Saturday, March 18, 2006

Windfarms in Scotland – Wilderness Foundation Talk and Debate

Yesterday, Friday 17th March the Wilderness Foundation hosted a talk and open debate in Inverness on windfarm development in the UK.

The guest speaker was Dr John Constable, Research Director for the Renewable Energy Foundation ( and panel members included Dr Constable, Davie Black - Wildland Policy Officer for the Ramblers Association Scotland, and David Butterworth, Founder of wind energy company Force 9 Energy.

Onshore wind – The Facts

The following points were raised during the talk and debate:

* The UK accounts for less than 2% of the world's CO2 emissions (550 of 24,000 million tonnes). Onshore wind is a very expensive means of saving a small amount of CO2 with high environmental impact. Furthermore, in order to accommodate all proposed UK turbines the national grid would have to be greatly expanded. In Scotland, National Grid estimates this to be approximately £500,000 per typical turbine. If all the wind currently proposed in Scotland were built the grid expansion needed would cost approximately £4 billion.

* Successful attainment of the Govt's 2010 target for renewable electricity in the UK will save just 9.2 million tonnes of CO2 per year, which is 1.7% of UK emissions and 0.0004 of world emissions. The aim is to meet 75% of this target from wind energy. Meeting this cost under the current renewable energy programme will cost the consumer ca. £1billion per year.

* The claim that wind farm development can remove the need for conventional power is unfounded: evidence from Germany and Denmark is conclusive. It is currently estimated in Germany that 24,000 wind turbines (48,000 MW) would close just two medium sized coal stations (2000 MW).

* European evidence shows wind to be a low merit electricity generator producing intermittent electricity supply, which increases overall system costs. Germany is currently facing the need to build 1,200 miles of new high voltage grid just to manage wind output. Denmark currently exports nearly 80% of its wind energy at a loss, because it doesn't arrive when it is needed.

The alternatives:

In terms of cost-effectiveness, onshore wind power represents a poor allocation of scarce resources in seeking to address climate change. With the greatest proportion of investment going to onshore wind, more effective renewables and other means of carbon abatement are starved of funds and neglected:

Offshore wind: windspeeds are higher offshore, and turbines can be located closer to the main centres of load such as London, substantially reducing the requirement for national grid expansion.

Biomass: The use of organic material to fuel power stations produces "firm" capacity, and would provide sustainable incomes for landowners and farmers. I really don’t like this suggestion – it’s very small scale and could itself destroy large areas of countryside (eg forest “products”, bespoke grown willow]

Tidal systems: Tidal energy is intermittent but predictably so, unlike wind. Lagoons now offer an alternative to barrages and should be considered.

Domestic renewables: Demand side management can be integrated with domestic scale renewables, including micro wind turbines and solar panels.

Carbon capture and sequestration: Fossil fuel use is a reality, and we have to deal with it. Carbon capture sequestration is a possible means to reduce emissions from coal and gas use on the large scale and in environmentally meaningful quantities.

Non RE Carbon Abatement – Much more investment should be concentrated on building insulation and emission control at source: both are far more cost-effective means of curbing greenhouse gas emission and relatively starved of funding – a stark illustration of the Government’s lack of coherent policy on either energy or climate change.

“Renewables are good things, but we have to be realistic. China is currently about 5 times the size of the UK electrically, but 2020 will be thirty times the size in terms of electrical generation, most fuelled by coal. If we really care about climate change we have to find ways to help the developing world use fossils fuels in a clean way.” Dr John Constable Our adoption of wind power will never be an effective international model for addressing climate change.

Threat to Wildlife – Extinction of Scotland’s Eagles on the Horizon?

The RSPB warns evidence of eagle mortality and disturbance to nesting due to wind turbines in Norway has serious implications for the UK eagle population. SNH find the projected mortality rate for the Eisgein development on Lewis
stands at one Golden Eagle every 3-6 weeks and one White-tailed eagle every 8-15 weeks for this windfarm alone (a 200 turbine wind farm is also proposed for Lewis). Not only will such developments industrialise sone of the most romantic and wild landscapes in Britain, they also threaten to destroy an iconic species reintroduction success.

Scotland has over 9000 turbines under proposal: in the Monaliadths, a corridor for Golden Eagles, in the Moray Firth, home to Scotland’s largest bottle-nosed population, on the Dava Moor, below Cairngorm National Park.

As Dr Constable highlighted in his talk, the irony of Britain’s rush into large-scale onshore wind development, is that its contribution to emission reduction is very small, and on top of that it is a low-merit and expensive technology. Why are we ignoring the lessons learned from Europe? The impact of turbines on wildlife and landscape can be quantified in terms of loss in tourism, however their legacy of destruction to our landscape is far more profound than any statistic may be able to portray.

Be active - What you can do

· Write to local councillors and MPs: cite the facts about wind -
· Hold an information evening in your area: contact the Foundation to find out more: info (at)
· Visit our website to find out more
· Continue your membership of the Wilderness Foundation: we need your support.

Thanks to Dr John Constable for his generously given time and support, and his input into this article, and Davie Black and David Butterworth for their time and contribution to the event and Rona Birnie for reporting. Thanks also go to Jo Roberts, Toby Aykroyd, Louise Aspinall and Cameron McNeish.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

The Wilderness Foundation UK Blog Intro

The Wilderness Foundation forms part of a global network. Our aim is to protect wilderness areas wherever they are by:

-Educating people about the benefits of wilderness
-Providing opportunities for direct experience of wild places
-Campaigning for their preservation when threatened with development.

The Wilderness Foundation was established in 1974 by Sir Laurens van der Post, writer, explorer and philosopher, and Dr Ian Player DMS, international conservationist renowned for saving the white rhino and founder of the World Wilderness Congress movement.
We work closely with our sister organisations The Wilderness Foundation in South Africa, The WILD Foundation in the USA and other groups in Europe and Asia. Together we share a common belief in the irreplaceable value of wilderness, which contains the wonders of pristine nature, and enables us to return to our origins and draw a deep sense of belonging and inspiration.

Explorers and writers, such as the Foundation’s founder Sir Laurens van der Post and its patron, Sir Wilfrid Thesiger, often wrote of the ancient link between humanity and nature, and how within our fast moving cultures of today, much of this link has been forgottenWe believe that by visiting the unspoiled places where nature has beenallowed to exist since time began, this connection is rekindled.

On this blog we will be keeping you up to date on our latest activities, events and campaigns and also what is happening in the Wilderness world elsewhere.

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