The carbon payback times for wind turbines are much shorter than previously thought, according to international research carried out at Point and Sandwick Trust’s community-owned wind farm.

German student Katharina Lutz found the turbines at Beinn Ghrideag (photographed above by Sandie Maciver) had a payback time of just 47 days – a drastic reduction on the previous, widely accepted, estimate of 2.3 years.

‘Carbon payback’ is a term referring to the time it takes for the negative environmental impact from the construction of a wind farm on peatland to be offset by the positive impact of generating clean energy instead of burning fossil fuel. When peat is disturbed for large concrete foundations to be laid for turbines, greenhouse gases are released into the atmosphere.

Katharina carried out her research in the Autumn, with academic support from Alasdair MacLeod of Lews Castle College UHI and financial support from Point and Sandwick Trust.

Beinn Ghrideag developer Calum MacDonald said: “This is a hugely important piece of research, especially for wind farm projects in the Highlands and Islands. There is mounting evidence that the climatic conditions we have means that peat recovery is generally faster in the Highlands and Islands than elsewhere in the UK and Europe.

“We are very proud of the reclamation we did at Beinn Ghrideag and we think it’s an exemplary model for the industry to follow. Community-owned projects will always be more conscientious and environmentally-minded because it’s our land and our future that we are working on.”