RenewableUK Cymru is focusing on the important role onshore wind can play in restoring Wales’ peatlands for #WalesClimateWeek2023 this year.
In a healthy state, peatlands are powerful natural carbon sinks, supporting a diverse range of plant and animal species and helping to prevent flooding. However, degraded peatlands release carbon dioxide back into the atmosphere, undermining actions being taken to combat the climate emergency. Natural Resources Wales (NRW) estimates that 90% of deep peatland in Wales is in poor condition, with total peatland emissions at around 550,000 t.CO2 e/yr, demonstrating the overwhelming importance of rapid restorative action.
Wind farms are typically situated in remote, upland areas, often alongside degraded peatlands. Our latest report, ‘A Future for Healthy Peat and Clean Energy’ highlights the work renewable energy projects from Vattenfall, RWE and Pennant Wales are already undertaking to restore these damaged landscapes. At Pen y Cymoedd, the largest onshore wind farm in England and Wales, the wind farm funds a 25-year £3 million habitat restoration scheme, including 150ha (roughly equivalent to 150 rugby pitches) of active peatland restoration.
Unfortunately, a number of current wind farm projects in the planning pipeline are facing difficulties with the planning system, due to a lack of clear and consistent guidance around peatland restoration.
RenewableUK Cymru is highlighting the steps Welsh Government and its statutory nature conservation advisors could take to unlock the opportunity from onshore wind, hitting goals for both nature recovery and renewable energy.
RenewableUK Cymru’s Director Jess Hooper said:
“The UK Climate Change Committee has recommended that the Welsh Government ensures 58% of peatland is under restoration by 2035, rising to 79% by 2050. Protecting our degraded peatlands is a high priority for Welsh Government. Ambitious targets have been set for restoration through the National Peatland Action Programme (NPAP) over the coming years. However, managing the process – and paying for it – is a costly, and specialised undertaking. Public funding for this beyond 2025 is uncertain.
“With the right enabling actions, wind farm developers could be important partners in providing a reliable and consistent additional funding source to help meet Wales' peat restoration targets.”