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United Kingdom

New research on carbon payback

New research commissioned by the Scottish government shows that the carbon payback for building wind farms on peat can be less than three years. Wind projects in Scotland are often sited on peat land, which covers vast swathes of the country. These hold large stocks of carbon that is lost during construction, due to excavations and drainage of the area. A report by the MacAuley Institute and Aberdeen University states that, provided sites are well managed and carefully selected, the carbon saved from wind farms displacing fossil fuels in the generating mix will pay back the carbon lost from disruption of the peat and the carbon emitted during manufacture of the turbines within 43 months. The payback time would be halved if the wind farms were displacing 100% coal-fired generation. The report's findings are disputed by a Scottish Conservative member of the European Parliament, Struan Stevenson, who campaigns against wind farms on peat land. Struan contests the report's assumption that wind farms will be decommissioned after 25 years. Most sites will be repowered to ensure they last for 50 years or longer, he maintains. He also takes issue with the report's assumptions on site restoration, condemning "the spurious idea that deep peat, which has taken several millennia to form, can be bulldozed, dug up and drained and then somehow restored to a fully functioning bog within three years." Jason Ormiston from lobby group Scottish Renewables, says the report's findings reveal that calls for a blanket moratorium on all peat land are misguided. "It's time to move away from the myths that perpetuate the debate around wind farms and continue the dialogue with real environmentalists about how, not if, we should develop wind farms on peat land areas," he says.

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