Saturday, 10 November 2012

Wind farms on peat soils save no Carbon Dioxide

Broken Wind Turbine

It’s true: Wind farms built on peat soils produce absolutely no Carbon Dioxide savings at all. Just let that thought settle in for a while.

No CO2 savings at all.

Repeat it a few times. Go on. It’s unbelievable isn’t it?

For the last twenty years the IPCC has been warning you of the impending terrors of  anthropomorphic global warming (AGW) or “man made global warming”. Apparently this is all your fault, for needlessly driving to the shops, cooking roast dinners every Sunday and sitting in front of the fire in the winter when it’s a bit chilly. Because of your selfishness, according to the environmental Taliban, the sea levels are going to rise, the earth is going to warm by six degrees, weather will behave in a far more erratic manner and your hair will catch fire.

But don’t worry, because the green brigade have come up with a cunning plan: In Britain we are going to shut down all those nasty coal-fired power stations that pollute the world with the evil CO2 and build wind powered power stations instead. Tens of thousands of them. All over your countryside. What’s not to like about that? They’ll add to the visual interest in the muddy places outside the cities.There’s nothing there of any interest to the green urbanite anyway! Wind power stations are “carbon free” and provide us with limitless free energy. Problem sorted then!

What’s that? You don’t want your countryside littered with gargantuan industrial turbines? Now then, don’t complain because, remember, “it’s all your fault. If you hadn’t been using all that energy in the first place we wouldn’t need to do any of this. This is for your own good. Trust us. We know best!”

That’s the line we have been sold by our governments, Friends of the Earth, WWF, Greenpeace and all the other charlatans who profess to know a hell of a lot more about this than you.

In Scotland, such is the sway of these green intellectuals, that Alex Salmond has promised to supply 100% equivalent of Scottish energy needs from renewables by 2020. He’s gone about this with gusto (sorry!) and has rammed huge wind farms through the planning system, riding rough-shod over local communities’ wishes.

The Scottish Government went out of it’s way to prove that wind farms were jolly good things for saving the planet, and published a study in June 2008, which was updated with corrections in June 2010 to show how the the CO2 calculations were made. It is a highly technical document which provides a tool to calculate the CO2 balance of a wind farm, from construction through its operation and then its final decommissioning. If you have the mind for it, it can be utilised on a case-by-case basis for every single wind farm, so each case can be determined on its own merits.


With many thanks to the Scottish Wild Land Group’s magazine, I have found that the very same authors of these two reports have now come up with a startling discovery: I quote:

“The Scottish Government’s renewable energy strategy has been called into question by a letter published in the high-profile academic journal Nature. The majority of wind farms in Scotland are built on peatlands in windy upland areas, and are justified by their supposed ability to reduce carbon emissions from electricity production.  This justification depends on an earlier study by the authors of the letter to Nature, in which they concluded that wind farms would help to reduce carbon emissions, especially when sited on mineral soils but also when sited on well-managed peatlands.
Now, however, the authors have found that wind farms built on peatland are unlikely to provide any reduction in carbon emissions after all, even when the peat is not drained
and is restored after construction, and write that “the construction of wind farms on non-degraded peats should always be avoided”.  This is a hugely significant conclusion, and one that undermines the basic rationale of the UK wind industry.  If it is not possible to build wind farms on peat without releasing more CO2 than you save, how can their continued construction be justified?  It now appears more than ever that Scotland’s renewable energy strategy is nothing more than a fig leaf to hide politicians’ lack of action on climate change – and an economically and environmentally ruinous one at that.” 

So, Alex Salmond can stick his wind turbines where the sun don’t shine. They don’t do what they say on the tin!


  1. Alan: My wife and I really appreciate your informative posts. We drove up to Scotland a couple of weeks ago and were dismayed at what we caw on the way to Glasgow. Again, on the summit's of Munros above Loch Lochy, as on previous trips, the landscape looks to us like something from the War Of The Worlds. It's criminal. We feel very ignorant about the subject but know in our hearts that it is just so wrong and it moves us to tears. Your words are very helpful in providing detail with which we can form our own arguments. Thank you.

