One day in the spring of 1838, 13 year old Joseph Hunter left the family croft (one of seven crofts on the site) at Northhouse of Weisdale in Mainland Shetland, and walked to Lerwick. There he almost certainly lied about his age, got on a boat, and pitched up, like many Shetlanders in the nineteenth century, in the north east of England, where he signed up to an apprenticeship in the coastal trade. Five years later he married and raised a family. I am one of his descendants.
After Joseph departed from Weisdale the numerous members of the extended family he left behind were among the 318 people estimated to have been removed from their crofts in the valley in the early 1850s, by David Dakers Black, Brechin Town Clerk and a man with numerous business interests. He seems to have bought much land in Weisdale when the Ogilvy family of Quarff in Shetland (the previous owners) encountered serious financial difficulties when their bank failed. They had been squeezing their tenants for years before then. Shortly after his eviction, Joseph’s father (another Joseph) was caught stealing from a shop on Yell, where he was now working on the roads and he spent 60 days in Lerwick prison as a consequence. He died nine years later on board a Greenland whaling ship.
I console myself with the thought that however hard the lives of my ancestors (who suffered grinding poverty and hardship that I can scarcely imagine from the comfort of my 21st century life) they lived in a beautiful landscape, from Weisdale Voe, up through the fertile lower valley, to the wild and untouched upper reaches of the dale.
Plus ca change
Fast forward to the early 21st century, and the residents of Weisdale face another challenge imposed on them by outsiders with numerous business interests. Viking Energy, the developer of Viking Wind Farm, was (as its website states) a business partnership between Viking Energy Shetland LLP (itself owned 90% by Shetland Charitable Trust and 10% by Viking Wind Limited) and SSE Viking Limited. I am informed that Shetland Charitable Trust decided in 2019 to invest no more money in Viking Wind Farm and it is SSE who are now putting up the money, and SSE who may have much to gain although there are risks involved. Those risks were presumably the reason for the Charitable Trust discontinuing their investment. SSE are hoping to make a successful bid in the next Contracts for Difference (CfD) auction to lessen the risks involved in their investment.
I don’t know how much money SSE anticipates making from the Viking Wind Farm development (which covers a not insignificant area of the central Shetland Mainland) but I think it’s safe to assume that it will be substantial. Given the devastation currently being caused to Shetland’s wilderness, peat and wildlife, to say nothing of the blight on the lives of local residents, one might assume that when they signed the Busta House Agreement in 2007 (the terms of which have never been disclosed, due to the confidentiality associated with a commercial agreement), Shetland’s representatives (councillors from the Shetland Islands Council) would drive a hard bargain.
It was certainly up to them to do so, since SSE doesn’t seem much interested in the needs and views of the local people whose lives have been adversely affected by the wind farm development at Kergord. The SSE plc annual report for 2020 has a large section headed “Working for and with our stakeholders”. Stakeholders seem to include rather a lot of people – shareholders and debt providers; employees; energy customers; suppliers, contractors, and partners; Government and regulators; and NGOS, communities and civil society.
That last one must cover it, I thought. Here’s what they say about it:
“How we engaged in 2019/20
SSE held a number of community consultation events throughout the year to gather feedback on projects and business plans, and progressed partnerships with NGOs which deliver additional social and environmental benefits for the communities in which it operates.”
Oh, that’s all right, then.
Later on, they say:
“SSE believes it is crucial that necessary investment in decarbonisation is secured and in doing so also seeks to ensure that…communities in the areas in which energy assets are located or planned are regarded as key stakeholders with comprehensive engagement on all key issues…”.
It’s a moot point whether the people affected by the wind farm development feel that they “are regarded as key stakeholders with comprehensive engagement on all key issues”.
SSE plc says it also:
“…seeks to be an active contributor to the communities of which it is a part, and has an ongoing commitment to sharing value directly where it has been created, consistent with its strategic goal of creating value for shareholders and society…”.
So, how much is it sharing with the people of Shetland? On 9th December 2020 the Renewable Energy Foundation posted its assessment of Viking Wind Farm here:
It is well worth a read in its own right, but this section is relevant to the question of whether or not financial gains are being shared fairly with the people adversely affected by the development:
“The publicity material for Viking Energy claims large economic benefits for the Shetland Islands. Tracking down the real payments is more difficult. There is a commitment to pay £2.2 million in community benefit per year. Viking Energy suggests that it will have 35 employees in Shetland, amounting to about £1 million per year in take-home pay. Beyond that almost everything will be imported or arise outside Shetland.
On the most generous estimate the likely economic benefit in Shetland will be less than £5 million per year. That may sound generous, but cool reason suggests otherwise since that sum amounts to only £220/Shetlander per year.
The major beneficiary of the scheme seems likely to be SSE’s transmission business – SSEN Transmission (formerly SHET). Irrespective of the economics of the Viking wind farm itself, SSEN’s regulatory asset base – i.e. the permitted assets for which Ofgem, the regulator, allows the company to charge consumers – will increase by nearly 20% directly as a result of this project. Perhaps even more important, its investments in other transmission assets such as the subsea cable from Caithness to Moray and transmission lines down from the North of Scotland will be underwritten by adding additional power generation for transmission.”
Robbing Peat To Pay…
I first visited Weisdale in 2018, before work had begun on the wind farm development. As a lover of the great outdoors and of wild unspoilt places I was delighted by what I saw. Nothing could prepare me for the shock of what I encountered in upper Weisdale three years later. The picture forming the backdrop to this article heading was taken by me from the main road running from Lerwick to Brae, and shows just one small part of the works, in the form of an access road in to the top of the dale and the main development. Elsewhere there are quarries (euphemistically called “borrow pits”) and other new roads slashed across the peat, all clearly visible to the public travelling on existing roads. The main works are shielded (for now) from public view, so the devastation readily in sight is only a small part of the whole. Once more than one hundred 155m turbines are installed on hills that are generally around only 250-300 metres high (around 70 of them within two kilometres of locals’ housing), however, they will be all too visible.
Near where the picture was taken, a peat slide is highly visible from the main road. It was nothing to do with the works associated with the wind turbine development, but it does highlight the vulnerability of the peat in this area, and the risk of ongoing damage to the peat as a result of those works. So vulnerable is this land, that on a single day (19th September 2003) at least 20 significant peat slides and 15 smaller ones were triggered on Shetland as a result of extreme rainfall. The largest covered an area of 7.3 hectares. As a 2008 article by Dykes and Warburton, investigating the slides, says:
The morphological features included large areas (up to 0.5 ha) of intact peat that moved without breaking up, linear compression and thrust features and unusual occurrences of mineral debris. These features suggest peat of high tensile strength throughout its depth and the generation of high and sometimes artesian water pressures at the base of the peat during the event. However, the variations between peat slides highlight some of the difficulties of trying to assess the susceptibility of blanket peat to failure without full knowledge of the local peat geotechnical properties and structural features within the peat mass.
Perhaps we shouldn’t be too surprised, then, to learn that a further peat slide has occurred at Scalla Field, a little over two months ago, since work commenced on the wind farm development. This is in an area planned to accommodate eight turbines. The slip occurred during a period of dry weather, so rain cannot be blamed for the occurrence.
Against that background, it is worth noting that Shetland Amenity Trust has established a Peatland Restoration Project. As their website says:
“Over half of the area of Shetland is covered in peat which has been accumulating at a rate of about 1mm a year for at least 3000 years.
Once damaged, however, peatland cannot deliver the same range of benefits and peatland that has been drained and is drying out or eroding, will actually be releasing carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. Fortunately there are some fairly simple management measures that can be undertaken to restore peatlands, with funding available for projects such as the Amenity Trust’s, through the Peatland Action Fund administered by Scottish Natural Heritage.”
Appropriately Scottish Natural Heritage opposed the Viking Wind Farm, as did the John Muir Trust and the RSPB, the Mountaineering Council of Scotland, Shetland Amenity Trust and Shetland Bird Club, and initially SEPA (though SEPA eventually withdrew its objection, subject to conditions), as well as many local residents. And yet, and yet….Shetland Amenity Trust, as its website makes clear, is partially funded by Shetland Charitable Trust. Yes, that’s right. Shetland Charitable Trust, the 90% owner of Viking Energy Shetland LLP, which funds the organisation which recognises the value and vulnerability of Shetland’s peat (which opposed the wind farm development), was a business partner in the wind farm development that is actively damaging it.
Habitat Management Plan
Viking Energy’s website acknowledges that environmental damage will be caused by the development of the wind farm, but offers up its HMP (an unfortunate acronym, shared with Her Majesty’s Prisons) in mitigation.
