Reshaping Public Policy for the Development of Scottish Windfarms

The Scottish Government is aiming to generate all of its electricity through renewable energy sources by 2020.

Wind farmResearch lead by Dr Jo Smith at the University of Aberdeen has produced a freely available tool – the Windfarm Carbon Calculator – that has contributed to the planning process for windfarm developments in Scotland.

In particular, windfarms situated on peatlands, usually located on exposed sites and less productive than managed mineral soils, offer high energy returns and reduced investment costs. However, one hectare of peatland can contain 5,000 tonnes of biologically active carbon. Installation of wind turbines can rapidly decompose peat, releasing carbon into the atmosphere - thus lengthening the carbon payback period - and destroying sensitive wildlife habitats.

In changing public policy and planning regulations, and informing all corners of the public debate, Aberdeen’s calculator has helped the Government fulfil its pledge to become “the green energy powerhouse of Europe” while protecting some of the country’s most environmentally fragile areas. It continues to guide the actions of politicians, planners, the wind industry, NGOs and community groups.

I am delighted that by making carbon calculations easy, we have helped to move carbon up the agenda in the public debate over windfarms”
Dr Jo Smith

Find out more

  • Dr Jo Smith's biography and publications
  • Windfarm Carbon Calculator 
  • Smith JU, Smith P, Wattenbach M, Zaehle S, Hiederer R, Jones RJA, Montanarella L, Rounsevell MDA, Reginster I, Ewert F. (2005). Projected changes in mineral soil carbon of European croplands and grasslands, 1990-2080. Global Change Biology, 11, 2141–2152.
  • Smith, JU, Nayak, DR, Smith, P. (2012). Avoid constructing wind farms on peat. Nature 33(489).