    1. Hi Colin
      Thank you for your kind words. It's only a shame that you aren't reading something more uplifting than the almost weekly diet of disaster that I seem to be peddling on here at the moment about wind farms.
      It is a bloody shame. Britain's uplands are being trashed for absolutely no good reason at all.

  2. Not only does the excavation of the peat for the turbine pads (and the access tracks, and the pylon footings) release already stored carbon, it also reduces the capacity of the peatland's potential yo absorb further carbon in future.

    This is the extent of the madness we're into here. We (as taxpayers) subsidise energy companies and landowners to vandalise the landscape; we pay again (as consumers) via the inflated unit price and - to cap it all - the damned installations probably run in carbon deficit.

    1. Hi Dave
      Another contributing factor is the damage it does to the peat's natural drainage system - the peat dries out far more quickly as the water table drops following wind farm installations. of course, this also has other knock on effects down stream as well, with peakier flood hydrographs - which basically means flooding downstream is more likely as well.
      It's a bloody shambles.

  3. But what is sad about this, is that those blinded by their own evergreeness.. have their heads buried so far up their own indoctrinated ideologies that they cannot see what is blindingly obvious. If you pour 1000's of tons of concrete into a delicate ecosystem that has taken millions of years to form you will never maintain balance. It makes me wonder if any if these so called engineers and expert advisers actually have any scientific skills. Because in all honesty it is just common sense that what they are currently doing is just fucking idiotic.

    Oohh I came over all hot and bothered then. Probably explains the headaches.

    1. How are the headaches, dear thing? Had that scan yet?

      (and yes, I *will* text you to let you know about our TGO entry)

    2. Seeing some chappie at Addenbrookes on Dec 1st and he may then hopefully get me a scan. So one day I may find out. Maybe!
      In the meantime life carries on as Abnormal. :-)

    3. Bloomin' 'eck, mate!
      Can't you queue jump? "Don't you know who I am???? (They'll be too embarrassed to admit to not knowing and let you have first go in the machine... perhaps... or perhaps not.)

  4. Thanks Alan,
    After a bad morning the other day this has restored my faith in humanity. All Mr Salmon has to do now is take a course on how to be a human who doesn't spread this disease.
    Thanks to journal Nature.

    1. Unfortunately, their article is behind a paywall, but you get the drift.
      I'll dig about to find it elsewhere - they always surface before too long!

  5. Intense. Unfortunately I'm unable to read the Nature piece cos' I'm too mean to shell out £12 or the priveledge.

    But no harm. I get the gist, which is that the net math is at best a zero-sum, and more likely a deficit.

    Keep up the good work, my man! It's empirical data that we need, and you're certainl;y supplying it.

    1. Knowing that we now have the numbers to PROVE that wind turbines are less than bloody useless when built on peat uplands it just makes me incredibly angry that that "fuckwit" (and I hope I am not offending any genuine "fuckwits" out there) Salmond is ploughing on regardless.

      He will have been told this information, as it his HIS government that funded the research. He is now plainly building these wind farms for profit for Scotland's post independence period. (yeah, like that's going to happen too! - which means that it is all a complete waste of time and wild land)

    2. Hi Alan

      “Once it (Beinneun Windfarm)is up and running it will save thousands of tonnes of carbon dioxide each year, and it is expected that the savings made will ‘pay off’ the carbon footprint of constructing the site in less than two years." Fergus Ewing. And so the deceit continues.

      I fired off a short email to Ewing the other day but don't expect a reply.

    3. I agree, Gibson.
      If Ewing was to engage with the public in any meaningful way he would have to admit that all along that the whole raison d'etre for wind farms has been complete bollocks.

      That's why we always get palmed off with bland palliatives, pushing us very gently but firmly to the sidelines, so he can continue bulldozing his way into the history books as the man who fucked Scotland up.

  6. Well, I don't have the time to wade my way through the government documents you linked to, but a quick glance at the table of contents reveals two things.

