FEW would disagree that wind turbines have a significant role to play in
powering Scotland’s future.
The country has long been at the forefront of the UK’s green energy
efforts, setting ambitious greenhouse targets, leading the way on cleaner
technologies and wind farms have been central to this. Indeed, existing
turbines currently produce enough energy to generate 98 per cent of the
country’s electricity demand.
Turbines are due to be “supersized” in the coming years, as the current
windmills reach the end of their operational lives, rising in stature from
100m to 170m so they can harness “better” wind, contributing more to the
grid and helping cut consumer bills.
But what if they also reduced the natural, emission-lowering carbons in the
ancient peatlands in which so many of them are built? According to a report
funded by the Scottish Government, this is a possibility.
In the most detailed assessment of replacing current wind farms to date,
report authors concluded there was insufficient evidence to infer wind
turbines do not damage the capacity of peatlands to store carbon.
As well as suggesting upgrading work should therefore start on turbines not
build on peatland, the scientists also said the foundations of new , bigger
turbines ought to be built from scratch, since adding to existing
structures was more expensive and potentially damaging to the environment.
Anti-wind farm campaigners Scotland Against Spin said the report raised big
questions about the carbon balance and called for upgrade plans to be
halted. The Scottish Government, meanwhile, support supersizing, and have
sought to reassure critics by vowing to assess and minimise any impact on
Whether this will be enough action remains to be seen. After all, it would
be horribly ironic if the turbines producing our clean energy were harming
the ancient, iconic environment in which they stand, reducing its ability
to lower emissions. It would also be unacceptable.