First, the sensitive issue of peat. The website deals with this rather blandly, and in short order, though in fairness it offers a link to the detailed report produced on their behalf by BMT Cordah Limited. The reduction in the number of turbines from 150 to 103 is offered up as a significant reduction of the impact it will have on the peat, not least as there will no longer be turbines on areas of pristine peat bog in the Voe and Collafirth areas. That’s jolly decent of them, isn’t it? And then they claim that two thirds of the peat that will be disturbed is in any event degraded and exposed, so it’s emitting CO2 already. And anyway, they’ll try to re-use it. The detailed submission from BMT Cordah Limited suggests a CO2 pay-back in less than a year, which to my inexpert eye seems remarkably optimistic. Of course, their job is to put the best spin possible on the situation, but some of the wording in the report seemed less than convincing to me:
“Certain elements of the infrastructure such as turbine bases and access roads will likely be left in situ; it is expected that the site will re-establish equilibrium provided drains are blocked on decommissioning where necessary. Attempting to remove turbine foundations would likely cause more damage to the surrounding peat environments.”
This doesn’t sound like a terribly firm or long-standing commitment:
“The HMP proposes an initial pilot area for habitat measures, to be implemented over a period of approximately five years, with successful measures then rolled out across the whole study area where possible”.
A table summarising “Peatland vegetation and carbon flux rate” is offered up with the following qualification:
“It should be noted that the values assigned to the table reflect the carbon flux rates of peatlands in England, and that the situation in Shetland is different, not least due to the difference in ambient meteorological conditions. For the purposes of the study, therefore, it was assumed that non-pristine peat has no carbon fixing potential i.e. a carbon flux rate of zero, whilst only undamaged blanket bog and hagged and gullied bog have carbon fixing potential…”.
Forgive me for being unconvinced.
Next, birds, and this is a very sensitive subject too, given the vital importance of the Shetland Isles to many of the country’s rare bird species, and concerns raised by, inter alia, the RSPB, regarding the impact of the wind farm development on breeding birds in the site area, which include red-throated diver, whimbrel and merlin. Scottish Natural Heritage Commissioned Report No. 885 tells us that:
“Red-throated divers have a high wing loading and small tail, so fly fast but with low manoeuvrability. They may be at risk of collision with terrestrial wind turbines if a wind farm lies on their commuting routes between breeding lochs and marine foraging habitat.”
In fairness, Viking Energy’s HMP seeks to restore degraded lochans to provide more breeding-grounds for the divers, an admirable aim. And, very responsibly:
“A peat slide risk assessment will be carried out for each of the lochans where the waterlevels will be raised and if there is a significant risk of a peat slide being generated as a result of the increased water burden in the lochan then the raising of the water-level will not be carried out.”
I can’t help thinking that with all these problems and issues, it would have been better simply to leave the wilderness in its undisturbed state.
Whimbrel are another rare bird species which relies greatly on its Shetland habitat. Its potentially declining numbers are such a cause for concern that a national whimbrel survey is being carried out this year by the RSPB Rare Breeding Birds Panel. Viking Energy’s HMP does show great understanding of the issues affecting whimbrel and measures that might be taken to improve breeding numbers. One of the suggestions is the funding of a research project to investigate the breeding requirements of whimbrel on Shetland, and Viking Energy are offering to fund or co-fund a research studentship (PhD) at a British University to this end. It is, however, more than a little concerning (to me at least) that the fourth of the suggested questions to be asked and investigated is:
“Are whimbrel significantly affected by wind turbines?”
Shouldn’t this question have been answered before the wind farm development commenced?
And merlin, Scotland’s smallest breeding falcon. The HMP proposes to improve the height of heather for nesting by fencing areas off to protect them from over-grazing, but I should have thought a bigger problem was the prospect of them being killed by the turbine blades.
Finally, water, and water quality. The Viking Energy website says that stringent measures will be put in place to ensure that sediment created during construction does not flow into burns and lochs in and around the project site. An admirable objective. Sadly, however, during my recent visit to Shetland I heard lots of anecdotal evidence suggesting that that local water courses might already be suffering from the construction works.
There is an argument that the clearance of the crofters from Weisdale in the 1850s was a necessary act, on the basis that their way of life was unsustainable – mired in poverty, permanently in debt to their landlords, and with no prospects of a better future. Few if any, however, argue that it was done in a sensitive, decent, or respectful way, and the motives of those outsiders who were responsible, are generally assumed to have been more to do with making money than with improving the lot of the displaced crofters.
Today some argue that the installation of wind turbines is a necessary act, on the basis that continued reliance on fossil fuels is unsustainable. Whether in this instance it has been done in a sensitive, decent, or respectful way, and what motivates the developers, I leave you to judge.
When writing about the Scottish exploits of his father-in-law, Agricola, Tacitus famously put imaginary words in to the mouth of Calgacus, a Pictish leader standing up to the might of Rome. The Latin, for those with a classical education, is:
“Auferre, trucidare, rapere, falsis nominibus imperium, atque, ubi solitudinem faciunt, pacem appellant.”
Various translations have been offered, but I quite like this one:
“They plunder, they slaughter, and they steal: this they falsely name Empire, and where they make a wasteland, they call it peace.”
I’m not accusing anyone (other than Joseph Hunter senior) of theft, (although what amounts to taxation without representation comes perilously close in my opinion). Other than that, those words seem to offer an appropriate ending to what is in my view a very sorry saga.
Very interesting B
[Personal info redacted]
Thank you Barbara. Would you like me to edit your comment to remove your phone number (and address) from public gaze, or are you happy for it/them to be there?
“Climate / Offshore wind plan a ‘step closer to reality’ after first project partner named”
“THE FIRST company which would be involved in plans for a floating wind farm to the west of Shetland has been named.
Developer Cerulean Winds said global firm NOV would provide floating and mooring systems.
It described NOV as one of the largest providers of marine equipment and wind vessel designs in the world.
Earlier this month Cerulean Winds revealed plans to install a total of 200 wind turbines west of Shetland and in the central North Sea, which would power a hydrogen plant at Sullom Voe.
A key focus of the £10bn project – which would not connect to the national grid – would be to power oil platforms using wind energy, assisting the industry towards its goal of becoming net zero in the next couple of decades….
…Cerulean continues to say that timing in relation to the possible approval of the project is critical.
It has submitted a formal request to Marine Scotland for seabed leases, and these must be granted by quarter three in 2021 to target financial close in the first quarter of 2022.
It aims to have the infrastructure in place by 2024-26.
To support this, Cerulean is calling on the Scottish and UK governments to make an “exceptional” case to deliver an “extraordinary” outcome for the economy and the environment.
Jackson said if “assets don’t reduce their CO2 emissions by the mid-2020s, increased emissions penalties through carbon taxes will see many North Sea fields become uneconomical and move them towards decommissioning by the end of the decade at the cost of thousands of jobs”.
Cerulean says it has undertaken the necessary infrastructure planning for the scheme to ensure the required level of “project readiness”.
The company is being advised by Société Générale, one of the leading European financial services groups, and Piper Sandler, corporate finance advisors to the energy industry.”
2 observations from me:
1. Lots of financial institutions seem to be making a lot of money out of all this.
2. I think it’s worrying that the rush to “net zero” is being used as an excuse to seek to be made and “exceptional” case. What does that mean in practice? Waiving timescales? Brushing aside objections, or not allowing objections time to be made? Giving special support? None of this should be necessary. The “climate crisis” isn’t remotely as urgent as a real crisis, like coronavirus where, rightly or wrongly, an argument was successfully made for such things as rushing through consents for vaccines. And even if I’m wrong about that, nothing in the UK can make a blind bit of difference to the “climate crisis” so long as most of the rest of the world doesn’t join us in our headlong rush to commit environmental and financial suicide.
“‘Shetland tariff’ hoped to bring cheaper energy prices when Viking Energy windfarm goes online in 2024”
Worth a read to see the fantasy land inhabited by some people.
Astonishing also to see it headed with a photograph of environmental destruction, as though it’s a badge of merit, used in support of a positive-sounding article in connection with the wind farm development.
“A Shetland tariff offering reduced electricity prices to tackle fuel poverty is hoped to be achieved by the time the Viking Energy windfarm goes online.
The SIC’s director of infrastructure John Smith outlined the desired timetable for delivering the much sought after tariff at the council’s policy and resources committee on Tuesday.
The council has been campaigning for reduced energy prices for consumers, arguing it should be available as a trade off for hosting what is set to become one of the most productive onshore windfarms in the world.
While no agreement has yet been reached, Mr Smith said the council was seeking to make progress by the time the windfarm is operational in 2024 – and “quicker if possible”.
Mr Smith said the Viking project would produce far more green electricity than can be used locally.
“Most will be going down south, some might be going wholesale to some big industrial customers,” he said.
“That would be the opportune point to make sure the Shetland tariff was in place.”.
Again, two comments from me.
First, why raise this at such a late stage, now that SSE plc has its planning permission in place and holds all the cards? Shouldn’t this have been raised at the planning stage, when the Busta House Agreement was signed?
