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Environmental resilience and adaption to land-based renewable developments

  • Supervisors: Dr Susan Waldron (Uinversity of Glasgow), Hugh Flowers (University of Glasgow) Andrew Henderson (Newcastle University), David Gilvear (University of Stirling)
  • Sponsor Company: SSE Renewables
  • PhD Student: Ben Smith
  • This student has graduated and the project is complete

The resilience of the environment to hosting land-based renewables is not well understood. This is particularly important in Scotland as our peatland landscapes host many windfarms due to their suitable wind speeds, but construction may alter soil C storage capacity. This studentship aims to better understand this interaction and generate data that can be used to refine the carbon payback calculator used in windfarm planning decisions. In September 2010 Scottish and Southern Energy Renewables (SSER) commenced construction of the 35 turbine Gordonbush Windfarm on an upland peatland site within the Gordonbush Estate, Brora, Sutherland.

Contributing to the wider habitat management plan, key objectives of this project are i) to quantify dissolved and particulate aquatic C and sediment losses from the site and ii) to assess the effectiveness of drain blocking (a common land management approach to minimise C export. Paleo-limnological reconstruction of past export is being used to contextualise modern day exports. This 3.5 year research project is funded by Scottish and Southern Energy Renewables, Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council and Energy Technology Partnership.  Although Gordonbush is the study site, the understanding of environmental response generated in this project supports future decision-making, where the C payback of construction costs is a consideration.