Culter Fell and Surrounding Peatlands Wind Farm

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 Fraser Hughes 16 Feb 2021

A new wind farm is being proposed which affects the Culter Fell, Hudderstone and surrounding peatlands area. You can view details of the development here:

https://graysidewindfarm.co.uk/

I am generally a big supporter of renewable energy, and would acknowledge that on-shore wind is an important part of that, however I find myself strongly opposed to this development specifically. The siting of many of the turbines and access roads is on sensitive peatlands; obviously, a habitat in significant decline but one international recognised as extremely important and a resource for capturing and storing CO2.

The Scottish Government's Climate Change Plan sets targets to restore 50,000 hectares of degraded peatland by 2020, increasing to 250,000 hectares by 2030. I believe the proposed development is incompatible with this plan. Peatland restoration has many other benefits including providing an internationally rare habitat, improving water quality and reducing flood risk.

The peatlands in the area of the proposed development are the summer breeding grounds of Curlew and Skylarks, two RSPB Red-listed Species, alongside supporting Snipe, Woodcock, Meadow Pipits, Wheatear and others. The loss of this peatland would be a significant blow to efforts to stop the decline of these birds.

On top of this walks in the area including the Culter Fell - Gathersnow Hill - Hudderstone circuit, as featured on walkhighlands, would be significantly affected. With outdoor exercise, nature and wild spaces being increasingly recognised as extremely important for mental health I feel this is unacceptable.

This development would significantly decrease the wild feeling of the area and remove this resource. I believe this would also be to the economic detriment of the Biggar, Lanark and Coulter area which is heavily reliant on tourists and day trippers.

I have emailed Arcus Consulting and my MSPs with a document on why I believe this development should be opposed, and recommended a different approach, championing biodivisity and recreation for the benefit of nature and local community, similar to that employed by the Borders' Forest Trust at Talla, Carrifran and Corehead, to the developer. If you would like to do similar please PM me and I will happily forward you the email and documents to look at.

Thanks.

Culter Fell

ps. not sure if this is best in the Hilltalk, Access or Off belay Forum. Mods, please feel free to move if you consider appropriate.

 Doug 16 Feb 2021
In reply to Fraser Hughes:

might be helpful if you could correct your title - I thought this was going to be about rewilding rather than a proposed windfarm.

 Fraser Hughes 16 Feb 2021
In reply to Doug:

> might be helpful if you could correct your title - I thought this was going to be about rewilding rather than a proposed windfarm.


****, thanks Doug.

It looks like I'm too late to edit my title. I'll contact the mods to see if they can amend.

Edit: looks like they can. Thanks.

Post edited at 14:45
 Nathan Adam 16 Feb 2021
In reply to Fraser Hughes:

Thanks for this Fraser, I'll be keeping my eye on development as this is very close to where I grew up and Culter Fell was the first hill I ever walked up.

Continually surprised every time I go home by how many more turbines are popping up each year.

Post edited at 14:48
 Eric9Points 16 Feb 2021
In reply to Nathan Adam:

A few years ago it struck me that there isn't a view left in central Scotland that doesn't have a wind turbine in it.

 Lankyman 16 Feb 2021
In reply to Eric9Points:

> A few years ago it struck me that there isn't a view left in central Scotland that doesn't have a wind turbine in it.

I agree. I didn't get north of the border last year but have done so for many years previously. It was astonishing how many of the hills either side of the M8 were being covered by turbines. When me and my ex would travel north we'd usually spend some time exploring the Border hills en route to the Highlands. I'd definitely not bother with some of them now. Scotland seems to be paying a heavy price for going green. If the Howgills had been in Scotland they would have been trashed years back.

 Fraser Hughes 16 Feb 2021
In reply to Lankyman, Eric9point and Nathan Adam:

This, alongside the sighting of turbines on Peatlands, is one of my main objection to this development.