Secondly, the Scottish government boasts that Scottish electricity is pretty much all generated by “renewable” energy these days (there are lots of arguments that this claim is inaccurate in the details, but nevertheless the claim is made). If “renewables” are so cheap, and so dominant in Scotland, then how does this situation arise?:
“Mr Smith’s comments were made during a discussion about fuel poverty as part of a report on climate change.
Shetland South member Allison Duncan had questioned what was being done to tackle the problem, which is more keenly felt in Shetland due to the higher energy costs.
The latest statics show 31 per cent of Shetland households are in fuel poverty with 22 per cent living in extreme fuel poverty.”
I loved this:
“The SIC’s environment and estate manager Carl Symons said a cross departmental team had been set up to “improve the fuel poverty journey” for Shetland residents.”
A “fuel poverty journey”! I think that’s a journey all UK residents can look forward to unless the madness is stopped.
“Presenting the report on climate change, Mr Symons said the council had “deployed significant resources” as part of its route map to net zero.”
I suggest that if those “significant resources” had been deployed instead towards doing something about fuel poverty, then it needn’t be at such dreadful levels on Shetland. And Shetland is a cold and windy place with long hours of darkness in winter. Fuel poverty there is no laughing matter.
Mark, how do you think your ancestors kept their crofts warm or cooked their food? Might they also have supplemented their protein intake by eating some of the bird species you now value?
It’s all a matter of scale.
I had this impressed on me during a student field trip to Dartmoor which I co-led with an eminent environmental political scientist. The National Park authorities have opposed land extensions for quarries across the Park so that now over most of the area quarrying has ceased. The students were all in favour of this. Before I could get my point across, I was astounded to hear my co-leader explain that he thought the Park authorities were wrong. They had failed to honour part of the historical heritage of the Moor because quarrying was part of that heritage. Later I showed the effects of this effective quarrying ban: ancient buildings unable to be repaired with local stone. Some were repaired with Millstone Grit from the Pennines and looked decidedly out of place and changed the scenery. No doubt those on the Park Authority complain the loudest when Caen stone is replaced by Portland Stone on London buildings they treasure.
But as I wrote before it’s all a matter of scale. But I am sorry Mark that you have lost some landscape that you prize so much.
About half of Viking Energy’s wind turbines will be in the parish of Nesting, whose name comes from Nes, meaning ‘spit’ or ‘promontory’, plus Ting, which signified an area with its own law-court and gallows.
There’s a ting. Innit.
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The Scottish Wind Power Assessment Project (http://www.swap.org.uk) published three reports on the destruction of peatland associated with wind-power development back in 2005-2007 and a fourth, “A guide to calculating the CO2 debt and payback time for wind farms” in collaboration with Dr Mike Hall, then of REF. You might find them of interest.
See also “The Politics of Peat”, a fifteen-minute film of the 2003 peat slide at Derrybrien, Co Galway which you can find at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k6UMUW4IIrc
ryelands, thanks for the info and for the links. I eventually found my way to this one, which I thought was most germane:
Click to access PeatGuide-1808.pdf
The CO2 payback period for a wind farm analysed in Cumbria was calculated in the report to be 3.5 years. Viking claim less than one year payback, but I believe that referred only to the CO2 released by damage to peat, whereas the Whinash Cumbria calculation included all CO2 released in connection with the entire project (roads, manufacture of turbines, concrete etc). I’m guessing that if a similar calculation were applied to the Viking Energy project in Shetland, a similar result (3.5 years payback) might be likely.
Alan, as you say, it’s a matter of scale. On a small hill overlooking Lerwick there is a small wind farm, involving a small number of turbines of relatively modest height. Personally I would prefer it if they weren’t there, but in the scheme of things, I imagine they have caused relatively little damage to ecosystems, and they aren’t too offensive on the eye. Nor can they be seen from far away.
The Viking Wind Farm, by contrast, is massive. At 155m high, the turbines will tower above the landscape in serried ranks. Locals will be able to comment better than I can, but my take on it is that will almost certainly be visible from most of Mainland Shetland, will probably be visible from adjacent islands (such as Mousa, Bressay, Noss, Papa Stour, Muckle Roe, Whalsay, Fetlar, Yell, even Unst), and may well be visible from the outlying isles, such as Out Skerries, Fair Isle and Foula. The impact on the ecology of Shetland, and the sheer physical impression created, will, IMO, be massive.
Shetland people have burned peat from time immemorial, and some still do on a small scale. Again, scale is the difference. Local use of peat is a pinprick compared to the scale of the wind farm development. The other aspect of the argument is one of economic necessity. Shetlanders in the past hunted whales. It was a matter of economic necessity. Now they don’t because they don’t need to, and I’m glad of that. In fact, whale hunting is one of the rare examples of me being on the same side as Greenpeace. Others may disagree, but I am satisfied that, just as there is no longer any economic need for whale hunting (though some rogue states still pursue it) there is no need for the wind farm. I am also satisfied that the bulk of locals oppose it and are greatly saddened by it (though I have to acknowledge that the community is divided, and some – a minority, I believe – support it).
The article was long enough – possibly too long – by the time I concluded it. There are other issues I could have tried to draw out. One is the place of planning agreements in the planning process. I first negotiated a planning agreement in my capacity as a solicitor in connection with the redevelopment of the Royal Hotel, Bristol almost a third of a century ago (if memory serves me right, part of the project involved work on College Green, subsequently, and ironically, trashed by St Greta’s faithful just as covid struck). Even then, as a young solicitor, although I could understand the motivation that had led politicians to build a role for planning agreements in to the planning process, I was highly sceptical as to how they worked in practice. Nothing that I have seen since has led me to change my mind. I remain of the view that although if handled well they can lead to a win-win solution for the developer and the local community, too often it looks suspiciously to me as though an inappropriate planning application can achieve approval as a result of promises made and/or cash changing hands. I am not alleging anything sinister – it is all “above board” and in accordance with the law. I just think the law is wrong, and too often, IMO, the planning process stinks.
I could go on, but I won’t. I think my views are clear enough by now!
thanks for the post
have you seen this from 2020 – https://www.irishnews.com/news/republicofirelandnews/2020/11/16/news/concerns-over-massive-peat-slide-at-co-donegal-bog-2130570/
Thanks for the link. I hadn’t seen that specific report, but I was aware of the peat slide in Ireland, as the BBC reported on it at the time:
I gave it a write up in “Saving the Planet by Trashing it”:
“I eventually found my way to this one, which I thought was most germane”
Have you a link for that?
NB that the “CO2 payback time” for a wind farm constructed on peatland compared to one built on mineral soils is probably an order of magnitude longer. For details of the argument, see e.g. Lyndsay & Bragg’s report on the Derrybrien incident: https://repository.uel.ac.uk/item/867×7
“Shetland people have burned peat from time immemorial, and some still do on a small scale. Again, scale is the difference. Local use of peat is a pinprick compared to the scale of the wind farm development.”
There used to be commercial peat extraction until, I think, the late 60s or early 70s. What killed it was the introduction of legislation which specified the depth of tread on lorry tyres. When the peat was taken from the hill any lorry that was used had its normal tyres replace by a set of old almost worn out ones, because the peat roads were rough and stony and new tyres could be cut and ruined. So the new tyre rules and a special interest in peat lorries by the polis stopped the practice.
@ billbedford – what,can you clariy ???
spell correction – “clarify” even ?
Clarify what exactly?
Ryelands – sorry for the delay. I’ve been out all day, up some Galloway hills (well away from wind turbines, though sadly with a view to some of the many spoiling the landscape there – I drove past quite a few banners protesting about them). Anyway, if you go back to my “most germane” comment, the link is included in it.
Bill Bedford, thank you for the info – I confess I didn’t know that. Was commercial peat extraction large-scale or more family-business size? I’m guessing, though I don’t know, that the Viking Energy wind farm will damage more peat than would be extracted in several decades of the former commercial peat extraction that took place. Do you have any more info or links that I can use to follow up, please? Many thanks.
It just keeps coming from Shetland Islands Council:
“Council / Clean energy project keen to engage with marine industry
Members of the full council informed of progress on the ORION project – although Moraig Lyall believes it is a ‘huge gamble’”
“THE IMPORTANCE of engaging with the fishing and marine sectors as the ORION clean energy project progresses has been stressed at a council meeting.
Development committee chairman Alastair Cooper said fishermen are “somewhat sceptical” about the plans for activity in marine water around Shetland.
This is particularly relevant for proposal of offshore wind farms.
But the team behind the ORION project – which aims to enable the transition from fossil fuels – says they are doing what they can to engage with the industry that is vital to the local economy….
…ORION is a multi-partner project which aims to “transform Shetland into a clean energy island”.
Among its aims is to produce hydrogen energy in Shetland and also electrify oil and gas assets, helping the transition to net zero while potentially reducing fuel poverty. Onshore and offshore wind is a vital part of that strategy….
