Alex Salmond declared Scotland on the brink of a renewables revolution yesterday as he gave the go-ahead for the largest wind farm in Europe.
The First Minister told the World Renewable Energy Congress in Glasgow the green light had been given to a 152-turbine project in South Lanarkshire. The chairman of the congress then hailed Mr Salmond as the “saint of renewable energy”.
Mr Salmond now expects Scotland to become the green-energy capital of Europe and a major exporter of renewable energy – a move that could bring billions of pounds into the economy.
With plans lodged for hundreds more wind turbines, as well as Scotland’s huge potential in wave, tidal, hydro and solar power, and biomass, he said approval for the Clyde wind farm “demonstrates that we are only at the start of the renewables revolution in Scotland”.
But sceptics questioned whether Scotland was going in the right direction with its strong focus on wind.
The announcement for the Clyde wind farm near Abington means Scotland will be home to two of the three largest onshore wind farms in Europe.
The 548-megawatt wind farm, which will be capable of powering 320,000 homes, is bigger even than the Whitlee project near Glasgow, which at 322MW is already the second largest in Europe. The largest operational wind farm in Europe is at Guadalajara in Spain.
Mr Salmond’s announcement was met with a round of applause by delegates from more than 80 countries.
It means more than 4.5 gigawatts of renewable energy has been approved in Scotland, putting it just 400MW away from meeting its targets of generating 31 per cent of its electricity demand from renewable sources by 2011.
Mr Salmond told the congress: “The initial target of 31 per cent will be exceeded long before 2011, and by 2011 we will be through that target by a very, very substantial margin.”
He was confident of meeting the target of producing 50 per cent of energy from renewables by 2020. He told The Scotsman: “I am even more confident about that than about the 2011 target. By 2020, we will be able to mobilise some of our gigantic stuff offshore.”
He predicted that, in the future, it will be offshore energy, such as wind, wave and tidal power, that will hold the most potential for Scotland. By about 2050, he forecast that offshore renewables would be able to generate 60GW of power – ten times the amount consumed in Scotland each year.
This means Scotland has the potential to become a huge exporter of renewable energy. Mr Salmond wants to see a sub-sea “supergrid” connecting Scotland with the rest of Europe.
He said that, as well as enabling Scotland to tackle the growing threat of global warming and helping the EU meet its targets of producing 20 per cent of energy from renewables by 2020, it would mean there was an opportunity for the country to benefit. “We are delighted to supply the rest of Europe, but there has to be a benefit,” the First Minister said.
Jason Ormiston, the chief executive of Scottish Renewables, agreed transforming this country into a key exporter of renewables could be “absolutely massive” for the economy.
He said: “We are in a very good position because our demand for electricity is relatively low but the amount we could potentially generate is enormous. There could be a massive market.”
The £600 million Clyde wind-farm development, to be built by Airtricity, part of Scottish and Southern Energy, on either side of the M74, is expected to create 200 jobs during construction.
Martin McAdam, the director of renewable development at Airtricity, said he thought the First Minister had a “great vision for this country”.
Dr Richard Dixon, of WWF Scotland, said: “Given the urgent need to tackle climate change, news that Scotland’s renewable electricity target may be met earlier than expected is welcome.”
But he added that generating more renewable energy is only “part of the solution. To effectively deliver cuts in pollution, efforts to increase the use of renewable energy must run beside a strong Scottish Climate Change Bill.”
Meanwhile a £4.3 million programme funded by the European Commission will be launched at the congress today. It will study how marine energy can be developed commercially.
Government ‘going over the top with wind power’
SCOTLAND is too focused on wind power at the expense of other technology based on saving energy and producing clean electricity, which would also be more economical, according to some leading environmental thinkers.
More than 80 plans are currently lodged for new onshore wind farms in Scotland, which could lead to more than 1,600 extra turbines being built across the country.
About 50 more wind farms already have permission but are yet to be built, bringing about 700 more turbines.
Alex Salmond, the First Minister, has outlined his plans for Scotland to lead the way in Europe, using renewable energy to tackle climate change while boosting the economy.
But as Scotland stands on the brink of a major investment in wind power, Professor Andrew Bain, an economist who was made an OBE for services to the Scottish economy, said the government was going “over the top with wind”.
