Wind Power in the UK (PDF). - Sustainable Development Commission

sd.commission.org.uk

Wind Power in the UK (PDF). - Sustainable Development Commission

7 Wildlife and ecologyThe use of brownfield sites for winddevelopments is likely to be far lesscontroversial in environmental terms, byavoiding some of the ecological and landscapeimpacts mentioned. There are numerouslocations – for example on industrial sites ordisused mines and quarries – that present viableopportunities for wind farms. Such sites mayalso be close to large electricity loads, such asoperational factories, or urban areas.It is difficult to generalise on the significance ofspecific habitat loss, since it depends on theparticular location, habitat types and the pastmanagement. The loss of a species poor,common habitat is generally less significantthan that of rarer or more diverse types. Habitatloss comes from the turbine bases plus thenecessary access tracks, borrow pits xxvii andquarries in wind farm development. Lossescaused by connection to the grid depend on theterrain and the method of connection –underground cable, wooden pole line or pylonline. Above ground connection generally causesless habitat damage than undergroundconnection as it can follow existing tracks or lowvalue habitats. However, visual impact is greaterfrom over-ground connections and there may bean associated collision risk for birds. It istherefore essential that the options are assessedon a case-by-case basis.Not all habitat loss is necessarily permanent ifthe location is carefully chosen and correctconstruction methods are used. Habitats can becreated or returned above turbine bases and onconstruction compounds during the life of thewind farm, and, for sites not protected under EUlaw, the compensation provided for habitat losscan provide benefits for the future managementof surrounding habitats. However, even theprovision of various compensation habitats willnot always replace what is lost. Sensitivehabitats, such as active peatland and ancientwoodland, take a long-time to develop and arehard to replicate. For this reason, they are oftenprotected through EU and national designations,and cannot normally be compensated for.7.3 PeatTwo important issues for upland habitats are thepotential effects on the water regime of peatbodies underlying peatland habitats. Peat is anon-renewable fossil fuel and as such should beprotected from degradation – serious damagecan result in the release of methane, a potentgreenhouse gas in itself, which could reduce thecarbon savings from the installed wind turbines.It is also a valuable habitat, so issues relating tohabitat conservation also need to be consideredearly in the process.Wind farms, and in particular access roads, havethe potential to alter the hydrology of thepeatland, leading to drying and cracking, andpotential instability in peat bodies, which canresult in the down-slope mass movement ofpeat, often called a peat slide. The key toavoiding deleterious effects on peat bodies isconsideration of the wind farm location, schemedesign and environmentally sensitiveconstruction methods. These should beaddressed by the EIA where appropriate. Again,conservation bodies can help advise on theappropriateness of proposed developments –see the links at the end of this chapter.7.4 WaterIndirect habitat loss through pollution andconstruction disturbance can also occur as aresult of careless construction practice. Duringxxvii A borrow pit is a traditional name for a small quarry, often in the side of a small hill next to a track from which stone orother construction material is removed to allow the track to be constructed.sustainable development commissionWind Power in the UK 67

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