TWO years ago the renewables industry released a spinning report about the millions of tonnes of CO2 saved by wind turbines. This week it seized on a study that it hopes will help it hoodwink the general public for a tad longer (“Wind farms are ‘equivalent to taking 2.3m cars off the road’”, The Herald, December 12).
We are all interested in whether unreliable weather-dependent wind does any good because we are paying heftily for it. It does produce energy at times. Not necessarily when we want it so it has to be shut down at great expense when the grid is in danger of blowing. Sometimes when it is very cold the turbines draw energy from the grid to keep all those hundreds of litres of oil housed in every machine fluid.
The Scottish Government apparently exaggerates the savings and says just about anything to make people believe what it wants as far these giant white follies are concerned.
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Do people really know what is included in savings calculations and what is left out? Remote wind farms needing many miles of infrastructure to connect them to the grid are treated the same as a conventional generating plant that is near where power is needed. How many people know that is not included in emissions savings claims? Huge pylon lines like the hideous Beauly to Denny have been constructed to take volatile wind across the country. None of that is included no matter how much carbon-holding peat is ripped up or how many CO2 absorbing trees are hacked down.
Decommissioning, foreign workers, machines and turbine components are not included. Nor is the requirement to have conventional power plants on tick over ready to take the strain if the wind drops suddenly. The toxic wasteland created where there is unregulated industry in China that supplies many of the thousands of tonnes of rare earth minerals required in wind turbines is ignored as immaterial. Local people and their families are suffering, unable to grow crops in poisoned lands and suffering catastrophic health impacts. Here in the UK we build turbines to make us feel good about ourselves but we help feed that polluting industry with our demands. The words of the renewables industry ring hollow because until everything is included in the emissions savings calculations its excited trumpeting of dubious “facts” like toddlers on a sugar rush is not worth the fairy dust it has been written in.
Darach Brae, Beauly, Inverness-shire.
THE report from the University of Edinburgh claimed that Britain’s wind farms had avoided release of 36 million tonnes of greenhouse gases (GHG) in six years; that savings from wind farms had been underestimated because of the accuracy of data collection. The authors, however, made no attempt to estimate the likely damage to emissions reduction because of wind farms built on peat and peat bogs.
A report from the Macaulay Institute in Aberdeen published in 2012, indicated that it would take anywhere from three to 30 years before any CO2 savings of wind farms built on peat could be gained, dependent on the quality of the peat bog. I can find no figures that indicate the precise quality of peat bogs on which Scottish wind farms have been built in the last 25 years. Nor are there any estimates, other than hand-waving, of pre-construction CO2 fixation and subsequent post-construction reduction bog CO2 fixation activity from any such wind farm. Without any attempt to estimate these, the claims from the University of Edinburgh of accuracy can be rejected. Unsurprisingly such reports are used to imply that the UK is doing its bit to reduce global GHG. However the UK has outsourced much of its emissions to the Far East, China and India. The true UK carbon footprint continues to climb. Is it in any way meaningful when reporting such stories to ask unqualified environmental organisations for their opinion?
My understanding is that WWF, quoted in your report, is an animal conservation organisation. The appalling and massive declines in large African and Indian mammals indicates, to me, that WWF is failing badly in its primary function. Expending donated money to keep full=time staff occupied in Scotland to comment on turbine numbers suggests that the money should be better devoted to ensuring that our grandchildren can still see live and wild tigers, lions, elephants, giraffes, zebra and rhinos.
Emeritus Professor Tony Trewavas,
Chairman, Scientific Alliance Scotland, 7-9 North St David Street, Edinburgh.