Wind Farms or Windbags?

The Scottish energy strategy published in December 2017 sets a 2030 target for the equivalent of 50% of the energy for Scotland’s heat, transport and electricity consumption to be supplied by renewable sources. By June of last year, Scotland had installed 8,366 MW from onshore wind and 981 MW from offshore .

In theory, this means that all of Scotland’s 6 GW requirement could be met by wind alone. However, the objection often raised against wind, is that it is unreliable. It does not always blow and often blows too much. These are valid points. But there are other clean energy sources and Scotland is as rich in them as we are in wind power.

The Crown Estate and Scottish Government are behind a £4bn project to build a number of tidal power sites around the Orkney islands and the Pentland Firth, expected to generate the same amount of power as a nuclear power station. That’s 1.2GW of green energy. Some estimates have suggested that a combination of tidal and wave power from the area could produce up to 60GW of power. That would represent 10 times Scotland’s annual electricity usage.

Were Scotland to produce green energy at such levels, exporting the surplus to neighbouring countries and the engineering expertise around the world could contribute more to the Scottish economy than oil and gas do now, with the additional benefit of being sustainable, as well as non-polluting.

The Scottish Government are to be commended for the steps taken so far. They make much of their green credentials and targets for becoming carbon-neutral. Yet they seem to place a higher emphasis on social programmes, equalities legislation  and drug rehabilitation—all of which might be funded from a vibrant green energy sectpr. Are we being subjected to the window dressing of  “greenwash” by wind bags? Is this being treated with the urgency it deserves?

For example, EDF’s Neart na Gaoithe wind farm 15 km off Fife Ness was proposed in 2008 and has et to see a turbine turning. For another, the Pelamis wave generator started in 2004, was tested off Orkney, but went bankrupt in 2014. The technology was taken over by HIE’s Wave Energy Scotland, who have ploughed £41m  into 93 contracts, with little power is coming ashore to date.

Meantime, our neighbours are not hanging about. Just as the Danes pretty much cornered the wind turbine manufacture business over a decade ago, they are building the infrastructure to support major offshore wind farms. Last June, Denmark approved a PFI project between the Danish Energy Agency and Energinet for two energy islands, with a combined capacity of 5 GW. Both energy islands will connect to other countries’ grids for export sales and are to be completed by 2030. One will be built 60 km west of Thorsminde on Denmark’s west coast.

Not to be outdone, our English neighbours are exploiting the shallowness in parts of the North Sea. A Joint Venture Partnership between SSE Renewables and Equinor have started construction work on Dogger Bank A and B 130 km offshore has begun along with the onshore cable route in Yorkshire’s East Riding. By utilising the world’s largest turbines and installation vessel to provide 4.8 GW—“the UK’s largest single source of  renewable energy”.  It is ironic that the northern portion of this area was Scottish waters until the Blair government shifted the maritime boundary, north to transfer 6,000 sq. km. to England in 2000.

Scotland’s prosperity will depend on weaning itself off oil by 2050. It is blessed with more sources of renewables than any of its neighbours. But despite governmental rhetoric, the forward-looking, large scale projects in the sector are happening elsewhere.

Are we serious about our green future—or just a country of toom tabard windbags?


About davidsberry

Local ex-councillor, tour guide and database designer. Keen on wildlife, history, boats and music. Retired in 2017.
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