Construction is under way at Whitelee, near Eaglesham, on Europe’s largest wind farm, with the first Siemens-manufactured turbines now in place. When it is completed in 2009, this wind farm will have an installed capacity of 322MW, will apparently produce enough electricity to supply 200,000 homes and will cost ScottishPower £300 million.
Is this good news for Scotland? Well, it has been labelled by some wind enthusiasts as the “Saudi Arabia of wind”. Certainly, we have much more than our fair share of wind, and Saudi has the world’s greatest reserves of oil. Indeed, this year Saudi Arabia will earn about £75 billion from sales of oil.
So how much will Scotland “earn” from this giant wind farm? With the high-value turbines having been manufactured abroad, I reckon more than 75 per cent of the total value of the project will be spent outside Scotland. How many permanent jobs will it produce? No more than a handful. Not a lot there for Scotland from the exploitation of its wind resource, though the local landowner will do quite well.
How will foreign-owned ScottishPower fare? The electricity produced by this wind farm will earn it one renewable obligation certificate (ROC), for each MWhr. These can be traded at about £40 each. This is the rather opaque subsidy mechanism introduced by the Westminster government to encourage investment in new renewables. Most people have never heard of ROCs, but they are paying for them in their electricity bills.
The Whitelee wind farm should net ScottishPower about £40 million a year in subsidy, which, of course, will be in addition to what it gets from selling electricity. As this subsidy regime is to run for the next 20 years, I think ScottishPower will do quite well out of the Whitelee wind farm.
Yes, Scotland may well be the Saudi of wind, but at least the Saudi government makes sure the Saudi people benefit from the exploitation of their oil much more than the oil companies.
NICK DEKKER, Nairn Way, Cumbernauld
13 december 2007
|Wind Watch relies entirely
on User Funding