    1) In calculating CO2 emissions, they do not take into account the immense amount of work needed to upgrade the grid to provide for the installation of wind. Things like the Beauly-Denny upgrade would not have been required had we kept the existing grid with a handful of power stations concentrated in the Central Belt. Things like the Lochaber pump plant you've documented already and so on. To work out how much C02 wind farm actually force us to produce, they should have taken that into account (not to mention the C02 due to all this computer typing, all the public enquiries into wind farms and so on).

    2) They also do not take into account the fact that we are installing 2/3 times the needed capacity to guarantee base loads when the wind doesn't blow. Lynas and Goodall had an awful piece in the Guardian a while ago in which they claimed wind farm save millions of tonnes of C02 a year. They were trying to prove that the stand-by gas plants were not using C02 while they were taken off the grid, but their piece has been appropriately debunked.

    Once you take these factors into account (decreased efficiency for the stand-by plants and needless upgrade of the grid), wind farms turn out to be in fact increasing our emissions most severely indeed.

    Not something you're likely to hear discussed around dinner tables in Islington though...

  7. On the other hand..., I'm sure those enamoured of wind farms will move the goalposts for the umpteenth time (it would be an instructive exercise to go back to what they were saying 10 years ago and compare it to what they are saying today... I can still remember when they were claiming we would only get a few wind farms here and there...).

    They will now say that even if wind farms save no C02 emissions at all, they at least provide energy independence for Scotland, that oil will run out while wind is free and it'll never run out so all's well with the world blah blah.

    They'll never concede defeat, no matter how massive the evidence to the contrary. What can one say.

    1. The problem with wind farm devotees is that there are those in favour because they make huge profits from subsidised govt stupidity,and those deluded buggers that have been indoctrinted into believing or are just too fucking stupid to see the blindingly obvious.
      Whatever the case, Scotlands wild land is buggered, and soon the economy will be in the same state. Politicians will blame everyone else as normal, and foreign utility companies will laugh all the way to the bank with our money.

      Shit has happened, and his name begins with S.

  8. google Scandal on the Braes - read and weep. A point of note is a. due to cost spinning reserve is now more often coal and all power stations running in spinning reserve actual create more CO2 than working on full load.

    1. Hi John
      Thanks for your comments. Do you have a link for the information on the coal spinning reserve, at all?

  9. You mentioned Alex Salmond and intellectual in the same sentence. That has to be a mistake. Unless you meant intellectual in the sense of 'child frightener'.

    I get confused these days. Cameron McNeish and Cameron Diaz are hellishly difficult to tell apart when you're old.

    1. Hi Peter
      Salmond reminds me of Napolean in "Animal Farm". Lifted from Wikipedia: "Napoleon chooses the date of the meeting concerning the farm's new windmill to turn on his former comrade and seize control of the farm"
      Yup, That's our Alex.

      I've found a way of telling the two Camerons apart: Diaz is absolutely gorgeous and has written her very own account of the how to climb the Corbetts. She is happy to take on Alex Salmond about wind farms. McNeish probably could not.

      Perhaps there should be a disambiguation post on Wikipedia?

  10. I stopped believing anything I was told by government, the vested experts and any bugger else for that matter when I read that a venture capitalist Nigel Doughty who owned LM Glassfiber (they make wind turbine blades) gave Labour £250,000 after a dinner with Tony Blair. It was reported in the Times newspaper on 22/05/05 (I still have the cutting) and it was the day I knew we would be lead down the path of commercial interest and not environmental interest when it came to wind power.

    We are still on this path today and little will change as far as wind turbines go in upland areas until the landowners, politicians and their pals have milked as much as possible out of the public purse.

    Just imagine if all the millions wasted going down this environmental cul-de-sac had been spent on developing technology that reduced the amount of energy we used.

    1. Hi David
      I would like to say how disappointed I am to hear that, but after a few moments I came to realise that nothing surprises me anymore with the way wind is "promoted".

