scenario, the data is comparable to the lifecycle emissions of fossil fuel technologi­es such as coal and gas-fired electricit­y generation.’ Garth Wind Farm on Yell, Shetland, began operating in 2017 but it will be at least 2028 before it stops being a net producer of carbon dioxide.

The university team found 60 wind farms built on peatland produced as much CO2-equivalent emissions as two million tons of coal.

These super-emitters include Middle Muir, Lanarkshir­e; Loch Sminig on Lewis; Bad a Cheo, Caithness; and Knockman Hill, Kirkcudbri­ghtshire.

The giant Clyde wind farm near Abington, Lanarkshir­e, was alone responsibl­e for 480,000 tons of CO2.

Last night, Scottish Conservati­ve energy spokesman Liam Kerr said ‘This report shows why SNP-Green Ministers must start striking the right balance when it comes to Scotland’s energy needs.

‘They are taking a misguided approach by ruling out nuclear developmen­ts as well as failing to stand up for our oil and gas industry, threatenin­g jobs and jeopardisi­ng emissions targets in the process.’

Graham Lang, of campaign group Scotland Against Spin, said: ‘Building turbines on undevelope­d peatland should not even be considered. Holyrood is aware of payback calculatio­ns. This should be set out in a planning applicatio­n so decision-makers can take account of the years it takes to recover the carbon created in the wind farms’ constructi­on.’

Last year the Scottish Government announced plans to double onshore wind capacity but did not rule out more turbines being sited in places that will create lengthy carbon payback times.

A Government spokesman said: ‘Onshore wind is one of the most cost-effective forms of large-scale electricit­y generation, making it vital to Scotland’s future energy mix.

‘In a net zero world, it is counterpro­ductive to care more about where generation is situated than what type of generation it is.’

He added: ‘Our draft National Planning Framework includes policies covering green energy and peat and carbon-rich soils, which aim to strike a balance in protecting natural resources whilst meeting emissionre­ductions targets.’

A North Yell Developmen­t Council spokesman said: ‘When Garth Wind Farm was at the planning stage, we used the Scottish Government template for calculatin­g the carbon payback time. This gave a much shorter payback than the latest figures.’

‘Ministers are taking a misguided approach’

 ?? ?? DAMAGe: Building wind farms releases greenhouse gases
DAMAGe: Building wind farms releases greenhouse gases

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