The benefits of access to green, natural and wild (or at least as natural and wild as any of our landscape actually is!) spaces are well documented. It is a false economy if people are forced to travel long distances to reach areas for recreation. A balance needs to be struck and some land retained "undeveloped".

I'm hopeful that the model used by the Borders Forest Trust at Talla, Carrifran and Corehead, balancing conversation, recreation and existing farming interest, can be expanded across more of the Borders and Lanarkshire hills.

 Eric9Points 16 Feb 2021
In reply to Lankyman:

> I agree. I didn't get north of the border last year but have done so for many years previously. It was astonishing how many of the hills either side of the M8 were being covered by turbines. When me and my ex would travel north we'd usually spend some time exploring the Border hills en route to the Highlands. I'd definitely not bother with some of them now. Scotland seems to be paying a heavy price for going green. If the Howgills had been in Scotland they would have been trashed years back.

Yes, I guess what troubles me most about the windfarms are the access roads. Long after the turbines have gone much of the Central Scottish uplands will be Criss crossed by these tracks, the spaces are no longer empty and won't be for decades if not centuries.

I am not against wind power as such although I do wonder if there aren't better forms of CO2 free electricity production and wonder whether more onshore development is really necessary or whether offshore could be used instead.

In reply to Fraser Hughes:

If windfarm developments in Powys are anything to go by, the go-ahead for this development may well be a pre-ordained fait accompli, despite weight of local and national opposition that may be revealed at a public inquiry. What the public thinks seems to be of little consequence compared to the desires of those who own land, and stand to gain massively from it.

There's some evidence that in a comprehensive carbon audit, more carbon is emitted by erecting a windfarm of this scale on peatland, than the electricity it is likely to generate during its lifetime, if all is properly taken into account. That would include turbine manufacture and transport, huge concrete foundations required and the construction of upland infrastructure roads. And of course, associated peat disturbance and removal:

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/273824729_Wind_farms_on_undegraded_peatlands_are_unlikely_to_reduce_future_carbon_emissions

Like you, I am a big supporter of renewable energy, but siting big scale windfarms on peat substrate is not the best way to achieve zero carbon targets, especially now given that the cost of offshore construction is nearing parity with onshore. If it has to be onshore, then siting them on mineral soils (as opposed to peat) would stand a better chance of carbon neutrality.

 tallsteve 17 Feb 2021
In reply to Fraser Hughes:

At the risk of making myself unpopular ...

Its a terrible dichotomy to deal with; save the planet or save the place where you take your dog for a shit.

Often detractors to such development drive gas guzzling cars, walk around their house in the middle of winter in t-shirt and shorts and leave every light on in every room.  Even if they drive electric vehicles where is the electricity coming from?

What evidence is there that turbines do not sit next to wildlife?  Dogs off the lead are pretty bad for ground nesting birds and small mammals.  Any such development requires some pretty expensive wildlife reports and impact assessments.  Maybe worth looking at.

Its a pity fusion power hasn't quite made it yet.  Until then there has to be sacrifices if you take the climate emergency seriously.

The Scottish Highlands are one of Europe's last wildernesses so I do feel for the argument, its a tricky balance between the long term future and the here and now.

Off shore wind farms have been incredibly successful and I wonder what is required to make that route easier for development than popping turbines up on a hill?

 Fraser Hughes 17 Feb 2021
In reply to AllanMac:

Thanks. That's a very interesting link.

 Fraser Hughes 17 Feb 2021
In reply to tallsteve:

That's why in my objections I've been careful to highlight my opposition is to the sighting of this development specifically.

Onshore wind has, at least in the short to medium term, to be a part of any future carbon-neutral electricity generation plan. However, there are plenty of better sites, former industrial sites, old commercial conifer plantations, areas of mineral soils (as highlighted by AllanMac) to name a few, which would have a significantly lower environmental impact than building on peatlands.

I believe there is also much untapped potential for small scale local urban wind turbines too.