But some are less than impressed:
“Shetland Fishermen’s Association (SFA) policy officer Sheila Keith said: “The Shetland fishing industry is very keen to understand the process of change in the energy, fuels and propulsion sectors, which could have a massive impact on the operating costs of the local industry and on access to traditional fishing grounds.
“We need to get behind the headlines to reach the details of changing energy technology, the end results, the full environmental impacts and potential access restrictions.
“We do live in a changing world but the health of our marine environment cannot be put at risk in any ill-considered rush to offshore development. Shetland, the UK and Scottish governments should also place a high value on fishing, which remains Shetland’s most important industry.”
Cooper said at Wednesday’s meeting that some in the industry were left “less than impressed” after a recent meeting with SSE over its plans for a subsea cable between Yell and the mainland through a scallop fishing ground.
He did not want a similar result happening when discussions are held over ORION.”
What a shame that the Council has so little internal opposition:
“Shetland Central member Moraig Lyall, though, was a somewhat lone voice in raising concern around the ORION project when she said the plans made her anxious.
She believed it represented a “huge gamble in crystal ball gazing”.
The ORION team continues to say that what Shetland’s exact role in energy transition will look like remains to be finalised.
“I really struggle to see how such a huge overarching suite of projects can fit into what is a relatively small community,” Lyall said.”
The climate skepticists have to prove their case before the scientific community at large. There must be SOME reason climate change is on all the news channels. Is it a false consensus? A conspiracy? If so, it seems strange that no one has broken a story about the scientists being on the take.
Catxman, I think that’s a rather simplistic view. It lumps sceptics in to a single camp, when in reality there’s a range from those who deny any human input in to climate change (I’m not in that group) to those who (like me) draw attention to the damage caused by the political response to climate change hysteria, and a whole range in-between.
Secondly, how do you define “on the take”? I’m pretty sure it’s a lot easier to obtain a funding grant for a project if you link it to climate change than if you don’t. Making that link in an application is self-reinforcing in terms of the hysteria, but doing so is common sense if you’re looking for funding – it doesn’t mean you’re “on the take” as most people would understand that phrase.
I’m in the false consensus camp rather than in the conspiracy camp. It’s like all religions, so far as I’m concerned, complete with priesthood and enforcers and brainwashing of children, to catch them young and turn them into life-long zealots. You don’t have to look beyond the imminent advent of COP 26 to understand the current ramping up of publicity, which is not a conspiracy, but which IMO is clearly co-ordinated.
There’s much more I could say, but I won’t, because it’s not what this thread is about.
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Try not to think of our position as a certitude that flies in the face of a scientific truth, so much as an incertitude regarding decisions that are being made under uncertainty.
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@Bill Bedford – sorry for the delay in answering.
I should have added to my comment – when you say “any lorry that was used had its normal tyres replace by a set of old almost worn out ones, because the peat roads were rough and stony and new tyres could be cut and ruined”
but surely “old almost worn out ones” would be cut and ruined easier & the lorry would be bogged down ? (pardon the pun 🙂
The hill roads have long been stripped of their peat and are usually stony rather than boggy. Old tyres were kept for use when collecting peat because there was little cost in having one damaged, while if a newish one was damaged it represented a cast of maybe many months of use. The thinking was a bit like dressing in your oldest clothes to do a particularly dirty job, rather than wearing your Sunday Best.
“Nimbys are not selfish. We’re just trying to stop the destruction of nature
Developers use this laden word when they want to obliterate wildlife and its habitats, to demonise anyone who objects”
I agree with a lot in this article, for instance:
“If there’s one word in the English language that I’d like to get rid of, it’s nimby. The acronym – for “not in my back yard” – is often used by developers and politicians to deride local protesters who stand up to housebuilding. “Nimbys”, they claim, are self-interested, live in nice houses, in nice places and want to deny these privileges to newcomers. In my opinion, the word is a spectacular example of how language can stand reality on its head: developers are not champions of the people and those who oppose them are certainly not selfish.”
“Dismissing anyone who opposes this as a nimby allows developers to present themselves as holding the moral high ground. Nimbys are anti-progress refuseniks, they say, while developers are good for the economy, bringing improved infrastructure and even environmental gains. Yet anyone who has been involved in a local campaign will tell you how rarely developers contribute to local infrastructure, and how frequently finished developments can differ from original plans.”
“As for biodiversity benefits, the country is littered with housing developments with failed gestures towards habitat creation – dried-up ponds and dead saplings in plastic tubes. In a campaign I am involved with to save York Gardens in Wandsworth, the developer’s plans initially retained a magnificent, protected mature black poplar tree. But once local consultees had dispersed, thinking their beloved tree was safe, developer Taylor Wimpey returned to the planning committee insisting that the route they now needed for their cables involved felling the tree.
My involvement in this campaign is symptomatic of what really motivates us so-called nimbys. Although York Gardens is in my borough, it’s not in my immediate backyard. Its fate does not affect me directly. But I care passionately that mature trees in established parks should be worked around, not destroyed by development companies. I also care when biodiversity is sacrificed for luxury developments. I feel the same when I hear of other environmental threats, whether it’s urban parks such as south-east London’s Peckham Green, which Southwark council wants to build on, areas of ancient woodland destroyed by HS2’s carnage, or farmland in Thanet in Kent where skylarks nest, threatened by several massive housing developments around Birchington, Westgate-on-Sea and Garlinge. What I care about is not my back yard, but the nature that belongs to all of us.”
“Fundamentally, these campaigns are about the wider issue of biodiversity protection. What matters to each of them is the protection of everyday nature – those undesignated green spaces and natural resources that attract visitors, which support wildlife and help combat climate change. Many of these sites are worryingly vulnerable. They have no formal protection, there’s often no data on the wildlife there, and developers often regard them as vacant lots. Wildlife legislation and environmental protection is remarkably weak when confronted with what one campaigner called “greed-motivated ecocide”. It’s a perception shared by the parliamentary environmental audit committee, which last week reported that the government’s green policies were “toothless” in addressing the “catastrophic” loss of wildlife.”
Sadly, this being the Guardian, wind farm developments nowhere get a mention. The nearest they come to criticising the environmental devastation caused by “renewables” is this sole sentence:
” Say No to Sunnica in Suffolk, protesting against a massive industrial-scale solar plant”. And that’s it. A sad failure to join the dots in an otherwise decent article.
Mark, it has always struck me as perfectly rational to be a NIMBY. Where else are you supposed to care about if not the place you see every day? You are far more likely to be aware of a new development in your back yard than one in someone else’s back yard. Development somewhere else is at least partly abstract if you have never seen/will never see the plot in question.
Having lived for some time in remote places, here’s my take on Nimbies.
1. They are mostly, but not entirely, all in-comers.
2. The shorter the time they have lived in their chosen place, the more vociferous their objections to any change can be. I’ve heard, many times, the idea that these people want to ‘pull up a drawbridge’ after their arrival.
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I have a slightly different take on that. I think some outsiders move in and are delighted with where they live, and fit in well with the local community. They don’t try to change anything, because they like it as it is. Others miss something (or maybe miss quite a lot) that they’ve left behind and try to change the place they’ve moved to, usually managing to upset the locals in the process.
At what point the good guys (the ones who fit in, and don’t feel the need to try to change the place) become the bad guys, because they refuse to accept any change, even change which might be for the better, I’m not sure. As ever, shades of grey…..
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An excellent letter:
Mark – from your link – “Locally, we are all aware of the problems caused by starlings nesting in vehicle engines. To
deter this, the project erected nest boxes to provide a cosy alternative in and around compound areas where vehicles
think we called them Stuckie’s in my part of Scotland, smart birds – “provide a cosy alternative” – nah,to smart for that, bed & brekkie as a min & 5* if they can wing it.
While whisky producers, who use vanishingly small amounts of peat (in the scheme of things) fret about peat use and climate change, Viking Energy Farm rampages over Shetland’s peat, probably damaging more peat in a day than Lagavulin does in a century:
“The battle to save Scotland’s peaty whisky in era of climate change”
“Entire whisky distillery ships out to China”
“An entire whisky distillery is being shipped out from Scotland to China on Friday.
More than 35 tonnes of equipment, including stills, flooring, control valves and pipework, is leaving Buckie in Moray for the port of Tianjin.
The equipment will be assembled at a facility being built in Inner Mongolia.
The shipment is part of a £3m “design and build” deal signed between Forfar firm Valentine International and China’s Mengtai Group in 2019.
The facility in Ordos will become Inner Mongolia’s first whisky distillery when it opens, probably at the end of this year.”
I loved this bit (published straight-faced, without a hint of criticism, by the BBC):
“It is Mengtai’s first venture into the world of whisky. One of Inner Mongolia’s largest private firms, its core businesses include coal production and electricity generation.”
