Offshore Wind Farms Will Leave the UK Feeling Blue

Despite their importance, around 2-7% of global blue carbon sinks are lost annually - four times the rate of loss of rainforests. Building massive turbines near such resources will only exacerbate the damage and release huge amounts of CO2 into the atmosphere.

Sixty-three individual policy initiatives are employed by the UK Government to address the energy and climate change agenda. Mother Green and her hysteria machine successfully convinced policymakers that the unbridled deployment of renewable technologies would reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Only wind power could be rolled-out fast enough to even attempt to meet emissions reduction targets, so the UK now has 415 operational wind farms, consisting of 4,500 turbines. According to the UK Wind Energy Database, another 3,500 turbines are consented or currently under construction.

Groupthink - the practice of thinking or making decisions as a group, resulting typically in unchallenged, poor-quality decision-making - unquestionably drove the rush for wind and blinded by planet-saving romanticism, the environmental lobby became the mouthpiece of the wind industry. It conjures memories of Lenin, who branded Western socialists as 'useful idiots' when their blind ideology aided the realpolitik aims of the Soviet Union.

Even politicians were duped. Opposing wind farms was 'socially unacceptable' according to Ed Miliband and the majority kept silent as prophecies of impending doom convinced us to give way to thousands of turbines.

Nevertheless, as turbines multiply, objectors are less frequently discounted as out-of-touch aesthetes, sentimentalists and nimbyists. In Scotland, leading scientists have lambasted turbines built in forested areas and on deep peatland, which stores 55kg of carbon per cubic metre - three times as much as tropical rainforest.

Europe's largest onshore wind farm, Whitelee Wind Farm, was not only built on the deep peatland of Eaglesham Moor, south of Glasgow, but the Forestry Commission revealed that over 1,500 acres of forest were felled to facilitate the project. The irreparable damage caused to natural carbon sinks means that more CO2 was released into the atmosphere than would ever be saved by turbines.

Despite the huge outlay on turbines, DEFRA reported that the UK's carbon footprint in 2009 was actually 20% greater than in 1990. The Global Warming Policy Foundation found that a temperature rise would be postponed by a mere 66 hours by 2100 despite costing £120 billion per year in wind power investment. With this damning evidence, many observers predict the imminent end of the wind farm scam.

Wind energy has not, however, been completely consigned to the Gerald Ratner book of botched businesses. Developers are now industrialising our fragile marine environment with bigger, more expensive turbines that will supposedly harvest this 'free' resource more efficiently whilst appeasing interfering luddites. In reality, bigger turbines will only mean bigger environmental impacts.

In 2011, there were 1,371 grid connected offshore turbines in Europe, spread across fifty-three wind farms in ten countries, producing just 0.4% of the EU's total annual electricity consumption. In 2012, construction began on another 18 offshore wind farms with 293 turbines.

In the UK, offshore wind capacity will soon expand exponentially as the Government strives to meet renewable energy commitments. Unfortunately, the environmental impacts of such a plan could be catastrophic.

The term 'blue carbon' is relatively unheard-of but its environmental importance is unrivalled. Blue carbon stores are the peatlands of the sea - natural carbon sinks that absorb and store millions of tonnes of carbon.

Every day, 22 million metric tonnes of CO2 is absorbed by the oceans. An estimated 55% of all atmospheric carbon which becomes sequestered in natural systems is cycled into our seas. Blue carbon ecosystems, which include seagrass meadows, kelp forests, saltmarshes and mangrove swamps, store up to 70% of the carbon permanently stored in the marine realm and UK waters are home to over 20% of all seagrass meadows in north-west Europe.

Despite their importance, around 2-7% of global blue carbon sinks are lost annually - four times the rate of loss of rainforests. Building massive turbines near such resources will only exacerbate the damage and release huge amounts of CO2 into the atmosphere.

The pro-wind lobby maintain that most UK seagrass meadows grow in depths of 0-5 metres and will not be affected. However, shallow-water wind farms already exist in the UK - Gunfleet Sands, Kentish Flats and Scroby Sands wind farms all have turbines in depths ranging from 0-11m. In any case, turbines can impact these ecosystems even if they are not built directly on top of them.

When excavating the seabed for the foundations necessary to keep turbines upright in stormy seas, huge amounts of sediment will be introduced into the water column. Larger sediment will be deposited close to the turbines, smothering all life and creating a 'dead-spot' around the development. Finer sediment will be easily transported by unpredictable waves and currents and deposited elsewhere, often in shallow inshore waters. Ill-informed environmentalists claim that new, safe habitats will be created for marine species, but arguing that installing turbines in a stable ecosystem will increase the populations of living organisms is akin to arguing that installing large industrial turbines in the middle of a pristine forest will increase populations of birds and badgers!

The accelerated transformation of our seascapes into vast, rusting electricity factories is a philosophy of fools. Arguing that the cost of inaction is greater than the cost of action may sound convincing at first, but protecting our natural carbon stores - peatlands, forests and blue carbon sinks - is priceless.

Even in the unlikely event that climate change targets are achieved with wind power, it will be a Pyrrhic victory. The Government are gambling with onshore wind energy and we will lose. We must find what is right for the UK and until then, a greener future must be built on the strong foundations of energy conservation and energy efficiency.

Oscar Wilde famously said that 'experience is one thing you can't get for nothing'. The UK has already experienced the unrelenting imposition of wind power and it most certainly did not come for nothing. Renewable energy companies are the only ones who learned from the onshore wind experiment, they aptly learned to that harvest the lucrative subsidy regimes before the anti-wind intelligencia is mobilised. They also recognised that the sound carries twice as far when someone else blows your horn and they are happy to sit by whilst misguided environmentalists fight their corner.

Where is the value in destroying some of our most important and fragile ecosystems in order to build wind turbines that will struggle to last 20 years? This is yet another example of green groupthink conquering common sense.


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