      RenewableUK, the industry's lobbyists and spokespeople constantly dissemble. The developers lie about how much electricity is going to be produced and deliberative produce images of the proposed wind farms that shrink the size of the turbines. The entire industry lies about how much CO2 will be saved and the supporting politicians are either liars or incompetents.

      The fact that Labour trousered £250k in bribes is not surprising at all, when looked at in its entirety.

    2. Ironic really that one of the supposed selling points of the rush to privatisation of publicly-owned assets was to relieve the taxpayer of the burden of subsidy and promote competition. Here we are, fifteen years later, still doling out subsidies to energy companies (not to mention train operators) and, as consumers (not to mention passengers), paying above inflation price increases year on year.

      On top of which many of these companies - being foreign owned - manage to avoid paying UK corporation tax on most of their earnings.

    3. It is quite interesting how RenewablesUK always talk in terms of the "investment" in renewables that is at risk if we don't sort out our energy policies.

      Of course, what they really mean is that we are going to shut down perfectly good coal power stations that produce electricity cheaply so that we can pay foreign companies to produce intermittent wind power stations at three times the price.

      As *we* are the ones paying for this energy I see it as paying out a whole load of money that we don't have, when we are already in debt for a product that is bloody useless.

      Investment?? My Arse.

    4. Investment indeed. Yesterday on Radio 4 PM's programme there was this bloke from the Green Party defending the 3p increase in fuel duty and blabbing on about the 'green' economy. The fantastic claims being made about the green economy are just plain false of course. We are simply destroying our industrial base by making the price of energy in Europe the highest in the world. We are killing off our industries one by one. When Labour introduced the first energy tax right after they came back in power, Alcan closed two plants in Scotland, Burntisland and Kinlochleven. And it has just got worse ever since. Germany is getting more and more worried that their industry, more or less the last remaining serious industry in Europe, will soon go to the wall.

      And they are looking at what's happening in the USA with increasing worry:

      If we had not wasted billions in wind farms but instead invested in clean coal---see here:

      we could be seeing the genuine "re-industralisation" of Scotland that Salmond mumbles about. Tide energy would have been part of the solution:

      No need for concrete foundations, completely invisible from the surface, safe for the fish. All the money wasted on wind farms could have paid for a subsea cable or buried lines in sensitive areas. And we would have been market leaders in new technology instead of buying Danish/German technology off the shelf.

      Salmond has missed a great opportunity to make this country an intelligent player in the energy market and has gone for the easy, demeaning strategy of milking the subsidies as long as the gravy train continues, meanwhile destroying the economy and the landscape.

      But then, he used to work for the Royal Bank of Scotland...

    5. RBS Look what happened there.
      Explains a lot.

  11. Readers of this blog post will I am sure forgive a slightly sour comment from me, but I feel it should be said:

    You only get 140 characters per tweet on twitter, but when tweeting something that you have found on there, it is customary to acknowledge the original source with a polite mention, by a simple "H/T" (hat-tip) in the resulting tweet.

    That way everyone is happy. The original tweet is acknowledged and the "relayer" has been polite.

    It's shame then that the same courtesies don't seem to apply in the blogosphere, where there is no 140 character barrier to politeness, when the same story is lifted from a friendly blog and used on their own blog a week later.

    1. If it's any consolation, Alan, this is a small community and these things do get noticed.

  12. The study should save much of the Scottish Highlands, at least. It also didn't take into account the manufacturing process or the excess infrastructure like pylons on peat, either.

    Also, it's important that we can now categorically state that peat is more valuable to the world (CO2 wise) than rain forests. This means that if the SG was serious about saving the planet they should invest millions, not billions,in restoring peat bogs - which is done, I think, by blocking drainage ditches with hay bails. Simple, effective and cheap.

    I would urge everyone to visit the Highland Council website, type in Sallachy on 'search planning applications' and then scroll down to find the 22 turbine application. This site is on peat, on wild land, near NSAs AND, to add insult to injury, the two estate owners have emailed all who work on their estate and said 'support this', which of course workers do so as not to displease the hand that feeds them.

    1. Thanks you for your input, "Anon".

      I shall have a look at your link.


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