Just by way of a coincidence I was playing Climate Change Only Connect earlier today when I tried to guess what the connection would be between ‘Angels’ and climate change. The answer was:
“A member of the Scottish Greens political party has raised concerns over how the ‘angel’s share’ could be affecting global warming.”
Okay, I cheated a little by ignoring the apostrophe.
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“Peatland to help battle carbon in Cumbria”
There are only 3 comments, but they’re better than the article, IMO. One of them in particular has picked up on what is happening on Shetland:
“Destruction of Peat?
Ofgem have given the go-ahead for the £600,000,000 subsea cable to Shetland. This is allowing the giant, industrial, 103 turbine, Viking Wind factory to proceed, all to line the pockets of modern-day invaders SSE, pillaging the subsidy system.
This unspeakable tragedy is about to trash the Shetland landscape forever, where the island’s importance to birdlife could hardly be overstated. Goodbye Whimbrel.
To remind readers, planning officials, the RSPB, Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH), the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA), the John Muir Trust, Shetland Amenity Trust, Shetland Bird Club, and Sustainable Shetland, along with the majority 2,736 residents objected to the Viking Wind Farm in Shetland.
Despite all this, the Scottish Government granted planning permission, with utter disregard for the peat rich environment and birdlife. 5 Metres deep in places.
Eco tourism? Forget it.
The rotor blades of a wind turbine have a radius as long as a football field and rotate at 300 km/h. Against these huge propeller walls, Birds, Bats and insects don’t stand a chance. The German wind insect death toll is an astonishing one third of the total annual insect migration in southern England. A staggering 1,200 Tonnes a year!”
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“Where could Scotland site a new national park?”
“A deal between the SNP and the Scottish Green Party has opened the door to a new national park for Scotland.
There are currently two parks – the Cairngorms and Loch Lomond and the Trossachs – and both were created almost 20 years ago.
The power-sharing agreement says that “at least one” will be designated by the end of this parliamentary session.
It will likely be “smaller in scale” than the existing ones, but where could any new national park be located?”
Well, it certainly won’t be Shetland, and in fact there are vanishingly few places left where one could be created, if industrial-scale wind farms rule out National Park status. No wonder any new park will be smaller in scale! There are only small areas of Scotland’s wilderness that haven’t now been trashed by wind turbines.
“There are currently two parks – the Cairngorms and Loch Lomond and the Trossachs – and both were created almost 20 years ago” – only 20yr ago !!!
I’d vote for – https://pitlochry-scotland.co.uk/things-to-do/pitlochry-walks/pitlochry-dam-and-fish-ladder/
This is a pleasantly balanced article, at least by the BBC’s normal standards:
“Climate change: Shetland’s power struggle between oil and wind”
I think this picture represents gratuitous bias:
“The view from St Ninian’s beach, looking towards the site of the Cambo oil field”
given that Cambo oil field, if it goes ahead, will (according to the BBC’s own article) be 78 miles away, and thus not visible from that “view from St Ninian’s beach”.
Despite that, the article does make a decent stab at giving both sides of the story, although the BBC’s bias can’t help seeping through:
“But as the devastating impacts of climate change driven by the exploitation of fossil fuels have become clearer, the conversation has shifted rapidly and Shetland, along with the rest of the world, now faces a new question.
Should drilling stop immediately – and, if so, how would these islands cope without their grimy golden goose?”
Still, it ends well, so far as I’m concerned:
“But Ms Goodlad replies: “In 50 years’ time, 100 years’ time, we’ll be looking at the rusted remains of the once-glittering wind farm and asking: ‘What the hell were we thinking’?”
For her there is no contest between drilling for oil off the coast of these islands, and building a wind farm in the middle of them.
“As an environmentalist,” says Ms Goodlad, “I would still choose Cambo.””
Maybe, just maybe, it’s dawning on people that it certainly isn’t so simple as “wind good, oil and coal bad”?
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I hope imitation is the sincerest form of flattery 🙂
“For Peat’s Sake
Our Lives Series 5
The stories of interwoven lives during the peat-cutting season on the stunning Isle of Lewis.
08 September 2021”
@Mark – see your concerns have made to the BEEB.
dfhunter – and the Guardian!
“For peat’s sake: the race is on to save Britain’s disappearing moorland bogs”
Of course, not a single mention of the immense damage caused by wind farms to upland peat.
“Wind farm construction helps airline’s recovery from pandemic”
“VIKING Energy wind farm construction has helped Loganair recover from the Covid pandemic “far faster” in Shetland than in other island areas, a meeting heard on Wednesday.
Loganair chief executive Jonathan Hinkles told Shetland’s external transport forum said Sumburgh is faring better than Orkney and the Western Isles when it comes to flight activity following lockdown.
This is also in part due to oil and gas flights and Royal Mail contracts.
The airline has put on flights for people working on the Viking Energy wind farm construction and associated infrastructure, which got underway last year.”
“Scotland’s peatlands ‘have been undervalued for years'”
“A recent study estimated that restoring Scotland’s damaged peatlands could bring nearly £200m of annual benefits.
In Dumfries and Galloway, an area rich with such areas, a project is ongoing to underline their value.”
Like Shetland (sadly) today, Dumfries & Galloway is an area “rich” in wind turbines. They are mostly installed on virgin peatland, that the developers conveniently claim to be “degraded”.
“”Often peatlands are overlooked because they are wet and boggy, they look brown and they’re not very appealing,” said Dr Taylor.
“We are trying to get people excited about them – and if they are excited about them, they understand them.”
That, in turn, could be used to try to influence land-use decision-making around the country.”
“Peat-based compost used by UK public bodies despite proposed ban
Forestry England among agencies still buying peat, which is UK’s biggest natural store of CO2”
“Government agencies are still buying peat-based compost even though the environment secretary is planning to ban it, new data has revealed.
Peatlands occupy about 12% of the UK’s land area, and are the country’s largest natural carbon dioxide store, locking in an estimated 3.2bn tonnes of CO2, as well as providing habitats for birds, insects and plants. For years they have been neglected and dug up, and currently just 20% of UK peatlands remain in a natural state.
This autumn has also seen five times more fires than usual on English peat moorlands, as part of the grouse-shooting industry’s practice of stripping back heather, figures compiled by Wild Moors and Unearthed revealed last week.
Earlier this year, to the relief of campaigners, the environment secretary, George Eustice, finally announced plans for a ban on the sale of peat-based compost, sourced from peatlands.
But data obtained through freedom of information laws shows that agencies overseen by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) have bought thousands of cubic metres of peat-based compost over the last five years, and have no plans to put an end to its use.
Conservation groups have described the continued use of peat-based compost by the public sector as “unacceptable,” saying it “flies in the face of the government’s legal commitments to tackle the climate and nature emergencies”.
The newly released data shows that Forestry England, Forest Research, and the Lake District National Park Authority have between them bought 3,833 cubic metres of peat-based compost over the last five years. All three government bodies are ultimately overseen by the environment secretary, who earlier this year highlighted the importance of peatlands as the UK’s “biggest terrestrial carbon store and home to some of our rarest species”….”.
Given all the talk about the importance of peat, it might be fair enough to point this stuff out. But it’s a drop in the ocean compared to devastation to peat caused by windfarms up and down the country, yet climate worriers don’t seem to be in the least bit concerned about that. Strange. Very strange.
“Report on the British Government’s actions to combat the climate crisis ahead of the COP26 summit. The programme examines in detail the 10-point plan for a green industrial revolution, including controversial plan to construct new industrial-scale carbon capture plants that will permanently pump CO2 beneath the rocks of the North Sea, and questions why the use of fossil fuels and search for new oil sources still has Government backing. With contributions from environmentalists, businesspeople and government advisors”
It’s the Dispatches season 20, episode 15 on Channel 4 at 8pm on Monday, 1st November. As I understand it, it may include a section on the Viking Energy Wind Farm.
“Experts warn wind farms should not be built on peatlands
With governments pledging to accelerate the construction of onshore wind power until 2030 to help meet climate targets, scientists call for an urgent review of the policy of building turbines on peatlands. ”
“THE CLIMATE impact of digging up peat to build wind farms could be greater than thought, scientists are warning – raising questions over turbines in Shetland.
Restoring damaged bogs is increasingly understood to be critical to meeting emissions targets, with more funding announced ahead of COP26 – and experts are calling for an end to wind farms on deep peat.
The 103-turbine Viking Energy wind farm is under construction in central Shetland, while a decision on Energy Isles’ 18-turbine development, on deep peat in Yell, is expected next year.
Peatlands, those boggy and waterlogged landscapes covering 10 per cent of the UK land area, and half of Shetland, are the single most important terrestrial carbon store Britain has.
Worldwide, peatlands play a major role in climate regulation, and store at least 550 gigatonnes of carbon, more than twice the carbon stored in all the world’s forests.
Both developers say the green energy generated will pay back carbon losses in less than two years.
