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Massive increase in wind turbines on horizon for UK

Nearly 10,000 wind turbines will be spinning on land and sea by 2020 if Britain is to meet a new renewable-energy target announced yesterday.

The estimated fivefold increase in the number of turbines would be required to meet a new renewable-energy target for the UK under a plan detailed by the European Commission.

Under the proposals, which are still to be agreed by member states, the UK would have to ensure at least 15 per cent of energy – in the form of electricity, heating and fuel – will come from renewable resources.

Given limited scope to reduce fossil fuels used for transport and heating, renewable electricity supplies will need to make up between 30 and 40 per cent of the total.

This could potentially mean a total of 5,200 turbines on land and 4,000 on sea, plus a mix of about 5,000 wave, tidal, and small run-of-river hydro and biomass devices by 2020, generating up to 46 gigawatts – or around 37 per cent of electricity demand.

At present, there are 1,800 turbines on land, producing about 1.9 gigawatts of electricity, while offshore schemes are only starting to be developed.

There were conflicting estimates of how much the plan, which also affects gas for heating and transport fuel, would cost.

José Manuel Barroso, the EC president, claimed it would cost every European £2.20 a week, but a Eurosceptic think-tank pointed to a leaked government document which stated the package could cost UK households up to £730 a year. However, the EC said the measures were a vital step in the fight against global warming and other countries must now join the effort.

Mr Barroso said: “Responding to the challenge of climate change is the ultimate political test for our generation.

“Our mission, indeed our duty, is to provide the right policy framework for transformation to an environment-friendly European economy and to continue to lead the international action to protect our planet.”

He also said it would curb the EU’s rising dependency on imports of fossil fuels.

“We do not want to be dependent on regimes that are not our friends and want to protect ourselves from them,” he said.

The British Wind Energy Association (BWEA) said that while at the moment there were only 2.5 gigawatts of wind turbine capacity – the actual electricity produced is less than this depending on the wind – schemes totalling 16 gigawatts were in the planning system.

It forecast that by 2020, 13 gigawatts should come from onshore wind and 20 gigawatts from offshore wind, totalling 27 per cent of electricity demand with sources such as wave, tidal, hydro and biomass providing an additional 8 to 10 per cent.

Maria McCaffery, chief executive of BWEA, said: “This is a revolution for the UK’s energy supply. Wind energy is the next North Sea oil. Britain could be a world leader in renewable energy if we have the will to make this vision a reality.”

Scotland key to Britain’s green power goals

SCOTLAND will make a “big contribution” to the UK’s renewable- energy target, industry experts said yesterday.

It is estimated Scotland could generate between eight and nine gigawatts of renewable electricity by 2020, helped by strong winds, waves and tidal flows.

This would meet about half the demand in Scotland. There is scope for much more to be produced if there are technological developments in ways of storing electricity, such as hydrogen fuel cells, new types of batteries and even using compressed air.

Researchers have found that Scotland could produce a massive 60 gigawatts of renewable power. This compares with the present electricity generating capacity of 11 gigawatts from all sources, including coal-fired and nuclear power stations.

Jason Ormiston, of Scottish Renewables, said: “I cannot see the UK targets being met without a big contribution from Scotland – and not just the north-west of Scotland; there’s an awful lot of activity in southern Scotland. Longer term, we are looking at wave, tidal and offshore wind.”

Winds on the northern and western isles tend to blow about half the time, compared with 20 per cent or less in some parts of England.

“It’s windy more of the time, it’s wavey more of the time and the Pentland Firth is an enormous resource in terms of tidal energy,” Mr Ormiston said.

The SNP-led Scottish Government set a higher target for renewable electricity generation than the rest of the UK, partly because of the desire to exploit the potential of the fledgling marine energy industry.

Jim Mather, the energy minister, said: “The Scottish Government endorses fully the European Commission’s ambitions and
targets for renewable energy.

We can make a significant contribution to meeting the UK’s agreed share of the EU target. Scotland has huge renewable- energy potential, with unrivalled wave, tidal and wind energy resources.

“We have ambitious targets to generate 50 per cent of electricity from renewables by 2020 and are developing an action plan for the production of renewable heat.”


EU LEADERS last year agreed to meet a “triple 20” challenge – get 20 per cent of all energy from renewables; cut greenhouse emissions to 20 per cent below 1990 levels; and increase energy efficiency by 20 per cent – by 2020.

However, because the UK has such a small renewable- energy sector, the first of the three targets was set at a less ambitious 15 per cent for Britain yesterday.

Some European countries are already well above the targets.

By Ian Johnston
Environment Correspondent

The Scotsman

23 January 2008