He said that 50 per cent of Scotland’s energy should be produced by fossil-fuel power stations using carbon capture and storage techniques to collect the damaging emissions, and the other half by a mix of nuclear and renewables. He said: “The primary failing of wind power is that it is intermittent. You can’t rely on it when you need it. If it’s well placed it can operate at 30 per cent of capacity on average.”
He argued that far more focus was needed on carbon capture and storage.
“Most electricity is going to be generated from fossil fuels for the next few decades and we have to find a way of eliminating the carbon emissions from that,” he said.
Unlike Mr Salmond, he believes nuclear is a good option, providing clean energy at low cost.
And he remains sceptical of plans for a supergrid that would enable Scotland to transmit energy to the rest of Europe.
“You have to build a grid. It’s very expensive,” he said. “I don’t think we will be able to produce energy economically for export. The taxpayer or electricity consumer would end up footing the bill.”
Helen McDade, the head of policy for the John Muir Trust, agreed that there was too much emphasis on wind.
She said wind farms should not be built in isolated areas, where it could cost huge amounts to connect to the national grid.
“This is a vastly expensive and hugely wasteful way of going about generating our renewable energy,” she said.
She added that there was no need to build on beauty spots because Scotland was on track to meet its renewable targets.
“A combination of energy-efficiency measures and more green electricity production near where it is required will meet our renewable targets without disfiguring the landscapes,” she said.
Substations key to exporting green energy
AN £84 million project has been completed that will boost the transmission of renewable energy across the UK.
ScottishPower has commission two 400kV primary substations in South Lanarkshire. One – at Elvanfoot – will act as the connection point to the grid for the massive Clyde wind farm project approved by the Scottish Government yesterday.
The two-year project was a core part of a wider programme to increase electricity export capacity from 2,200 megawatts to 2,800MW by 2010. ScottishPower said that with dozens of wind farms in the pipeline, increased access to the national grid and suitable capacity to export the power generated were crucial.
Alan Bryce, the director of energy networks at ScottishPower, said: “This is a significant milestone in the project to increase the capacity of the Scotland- England interconnector. The new substations will facilitate the transmission of a significant amount of renewable energy being produced in Scotland throughout the rest of the UK.”
John Swinney, the Cabinet secretary for finance and sustainable growth, said developing the grid infrastructure would help to “realise the full potential” of renewable energy sources.
Europe ‘has just ten years to prove sea power can work’
EUROPE has only ten years to get it right on wave and tidal power, a leading scientist warned yesterday.
Cameron Johnstone, director of Strathclyde University’s Institute of Energy Systems Research Unit, said:
“The British and Scottish governments have nailed their colours to the mast with admirably ambitious targets for renewable energy.
“But these targets will be unworkable without ocean energy – an industry still in its infancy.
“In many ways the development of ocean energy is following a similar path to oil and wind, except marine is starting with a 20-year time lag and with governments which want marine technology to be commercially viable within ten years.”
Mr Johnstone added: “The challenge for all involved is to speed up the development of ocean energy so 20 years is reduced to just ten.
“With rising oil prices and rising energy demand and the threat of global warming, there’s virtually no time left now for us to get this wrong.”
Coastal developments ‘could create 30,000 jobs’
THE race to harness Britain’s coastal wind energy could lead to the creation of 30,000 jobs, the government said yesterday.
And Malcolm Wicks, the energy minister, said he believed expansion in offshore wind power could cause a surge in employment and attract £3 billion of investment to north-east England alone.
On a visit to the area to unveil the New and Renewable Energy Centre in Blyth, Northumberland, Mr Wicks said the region’s manufacturing expertise could be utilised in green energy.
He added: “Offshore wind will play a significant role in helping us meet our targets for a massive increase in the amount of energy generated from renewables.
“With our plans to increase the financial support for offshore wind, it is further evidence of our commitment to make the UK one of the most attractive places to invest in green energy.”
Mr Wicks said the Californian energy giant Clipper Wind planned to develop the world’s largest wind turbine – almost ten times taller than the Angel of the North – at the centre.
By Jenny Haworth
22 July 2008
|Wind Watch relies entirely
on User Funding