But the government calculator used to reach these figures is flawed, according to experts.
Professor Jo Smith, who led the Aberdeen university team which created the spreadsheet tool, said: “The science has moved forward. There’s now more information available that could help reduce two uncertainties: the extent of drainage, and the efficacy of restoration of peatlands.
“Therefore, I’d completely agree with reviewing it.”
Clifton Bain, advisor of the IUCN UK Peatland Programme, said: “There’s a risk that impact is being significantly underestimated. I think that’s highly possible, because it’s based on assumptions, based on outdated data, there’s no oversight of how the model is used.”
One of the biggest factors in bringing down the carbon payback time from decades to just a few years is how far out the bog will drain as a result of tracks and turbine bases being built on it.
It can be given as low as 10 metres. In Shetland, Viking Energy’s calculations used ranges between 10 and 50m, while Energy Isles, in Yell, used 17-39m.
According to Dr Guadaneth Chico, who has studied peat bog erosion at wind farms in Spain, the impact varies for every peatland but can be “up to hundreds of metres”.
One of the problems is that drainage is hard to evaluate in the short-term, he added. “It’s a long-term habitat. Restoration tends to be monitored for a few years, then we forget about it. But in three years, it doesn’t change much.”
Promises of restoration are also crucial to reaching a short payback time. Degraded peatland emits greenhouse gases at an extraordinary rate – it’s estimated that Shetland’s peat, in poor condition from centuries of over-grazing, cutting and climate, is emitting hundreds of thousands of tonnes of CO2 equivalent every year.
Viking Energy promise to restore 260 hectares of degraded peatland, while Energy Isles give a net figure of 51 hectares. Around 1,900,000m3 of peat has been excavated from the Viking sites so far, and a spokesperson said all of it is retained for reuse.
But there is considerable uncertainty over whether this works in practice – particularly for pristine peat, as is found on much of the Yell site. The importance of preserving natural blanket bog was reflected in the fact that SEPA initially objected to the Energy Isles proposal on climate grounds. It hasn’t yet responded to the latest proposal, which cut excavated peat volumes by 43per cent…
…As Scotland prepares to host world leaders in the COP26 climate summit, the Scottish Government has made clear that the onshore wind boom is here to stay – for another decade at least.
“It’s really ironic that we’re putting a lot of money into restoring heavily degraded peatlands,” said Chico.
“Then you go to a natural peatland in the Shetland Islands – and do the opposite.”
Wind farms on any depth of peat “make less and less sense” as the energy grid is decarbonised, said Smith, adding that bogs in a natural state must be protected.
“That’s the bottom line”, she said. “Pristine peats are an important resource for the world, both in terms of biodiversity and carbon storage, and have a huge amenity value.
“Once we’ve destroyed them, we won’t have them anymore.””
I’ve always had my doubts about the claims made about “carbon” payback times for wind farms. Maybe those doubts were justified.
Better late than never – another quick reminder that Dispatches on Channel 4 at 8pm this evening is looking into the UK’s response to climate change, and might feature a piece about Viking Energy (their reporters have been to Shetland and have conducted some interviews with local residents). If the notice is too short, maybe anyone interested could watch it on Channel 4 + 1 at 9pm instead.
beat me to it Mark re -ch4
seemed at balanced piece.
just watched the SKY climate prog “is it to late” with some other title thrown in “the big debate” I think?
the “experts” they had on have made my mind up – “Abandon all hope, those who enter.”
Yes, I agree. It was disappointing that the likes of Chris Stark was given so much time to spout the usual rubbish, but at least they didn’t interview Deben – that really would have spoiled my evening. And it was disappointing that it started from the assumption that climate change is a crisis and that we need to go net zero.
Still, that said, it’s hard to be too critical, since it made a number of points that we here at Cliscep have been making for ages, e.g.
1. Exporting emissions is not the same as reducing them. Claiming to have reduced them in that way is creative accounting;
2 Subsidising Drax to burn wood is crazy;
3. Building wind farms on peat bogs is also crazy. When they pointed out to the chap from Viking Energy that RSPB, John Muir Trust and other environmental groups were opposed to the development and he was asked if any environmental groups supported it, he gave an answer that a politician would have been proud of, since a straight answer to the question would simply have been “no.” It’s a pity that the interviewer didn’t follow up by saying “That’s a no, then”;
4. “Blue” hydrogen is a nonsense in terms of C2 emissions.
There may have been more, but they were the obvious points where I was in agreement with the line taken by the programme.
The scale of the environmental devastation caused by the Viking Energy wind farm on Shetland is beginning to become apparent from aerial photography:
“Revealed: the places humanity must not destroy to avoid climate chaos
Tiny proportion of world’s land surface hosts carbon-rich forests and peatlands that would not recover before 2050 if lost”
It’s a pity they didn’t think about that before destroying huge swathes of UK peat to create wind farms. Ironically, the map of the UK which the Guardian includes in this article doesn’t even include Shetland.
“Winds of Change
A large wind farm on the remote Shetland Islands will soon supply power to the U.K. national grid for the first time. But locals opposed to the farm say they’re being forced to pay the price for the nation’s energy burden”
The story of the tragedy befalling Shetland is now being told in the USA. An interesting, if terribly sad, read IMO.
“Peat sales to gardeners in England and Wales to be banned by 2024
Peatland vital carbon store but campaigners say lack of immediate action makes plan a ‘damp squib’”
“The sale of peat to gardeners in England and Wales is to be banned by 2024 under plans published by the government on Saturday. Ministers said they also aimed to end peat use in the professional horticulture sector by 2028.
The government set a voluntary target in 2011 for compost retailers to end sales of peat by 2020. But peat use fell by only 25% from 2011-2019 and increased by 9% in 2020 as Covid lockdowns boosted gardening as a hobby.
Peat is the UK’s largest carbon store, trapping as much as tropical rainforests per hectare, but is routinely dug up for horticulture. This releases carbon dioxide, adding to the climate crisis. Peatlands are also vital habitats for rare species of wildlife, and help filter water and reduce flooding.”
They won’t ban wind farm developers from building them on peat bogs though, obviously…
“Dank, ancient and quite fantastic: Scotland’s peat bogs breathe again
Researchers are using satellite technology to monitor the health of these vital carbon sinks and help restore them”
“The Scottish government-funded Peatland Action project, which started in 2012, is helping revive 25,000 hectares of degraded peatland. In 2020, the Scottish government committed £250m of funding over 10 years to bog restoration in a bid to lock carbon in the land. It is hoped the satellite data can be used to work out which bogs need urgent help and what efforts are working.”
And how many hectares are being damaged/destroyed by wind farms? Ironically, meanwhile:
“Despite these restoration efforts, Flanders Moss is still a net emitter of carbon. Scotland’s bogs emit about 10m tonnes of carbon equivalent, which is almost as much as the transport sector. Stopping these emissions and preventing further degradation are the primary objectives of the restoration project.”
“Third of all compost sold in UK is climate-damaging peat
Peatlands hold double the carbon of the world’s forests, and scientists, gardeners and campaigners want a ban on peat sales”
“Peatlands cover just 3% of the planet’s surface but hold twice as much carbon as all the world’s forests. The destruction and degradation of peatlands releases CO2 and drives the climate crisis.”
And yet the wholesale destruction of peatlands by wind farms is apparently not a problem….
“Peat soil fires: Campaigners say England’s ‘rainforests’ illegally burned
By Justin Rowlatt
“Some shooting estates in England burn deep peat moorland in protected areas despite a government ban, say the RSPB and Greenpeace.
England’s deep peat soils support rare ecosystems and store huge amounts of carbon.
Peatland vegetation has traditionally been burnt to create and maintain habitats to raise grouse for shooting.
The government last year introduced a ban on burning peat deeper than 40cm in some protected areas of England.
Peatlands cover around 12% of the land in the UK and store an estimated 3 billion tonnes of carbon, equivalent to all the forests in the UK, Germany and France put together….
…Blanket bog is a rare ecosystem made up of large areas of deep peat soil.
It said the new rules in England were intended to protect these rare and delicate habitats and to help the UK hit its target to cut emissions to net zero carbon by 2050.
The only exception to the ban would be if a licence has been granted or the land is steep or rocky, but no licences to burn on deep peat were issued during the latest burning season, the government has told the BBC….
…Greenpeace visited two other estates. …”.
Do Greenpeace ever visit wind farms which are ripping up the peat?
“Congo peat: The ‘lungs of humanity’ which are under threat”
“A giant slab of carbon-rich peat, discovered in central Africa, is under threat from uncontrolled development – posing a significant risk for future climate change, writes BBC Africa correspondent Andrew Harding.”
The BBC doesn’t need an Africa correspondent to report on stories such as this – they could just visit Shetland (or large swathes of Scotland and the north of England) to see the damage caused to peat by wind farm developments.
