SCOTTISHPower’s plans to place solar panels next to wind turbines
(“Scotland to welcome in sun power revolution”, December 5) appear driven
by profit and are not a sensible way to address global warming.
Land plays a key role in absorbing carbon from the atmosphere. A good
indication of the issues at stake was provided by Dr Rebekka Artz in the
same edition of The Herald in her article (“For peat’s sake, it’s time to
get our hands dirty and halt soil erosion”) to mark World Soil Day, in
which she described the importance of soils and peat for absorbing carbon
out of the atmosphere, and why we need to protect them. Yet Scottish Power
is now proposing to cover swathes of land that could be fulfilling this
function with solar panels. This is not sensible.
But perhaps ScottishPower is proposing to place these solar panels on the
large “laydown” areas around each wind turbine and the 7m-wide tracks that
connect them rather than on the vegetated land around them?
The process of constructing of these tracks and laydown areas destroyed
significant areas of peat and soils, releasing carbon into the atmosphere.
In most places this could be justified in that the amount of electricity
subsequently generated by the wind turbines more than offset the release of
carbon into the atmosphere. The subsequent failure, however, to restore
these areas properly has resulted in significant tracts of the land being
removed from carbon absorption processes (and in considerable scars being
left all over the countryside). That has never been justifiable.
Current Scottish Government policy rightly emphasises the importance of
both restoring peat and growing trees as a means of absorbing carbon out of
the atmosphere. Will the same government that is paying for peat
restoration projects and large tree planting programmes across Scotland,
also allow ScottishPower to cover swathes of the countryside with solar
If so, that is not good use of the land and will undermine other policy
objectives. The proper place for solar panels is on the roofs of buildings.
Without Government intervention, however, that is unlikely to happen to the
extent required because its far cheaper and easier for companies such as
ScottishPower to create solar panel farms in the countryside.
It is time the Scottish Government started to join up its thinking on
climate change. A first step would be to issue directions to planning
authorities that ensures the siting of renewable energy projects are in the
right place and that those located in the countryside are restored
properly, minimising their adverse environmental impacts. A second step in
respect of solar panels would be to change building regulations so all new
buildings are required to incorporate solar panels into their roofs.
Nick Kempe, Glasgow, G41.