Backpage: The last word in wind -- January 2019

Barn owls settle down in Scotland -- while UN climate talks are still looking for the ideal venue; plus COP 24 figures and facts.

New home… A barn owl at Crystal Rig is being ringed for identification purposes (pic: Natural Power)

Barn owls settle down in Scotland…

The Crystal Rig project in the Scottish borders is one of the UK’s biggest onshore wind farms. It started operating in 2003 with 20 Nordex N80/2500 turbines and another five were added in 2007.

The installation of 60 Siemens SWT-2.3 turbines by 2010 took overall capacity just above the 200MW mark, while a further 9-18 turbine extension is now being assessed.

But it’s the project’s environmental record that distinguishes it from other wind farms. Its minimal impact on the visual landscape won it the 2004 Best Renewable Project prize in the Green Energy awards.

More recently, the effects of its ornithological monitoring plan, a condition for construction consent, have been bearing fruit.

The monitoring plan specified a requirement for artificial nesting baskets for long-eared owls, to compensate for the loss of their nesting habitat in the areas of forestry felled to allow for the wind farm’s construction.

In truth, this was a conifer plantation in poor condition, and no long-eared owls had been spotted in the area. But barn owls have been making the wind farm their home in increasing numbers.

Four pairs of barn owls bred at Crystal Rig in 2018, two of them occupying nests installed by the project’s operator, Natural Power.

A total of 12 hatchlings and nine eggs have been recorded across the site, despite one pair producing a clutch of infertile eggs.

"Supporting the barn owls by provisioning artificial nest sites is vital, not only for breeding birds, but also for non-breeders and fledged youngsters that would use boxes for hiding and roosting, helping to increase their chance of survival," said Pawel Plonczkier, environmental consultant at Natural Power.

…But climate talks still looking for venue

Was Katowice really a suitable venue for the latest round of UN climate change talks?

It lies in the heart of Poland’s richest coal reserves, hosts a colliery museum, and is around 20km from a new mine shaft that is being built at a cost of €320 million.

Brazil was due to host the 2019 summit, but has abandoned those plans under new climate-change denying president Jair Bolsonaro. Chile and Costa Rica are thought to be considering alternative bids.

The UK, supporting shale-gas exploration regardless of protests, is apparently keen to host the 2020 event.

COP24 figures and facts

4 Number of countries — US, Russia, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait — that refused to "welcome" IPCC report spelling out the dangers of breaching a 1.5ºC temperature rise

$200bn Amount the World Bank pledged over the next five years to help developing countries cut emissions and adapt to the effects of climate change

12 years Length of time in which global warming can be restricted to a maximum of 1.5ºC, beyond which the risks of drought, flood and extreme weather events rise significantly

30 Number of hours after the deadline until sufficient agreement was reached and the conference ended

Quote of the month

"Almost ten years since I was last at these climate negotiations, nothing much seems to have changed. We are still saying the same old words. Still making the same tedious points"

Mohamed Nasheed, former president of the Maldives and now their lead climate negotiator