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“Quantifying the land-based opportunity carbon costs of onshore wind farms”
• The displacement of terrestrial carbon stocks is crucial to quantifying the environmental impact of onshore wind energy.
• Direct and indirect greenhouse gas emissions are quantified spatially based on land cover types and wind farm characteristics.
• Emissions of land use change from the construction of 3848 wind turbines across Scotland vary from 16 g CO2 kWh−1 in shrubland to 1760 g CO2 kWh−1 in peatland.
• Opportunity costs of onshore wind farms range from £0.30 to £65.0 per MWh of electricity generated per year.”
“The extent to which onshore wind developments contribute to GHG emissions from LUC across different landscapes has not received much research attention. Understanding the environmental trade-offs from LUC to wind energy is important for identifying coherent and integrated approaches to land use decisions between the energy and Agriculture, Forestry and Other Land Use (AFOLU) sectors, as well as new financial instruments to support activities that reduce the overall cost of mitigating GHG emissions to society. In this study, we aim to spatially quantify the land use change (LUC) emissions that derive from the construction of onshore wind farms in peatland, forest, arable and other land use types….
…We discuss the results in terms of potential opportunity C costs (COC), which correspond to the CO2 emissions that land could have been sequestered if no LUC would have occurred to wind farms. In the calculation of COC, we exclude the GHG emissions from activities for which landowners have no visibility of, such as: i) the development of the overhead wind farm infrastructure, ii) transmission and distribution, iii) backup power generation, and iv) improvement of habitat after the wind farm decommissioning….”.
That’s a lot of exclusions, but at least they’re openly and transparently stated. Even allowing for those exclusions, it’s interesting to see that where wind farms are constructed on Dystrophic basin peat, the carbon payback period might be as long as 9.3 years. Add in the items excluded from the study, and presumably that becomes a payback period of years well into double figures. This is a valuable and important piece of work, in my opinion. But will the powers-that-be take any notice?
Bear in mind the scale of the immense Viking Energy wind-farm development, and the complete lack of interest among the likes of the Guardian and the Observer regarding the damage to birdlife it may well cause, and the general scale of environmental upheaval. Then read this, regarding the proposed Hinkley Point C nuclear power station. Double standards barely covers it:
“Could nuclear plant ruin Suffolk haven for avocets, bitterns and harriers?”
“The Bittern Hide at the RSPB’s Minsmere reserve was doing steady business last Wednesday. More than a dozen birdwatchers were crammed into the elevated shelter which overlooks a broad band of heath, freshwater pools and reed beds stretching to the Suffolk coast. Marsh harriers swirled overhead and an occasional bittern swept across the landscape. In front of another nearby hide, avocets waded leisurely across a lagoon. Minsmere is an ornithologist’s paradise.
But a threat hangs over its wildlife glories. In a few days, the government is set to announce its decision on whether to allow the Sizewell C nuclear power plant to be built by EDF on land that overlooks the 1,000-hectare (2,500-acre) reserve.
Approval will trigger the go-ahead for one of Europe’s biggest construction projects, and the impact on the reserve will be intense. New roads and a temporary port may be built, and dozens of huge cranes erected across land that borders Minsmere. For at least a decade, construction of the giant plant’s twin nuclear reactors will proceed – day and night.
“We are not opposed to the principle of there being energy infrastructure at the Sizewell site but the likely impact of this particular project could be very damaging,” said Adam Rowlands, Suffolk area manager for the RSPB. “There is a real threat to species that we have struggled to preserve here.”…”.
NB I share those concerns. Unlike some, I hope I avoid double standards.
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There seems to be new evidence of peat movement on the Mid Kames ridge within the Viking Energy development. Not good at a time of year when the weather, albeit not great, isn’t particularly bad by Shetland standards. What will happen in the winter?
“Viking landslide damage reinstated as wind farm opponents voice concern
THE DEVELOPER of the Viking Energy wind farm says an area of the Mid Kames has been reinstated after a landslide took away a large section of rocks earlier this month.”
“SSE Renewables said the “peat movement” next to the newly constructed track on the Mid Kames ridge happened on the 4 July.
“The area has been reinstated with the peat pulled back into position and retaining rock bunds added ensuring the area is safe,” a spokesperson for the company said.
“Geotechnical investigations have been carried out to determine the cause of the movement and any additional measures for future prevention will depend on their findings.”
A request for information about the extent of the landslide and its distance to any turbine bases remains unanswered.
The chairman of grassroots group Sustainable Shetland, which has been campaigning against the 103-turbine wind farm for many years, said there have been warnings that the location was a “high-risk area for peat slides” for a long time.
A few years back, a peat slide occurred on the east side of the Mid Kames ridge and is still visible from the A970.
Frank Hay added: “It is particularly worrying that this should happen in unexceptional weather. There hasn’t been a really heavy rainfall event there since the track was constructed.
“The floating roads that Viking have employed in various places may well float more than was intended if this evidence is anything to go by.
“Just how suitable these tracks are going to be for the really heavy wind turbine components is something that should be very carefully assessed.””
Meanwhile, as if there’s nothing to worry about:
“Yell wind farm developer given two-year planning extension”
“THE DEVELOPER behind a planned wind farm in Yell has been given a two-year extension to the time it has to commence development.
The application was submitted because the original consent to commence building the 17-turbine Beaw Field wind farm within a five year period was in danger of expiring in November.
Timescales around grid connection and also a government subsidy scheme were the reasons behind the extension request.
The Scottish Government has now approved the application and has extended the implementation date to November 2024.
It said ministers are satisfied that an extension is in “accordance the Scottish Government energy strategy and national policy and affords every opportunity for the project to provide a valuable contribution to the Scottish Government’s net zero targets”.
Peel Energy was given consent for the wind farm in the south of Yell in 2017.
The developer has submitted a fresh application to the UK Government subsidy Contracts for Difference (CfD) scheme for the wind farm.”
Interesting to note that the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) have just sent an officer to site to investigate, and did so only after being contacted by the Shetland Times for comment on the peat slide story. It seems that SSE/Viking Energy had not notified them of the issue. It looks as though it’s up to outsiders to monitor the goings-on, as SEPA don’t seem to be monitoring very carefully, and SSE don’t seem to be reporting problems. Yet surely – as was noted by the Chairman of Sustainable Shetland – the incident should not have happened at all if the original geo-technical investigations had been adequate.
“Wind farms ‘can harm the planet as much as oil’
Digging up peat bogs and felling trees to build turbines releases 4.9m tons CO2”
“SOME of Scotland’s wind turbines create so much carbon pollution it will take a decade to repair the environmental damage caused, say researchers.
Around 4.9 million tons of greenhouse gases have been released into the atmosphere as a result of digging up ancient peat bogs and felling trees to build wind farms.
Aberdeen University scientists claim many wind farms remain years away from generating enough renewable electricity to cancel out the deficit – and say they are as damaging for the planet as burning coal or gas.
Turbines are a cornerstone of the SNP’s drive to reach net zero carbon emissions by 2045. But the study shows the environmental toll of damaging delicate ecosystems.
Disturbing soils and forestry unlocks massive amounts of carbon that has been shut away for centuries.
The Aberdeen researchers calculated the carbon footprints of the 3,848 commercial onshore wind turbines in Scotland in 2019.
The wind farms’ carbon emissions were then balanced against the amount of fossil fuels they are substituting. From there, their carbon ‘payback’ was calculated, with some facilities taking as long as 10.8 years to wipe the slate clean in terms of the environmental damage created.
The academics’ paper, published in the Journal of Cleaner Production, concludes: ‘In the worst land-use change scenario, the data is comparable to the lifecycle emissions of fossil fuel technologies such as coal and gas-fired electricity generation.’ Garth Wind Farm on Yell, Shetland, began operating in 2017 but it will be at least 2028 before it stops being a net producer of carbon dioxide.
The university team found 60 wind farms built on peatland produced as much CO2-equivalent emissions as two million tons of coal….”.
And more in a similar vein.
Here’s the link to that new paper about carbon payback times – worth a read, IMO:
“Quantifying the land-based opportunity carbon costs of onshore wind farms”
“The development of onshore wind energy impacts the land where it is constructed, together with competition for natural resources between the energy and land sector. The loss of terrestrial carbon stocks and ecosystem services from land use change to wind farms can be interpreted as the opportunity cost that landowners give up by choosing to construct wind farms on their land. Here, we spatially quantify the impact onshore wind farms have on land when we factor in the opportunity carbon (C) costs. We found that, the construction of 3848 wind turbines in Scotland generated 4.9 million tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from land use change.”
“Viking landslip could have been avoided, SSE Renewables confirms”
“THE LANDSLIP on the Viking Energy wind farm site earlier this month could have been avoided had the construction team followed the developer’s own rules and instructions on floating roads.
