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ScottishPower unveils plans to put solar panels next to wind turbines

Scotland is on the cusp of a power revolution from the sun after energy giant ScottishPower announced it will put solar panels and batteries next to its wind turbines up and down the country.

The move – revealed at the global climate emergency summit in Madrid – marks a major breakthrough for renewable electricity in the country as it will be produced even when the wind does not blow and will instead harness the light.

However, the announcement for a mass roll-out of Chinese and Korean panels comes amid growing concerns about whether Scottish manufacturing can capitalise on the green industrial revolution.

There are growing fears for jobs at CS Wind, a factory in Campbeltown which makes the towers for wind farms.

Twenty-two people lost their livelihoods this week and more are at risk.

Unite, the trade union, has called for Scottish Government help but ministers believe they are limited in what they can do because of EU state aid rules.

Speaking at COP25 in Madrid, Keith Anderson, the chief executive of ScottishPower, said: “Every green megawatt of electricity will be crucial if we stand any chance of hitting ‘net zero’ in 2050, so innovation from energy companies is more important than ever.

“This means squeezing the absolute maximum potential out of every clean energy project that we consider. In the UK and Ireland the perfect blend of clean power from onshore renewables should include a mixture of clean energy technologies.

“The costs for building wind, solar and batteries have reduced considerably in recent years, and they complement each other very well.

“They perform best at different times of the day and at different times of the year.”

Glasgow ranks as one of Europe’s darkest cities, but much of Scotland enjoys long, light days in the summer, when there is less wind.

Mr Anderson added: “As well as retrofitting additional technologies to existing sites, as we are already doing, our strategy going forward will see us deliver hybrid projects as standard.

“In the next 18 months I believe that hybrids will be the new normal for all renewable energy developers.”

ScottishPower is owned by Spanish giant Iberdrola, which has invested in major solar power stations, in places more associated with the sun than Scotland. Putting solar, battery and wind resources together should reduce both the impact and cost of such developments.

ScottishPower said planning applications had already been submitted to add solar technology to the existing wind farms in Cornwall, Lancashire and Cambridgeshire in England. It will now add projects in Scotland and Ireland too.

The company is currently developing 1,000 megawatts of new onshore wind projects.

It said most of these would now also have batteries and solar panels, or a mixture of both.

The new strategy comes one year after ScottishPower became the first integrated energy company in the UK to solely generate 100 per cent renewable energy.

In the wider Iberdrola group, solar is already a prominent feature in Spain, the US, Mexico and Brazil.

This includes the 500MW Núñez de Balboa solar scheme in the south of Spain, the largest solar project currently under construction in Europe.

The Scottish Government has already approved plans for a 50 megawatt battery at the UK’s largest wind farm, Whitelee, outside Glasgow.

Scotland has long been tipped as a renewable energy powerhouse, though more because of its wind and tides than because of its sunshine.

Bids by both Glasgow and Edinburgh to become Britain’s first net-zero carbon cities have sparked hopes that jobs will follow.

Labour has tried to claim the phrase green industrial revolution as it talks up manufacturing jobs in the UK.

But other parties are also enthusiastic about the potential for economic growth.

However, so far the UK and Scotland have struggled to secure contracts to build kit for renewable energy.

Controversy has focused around the future of yards owned by BiFab.

Unite has been at the forefront of campaigning for Scottish facilities and for factories including the BiFab yards in Arnish and Fife to benefit from the “green manufacturing revolution”.

BiFab builds large-scale equipment for the offshore oil and gas industry, as well as platforms for offshore wind turbines and tidal generators.

It was rescued from the brink of administration by the Scottish Government in a £25 million agreement in 2018 before being purchased by Canadian firm DF Barnes last April, although hundreds of jobs were shed.