The amount of electricity produced from “green” energy sources in Scotland fell by almost half for a period earlier this year – because it was not wet or windy enough.
The figures prompted opposition concerns that Scotland could be left in the dark if the “wind isn’t blowing”.
First Minister Alex Salmond wants to pioneer a “renewables revolution” by generating the equivalent of all the country’s electricity needs from “clean” sources, such as hydro, wind and wave power.
But, according to government figures, renewable electricity fell to 2,498 gigawatt hours (GWh) between April and June from 4,596 GWh the previous quarter, the most dramatic fall in mainland Britain. There has been a 600 GWh drop from the same quarter last year.
The output still amounts to a record high over the first half of the year in total and is enough to power 147,000 homes for a whole year. But the three-month fall prompted opposition concerns over the growing number of windfarms, despite local concerns they are inefficient as well as a scar on the landscape.
Tory MSP Murdo Fraser, convenor of Holyrood’s energy committee said: “Wind power is an unreliable and intermittent form of energy production.
“The 147,000 homes that Fergus Ewing claims could be powered by renewable energy would have to turn their lights off when the wind isn’t blowing at a sufficient speed. We can’t build a sustainable energy policy for the future purely on wind turbines alone.”
Electricity from wind power almost halved from 2,461 GW to 1,390 GW over the first two quarters of the year and was down more than 250 GWh year on year.
The Scottish Government put the falls down to low rainfall, which help power hydro plants, in April and May, while “lower wind speeds” led to a fall in wind power.
But total renewable energy production in Scotland is up 13 per cent over the first half of 2011, meaning 2012 is on course to be a record-breaking year.
Experts have warned bills could rise by hundreds of pounds to meet the cost of green energy, which is more expensive than coal and nuclear power.
But renewables do not produce carbon dioxide gas that is contributing to global warming, and with fossil fuels like coal and oil increasingly scarce, renewables are seen as the way to secure future energy supply.
Energy minister Fergus Ewing said: “These statistics show once again that Scotland leads the world in renewable energy generation and that our industry goes from strength to strength. We have a responsibility to make sure our nation seizes this opportunity to create tens of thousands of new jobs and secure billions of pounds of investment in our economy.”
Capacity from wind turbines and hydro stations in Scotland was up 18.6 per cent on the previous year, with 5,453MW installed.
The figures also showed 2011 was a record year for renewable electricity in Scotland, and about 35 per cent of Scottish electricity demand was met from renewables, exceeding the target of 31 per cent.
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