Nearly 16 million trees have been felled on public land in Scotland to make way for supposedly “climate-smart” wind turbines. It is unclear what impact this massive deforestation is having on biodiversity.
Mairi Gougeon, Minister for Rural Affairs, estimates that at least 15.7 million trees have been felled on land owned and managed by the Scottish Government since the turn of the millennium – that’s more than 1,700 trees a day.
The minister argues that there are policies and strategies in place to protect woodland and says that wind farm developers will be expected to carry out “compensatory planting elsewhere” to make up for the many trees felled.
However, the Conservative opposition is unimpressed, arguing that these high figures will take the public by surprise and that many citizens have already expressed concerns about the development.
Scotland already has enough wind power to produce 8.4 GW of electricity – more than half the UK’s total. But the ruling SNP party wants to expand the farms and generate another 8-12 GW of electricity – even if it means clearing more forest.
Wilderness conservation groups are highly critical of the development, pointing out that the environmental standards set for siting new wind farms in wilderness areas are so low as to be virtually impossible to meet. At the same time, Scottish wind turbine manufacturers have announced plans to produce even larger turbines than before – almost 260 meters high.
So far, it is estimated that at least 7,850 hectares of land have been cleared since the turn of the millennium to make way for wind farms, but it is difficult to say how much more land will be cleared before the expansion is deemed sufficient.
Forestry and Land Scotland points out that around 500 million trees have been planted since the turn of the millennium and that the number of trees felled to make way for wind farms is no more than would normally be expected to be felled in a year.