The area at the Mid Kames had previously been identified as a risk area for slippage by survey teams, Viking Energy spokesperson Aaron Priest told a meeting of the community liaison group on Tuesday evening.
However, he insisted the landslip on 4 July was an “isolated” incident and gave assurances that people’s properties in the vicinity of the wind farm were not in any danger of being affected by any future incidents…
…Priest also conceded that the company’s reporting of the incident could have been better….”
“Climate change: England’s gardeners face peat compost ban”
“Sales of peat to amateur gardeners will be banned in England from 2024, the government has confirmed.
The move follows a consultation and is part of a pledge to restore peat lands.”
Peat lands restored? Are they going to remove the wind turbines, concrete foundations and access roads?
“Council plea after Shetland’s energy bills double”
There will be another huge irony when they see no benefit from the wind turbines blighting their landscape either.
Compare and contrast:
“Final pylon toppled from Dorset beauty spot”
It’s all rather different from the above-ground and very tall landscape and wildlife blighting pylons that are permitted almost without question all over the place, not least in wild and beautiful Shetland. Nobody in authority seems concerned about preserving “uninterrupted views of the landscape” in such places. The BBC piece, apparently, isn’t intended to be ironic.
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Well spotted, Mark. The double-standard is breathtaking here. And as you say, no hint of irony.
Mark. I used to think the same about pylons spoiling views until I saw pylons in the Canadian Rocky Mountains. There the landscape overwhelms the pylons. The apparently minuscule pylons, when viewed from a distance, apparently struggle to climb up the mountain sides and add a degree of scale to the mountains. In so doing they demonstrate just how magnificent the mountain range is. Viewing similar mountainsides without pylons, you lose that sense of scale.
Just back from a walk with the dogs during which I thought over my last post and whereI remembered the other, very very different, place in Western Canada where electricity pylons make a very different statement. That was alongside the very straight highways in Saskatchewan and Manitoba. There on the extremely flat Prairies, you can see ahead over the curve of the Earth by virtue of the pylons. They didn’t seem out of place, even though, if memory serves me well, they were much larger than those in the U.K. Commonly between the widely spaced towns, apart from the roads themselves and occasional field boundaries the pylons were the only human things to be seen, mile after mile.
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, as, I suppose, is anything which might be considered to mar or enhance that beauty. Whilst I disagree with your take on electricity pylons (I would much prefer to see underground cabling), the pylons recently removed in the south of England so as “to restore uninterrupted views of the landscape” are much smaller than many wind turbines, and much less intrusive in their landscape. Indeed many turbines are extremely intrusive, and out of all proportion to the landscape in which they sit. Just as a reminder, when I wrote “For Peat’s Sake”, I pointed out the scale of the problem in Shetland:
Mark perhaps you haven’t got enough tolerance. The Altemont Pass in California was always a mountain pass with around 350 turbines, some very large. My children when old enough learned to count into the hundreds using these turbines. They were a very welcome site to them as we travelled to Southern California.
I will never have tolerance for greedy capitalists happily hoovering up grants and subsidies, pretending to be friends of the environment while destroying it.
Thanks for linking to this post which predates my discovery of this site.
I’m saddened by your account of the wind farm development. I spent two years in the Shetlands, working on the construction of the Sullom Voe terminal, in the mid-late 70s. My main memory is of the rugged wildness which surrounded you as soon as you were any distance from habitation with no sign of human influences. Huge, spinning turbines which will be visible for miles will disrupt that scenario.
For all its major impact on the local people and economy, I would argue that the terminal was far less intrusive than this windfram development – and that was over 40 years ago when there was less consideration given to nature and the environment.
It is ironic that pylons are being removed for aesthetic reasons. In my experience, the eye gets used to them so that they fade into the background. I live near Chobham Common in Surrey which is afflicted with a line of pylons running right across the area but I barely notice them.
Wind turbines are very different because they are usually moving – some of them, at least – and the eye is drawn to movement. So I get there opposite reaction: I find them hard to ignore and they distract from the interest/beauty of the view.
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Thank you. I was moved to write For Peat’s Sake as a result of my second visit to Shetland. Like you, on my first visit, I was delighted by the wilderness and the beauty of nature there. When I visited on the second occasion, work on the vast and destructive wind farm had already commenced. I was horrified. And I remain horrified. These people, with their talk of their “saving the planet” care nothing for the environment. The Viking Energy development is, in my opinion (and in the opinion of many Shetland residents) an abomination, a blight, a crime against nature (I might as well use the “c” word, since climate alarmists deploy it all too freely).
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> I spent two years in the Shetlands, working on the construction of the Sullom Voe terminal, in the mid-late 70s. My main memory is of the rugged wildness which surrounded you as soon as you were any distance from habitation with no sign of human influences.
In reality, the Shetland landscape is the result of 6000 years of human habitation.
Bill – https://www.archaeologyshetland.org/post/2015/03/17/in-depth-stanydale
quote – “the Neolithic saw the development of farming; by the time Stanydale temple was built in the late Neolithic/early Bronze Age Shetland had already been largely cleared of woodland and had been farmed for generations.”
Bill B; you are right, of course….but I’m sure you know what I meant :).
dfhunter; that quote makes me think that Shetland’s climate must have been milder back then – like Greenland and Iceland.
Sad news from Shetland:
“No trout in Burn of Lunklet because of metals, damning report finds”
“‘Unprecedented’ lack of trout in Burn of Lunklet following wind farm construction”
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The Shetland Times’ take on this, from last November, is slightly different:
Thanks for the link. It seems that the local paper was more inclined to accept SSE/VE’s assurances about restorative and mitigation works back then. Perhaps a more sceptical (realistic?) line now prevails at the newspaper?
It sounds, to me, like the ST succumbed to a bout of greenie hysteria.
I would tend to trust professional geologists and engineers over anyone who works in the press. As I understand the original report, when they dug the borrow pit, they found that the groundwater at the bedrock was slightly more acidic and more metallic* than the surface water. Since this site is unlikely to have been disturbed since the last ice age, it seems to me that this phenomenon is entirely natural, and I would question the use of a layer of limestone at the bottom of the borrow pit.
*I’m not sure what this means. Metals are not usually seen as water-soluble.
If the bedrock was under a deep layer of peat, then it would have been isolated from the surface for a long time. The reason bog mosses thrive in such situations is that the higher plants are separated from the necessary nutrients because of the depth of the peat (and of course the waterlogging helps). [The bog mosses absorb trace nutrients through their capitula, higher plants having no such skill.]
So you would expect to find a rich soup of dissolved ions at the peat/bedrock interface. (I don’t know if this is what happens, it’s a SWAG.) The mobilisation of metal ions from the bedrock might be increased by acidity (it’s acid in the peat) although the lack of oxygen might be a counterweight. Stuff like Al3+ ions would perhaps be liberated and then, when the ground is disturbed, just washed into the stream. I suppose the ions in question will be reported in due course, so that I can stop idly speculating.
We have 3 “burns” or streams that run through the village which eventually join up to form the Allan Water running through Dunblane and Bridge of Allan and then into the Forth at Stirling. The headwaters of these burns is the Ochil hills which are very peaty, after heavy rain they run high with a very dark red brown stain which is called ” peat tea”. The Allan is known for its trout and salmon fishing especially after rain and then when the water starts to clear, the fish do not like the acid tea. It would seem to me a prolonged running of peat tea would eventually stress the fish enough to leave the burn for clearer waters. A lot of the hills have field drainage systems, not sure if they go deep enough to reach any metallics .
‘You can learn a lot just by watching.’
H/t Yogi Berra
JamesS, I finally got around to walking in the Ochils last summer, and I can confirm that they are certainly peaty (especially the boggy bit between Ben Buck and Blairdenon Hill!
Mark. You must have had a good view of the Burnfoot wind turbines, imagine huge lumps of Shetland like that. Used to do a lot of fishing on the Glendevon reservoirs so saw them being built.
I’m afraid I don’t know the names of the wind farms there – I assume Burnfoot is the one just by Ben Buck, on the north slope of the Ochils. Bad enough, but the really appalling one is the one visible from Stirling (and from the Ochils) on the south flank of Beinn Odhar, by Uamh Bheag, on the south side of Glenn Artney. I walked through one of the biggest peat bogs I’ve ever encountered while walking up there. Fortunately I went after a warm dry spell, so the walking was OK. But the wind farm was dreadful, and ironically built on masses of peat. Imagine that in Shetland indeed.
“Researchers warn of ‘urgent’ need to understand impact of windfarms on precious peatlands
There is an urgent need to assess the potential impact of windfarms being installed on precious and vulnerable peatlands, according to a new study.”
Mark, ‘re your article May 22 When Green Goes Bad – “2015 Scottish Ministers have also set aside £250m for restoring 250,000 hectares of peatland by 2030” . Maybe the profs’ at Trent should get them on board they can restore the land in 15 years while nature takes hundreds of years !
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