Respectfully, your argument about dog walking, not that I have a dog, is IMHO a bit of a strawman; anyone walking their dog through a significant area of deep peat bog must be a masochist or a madman! Also, whilst hill walking and dog walking do, obviously, disturb ground nesting birds, I don't think that can be compared to the level of disturbance and long term damage resulting from the bulldozering, extracting and drying out of deep peat required to build roads and turbines on these areas; and that's before we mention the CO2 release whilst doing so.

TL;DR. its not about NIMBY-ism, or opposing all wild farms - just poorly located ones!

Post edited at 12:23
 tlouth7 17 Feb 2021
In reply to AllanMac:

That's a great study, but it does seem rather circular to argue that future windfarms will not produce a net decrease in emissions compared to a projected UK electricity generation mix which includes those windfarms.

Also the examples which see long carbon payback periods are for deep excavation of the peat which they make clear is at the extreme end of the potential for building foundations etc. For shallower excavation as seen in existing floating windfarms the carbon benefits are readily apparent.

There is also the possibility of reusing the foundations for another generation of windfarm after the first one on a site has reached its lifetime. I appreciate that the potential benefit of this is hard to quantify at the moment.

I personally see no argument against careful siting of windfarms on peatlands from a carbon perspective. I am not knowledgeable about habitat loss or economics of tourism so can't comment on that.

 tallsteve 17 Feb 2021
In reply to Fraser Hughes:

Thanks for your reply Fraser.  Good points well made.  Always a tricky balancing act wherever the windfarms are placed. 

In reply to tlouth7:

Currently, large scale onshore turbine construction on peat demands substantial foundation depth and breadth, and there's no getting away from the fact that it is disastrous for subsequent carbon release in peat deposits built up over thousands of years. The curing process of concrete also releases huge amounts of CO2. 

One way around the problem might be to use much narrower 'monopiles', which give foundation strength by virtue of depth rather than breadth. This method is used offshore, but I'm unsure if would be as simple to use on hills onshore, given the size and weight of machinery required to construct them.

I take your point about foundation re-use as long as the concrete hasn't degraded over the lifespan of the first turbines due to acidic leaching from the surrounding peat. I agree, a second generation of turbines built on them would be more likely to mitigate the CO2 lost to the air during the first construction, as long as they are the same size.

 EuanM 17 Feb 2021
In reply to Fraser Hughes:

Thanks for posting. These are my local hills and have been real sanctuary to many during the lockdown period. One of the very few places left in South Lanarkshire with at least a little feeling of remoteness. 

My hill run route usually takes me across Gathersnow which offers great views of the surrounding area. 
 

I’m generally pro renewables and of course conscious of the “not in my backyard” mentality. But this genuinely feels like a complete waste of an unspoiled upland area. The hills to the west have already been “developed”, perhaps a line should be drawn there. 

 dread-i 19 Feb 2021
In reply to Eric9Points:

>Yes, I guess what troubles me most about the windfarms are the access roads. Long after the turbines have gone much of the Central Scottish uplands will be Criss crossed by these tracks, the spaces are no longer empty and won't be for decades if not centuries.

Where I live, there are a lot of windfarms. As mentioned, the roads and other infrastructure (some turbines have additional ground level buildings), are not green. To get big turbines up, they need big roads to take big vehicles. This involves moving and depositing thousands of tons of aggregate. These roads cut across many of the natural peat channels and affect drainage.

Once the roads are in place they turn wilderness into semi industrial land. They attract a lot of walkers and mountain bikers, which is good. But also motorbikes, which then go on to chew up some of the natural footpaths. Another concern I have, is the end of life phase. Will they remove the turbines & concrete pads, probably. The roads, probably not. As the land is now semi industrial, with good access roads and power, they'd make lovely sites for executive housing. Grand views, lots of space between houses. I dont know what the covenants are on the land, but it's not much of a leap from a turbine, with a finite life, to a low impact (wooden?) house with a finite life. And another area of wilderness fades away.


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