Of course I was delighted to read the headline “Wind farms on precious peatland do more damage than good”, over Andrew Gilligan’s excellent piece in the Sunday Telegraph on Feb 24th. And the comment in the middle of the piece in bold type was equally heart-warming: “This is a devastating blow for the wind industry”.
And yet, and yet….. We’ve been talking about this literally for years. I certainly wrote about it in 2011. I first heard about the special problems of peatland in a seminar in Brussels years ago organised by my old friend Struan Stevenson MEP (Scotland, Con), who has been campaigning against the SNP’s renewables obsession in general, and against wind farms in particular, for years.
I suppose that’s just the way life is, but individual politicians can bang on about an important issue for years. But it’s only when a prominent national journalist and/or newspaper takes up the story that we actually start to make some progress.
Of course there are good reasons (and I write about them frequently) why no wind farm actually delivers anything like the emissions savings, or the electricity production, claimed for it — because of the inevitable inefficiencies in running the fossil fuel back-up intermittently. But the case of peatland is far worse. Peat bogs (I’m told) contain more sequestered carbon than rain forests. Green campaigners get very excited about rain forests, yet seem unaware of peat.
If you want to put up a large modern turbine on peatland, you need to dig a hole about the size of a pair of ordinary semi-detached houses. And fill it with CO2-intensive concrete (it takes a lot of energy to make concrete). And what happens to peat you’ve displaced? It dries out nicely and releases the carbon back into the atmosphere, as CO2. Then there’s more peat displaced for roadways and cabling. Even if you believe that other turbines potentially save emissions, its clear that any turbine on peatland will simply never save enough to offset the peat displaced.
Wind farms bad. Wind farms on peatland: worse. Let’s hope that Gilligan’s message starts getting through to policymakers.