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14 million trees axed to make way for wind farms

  • Mar 25, 2020
The Herald

By David Bol

NEARLY 14 million trees have been chopped down across Scotland to make way for wind turbines.

The Scottish Government expects to have the capacity to generate 100 per cent of electricity for the whole country from renewable sources this year – but concerns have been raised about finding a balance between green energy and sustaining forests.

Statistics released by Forestry and Land Scotland show 13.9 million trees have been axed to make way for 21 wind farm projects since 2000.

Six of the wind farms have been built in Argyll and Bute and three apiece in both Dumfries and Galloway and East Ayrshire.

The Highlands has seen three wind farms built in place of trees, as has Moray, while South Lanarkshire has had two constructed in place of forestry over the last 20 years.South Ayrshire’s Arecleoch wind farm has also been built at the expense of trees.

The Scottish Government has moved to reassure that more trees have been planted, but it is unknown what proportion of these are mature plants that play a bigger role in turning carbon into oxygen.

A conservation charity, which has planted almost two million trees across the Highlands, believes both wind farms and trees are key to reducing carbon levels.

Steve Micklewright, chief executive of Trees for Life, said: “It seems deeply ironic trees are being felled to make way for wind farms when both healthy growing forests and renewable energy are important in resolving the global climate emergency.

“Woodlands that are ancient or of high conservation value should not suffer from mass felling because other rare and endangered plants and animals can be lost too.

“In other locations, such as plantations where the trees would have been harvested anyway, a pragmatic approach would be to ensure the timber is used for buildings or other uses that will not release the carbon stored in the trees back into the atmosphere.”

More than 3.5m trees have been chopped down in Argyll and Bute since 2000, 2.3m across the Highlands and Islands and more than 800,000 in Grampian region.

Half of all energy produced, including heating, is set to be provided from renewable energy by 2030.

As of the end of 2018, the total capacity of all renewable electricity in Scotland, including wind and solar, was 10.9GW.

A spokesman for Forestry and Land Scotland (FLS) said: “Renewable energy and forests are key to Scotland’s contribution to mitigating climate change and FLS is successfully managing both elements.

“The figure for trees felled for wind farm development on Scotland’s forests and land, as managed by FLS, over the past 20 years is 13.9m. However, it should be noted these trees – being a commercial crop – will eventually have been felled and passed into the timber supply chain in any case.

“That figure for felled trees should also be contrasted with that for the number of trees planted in Scotland over the years 2000-2019, a total of 272,000,000, and renewable energy developments fit well with this.

“To date, the amount of woodland removed across Scotland’s national forests and land, managed by FLS, for wind farm development is not even one per cent of the total woodland area.”

Concerns have also been raised that peatland is being dug up to

Continued on Page 2

CREDIT: David Bol


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