Experts spell out the ‘green bounty’ of wind

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More wind farms could be the answer to reducing carbon emissions and climate change impact in the UK, researchers have said.

“Clean” energy from wind farms in the UK prevented almost 36 million tonnes of carbon emissions in six years, a study from Edinburgh University has found.

This, say researchers, is the equivalent to taking 2.3 million cars off the road, and demonstrates how wind power plays a “key” role in curbing emissions from other energy sources.

“Until now, the impact of clean energy from wind farms was unclear,” said study leader Camilla Thomson. “Our findings show that wind plays an effective role in curbing emissions that would otherwise be generated from conventional sources, and it has a key role to play in helping to meet Britain’s need for power.”

Researchers from Edinburgh University studied National Grid figures for power generated by various sources including wind, coal and gas between 2008 and 2014. The study, they say, is the “most accurate of its kind to date” as it uses real, rather than estimated, energy output figures.

The university claimed the study suggests UK government figures “underestimate” carbon savings from wind turbines by 3.4 million tonnes - equivalent to emissions from 220,000 cars. The study also claims the method used by the Scottish Government “overestimates” the savings.

Researchers said their findings support building more wind farms in the UK to help cut carbon emissions and reduce climate change impact. They said the study suggests wind power could play a “key” role in meeting the UK’s future energy needs.

A spokesman for the UK Government’s Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy said there was a firm commitment to a low carbon future. Nearly £52 billion has been invested in renewables since 2010, while there was a further commitment to spend £730 million per year over the course of this parliament.

The analysis, published in Energy Policy and supported by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, was welcomed by WWF Scotland.

Director Lang Banks said: “It’s great to finally have an independent and authoritative study that puts a more accurate figure on the massive amounts of climate-damaging carbon emissions being avoided thanks to wind power. We’ve long-known that wind power and other renewables were making a major contribution to reducing carbon pollution, but it’s fantastic to learn more clearly just how huge that contribution is.

“However, with electricity generation accounting for less than a quarter of our climate change emissions, it’s now time to begin to reap the same benefits by increasing the use of renewables in our heat and transport sectors.”

The study comes as experts warn surging methane emmissions threaten to undermine efforts to slow climate change.

Scientists from France’s University of Versailles Saint Quentin claim concentrations of the powerful greenhouse gas are now growing faster than at any time in the past two decades.

Urgent action is needed, they say, to avoid this jeopardising efforts to tackle global warming.