Scotland’s appetite for renewable energy

It is well known that in 2011 the Scottish Government set the target that by 2020 100% of the country’s electricity demand to come renewable sources. At the same time an interim target was set of 50% of the country’s electricity demand to come from renewable sources by 2015. So as we now enter 2015 how are we doing in terms of reaching this interim target?

The figures for 2015 will not be available until next year however we do have figures in for the first six months of 2014. During this time renewable energy generated 10.3 TWh, nuclear 7.8 TWh (from power stations Hunterston B and Torness), 5.6 TWh from coal and 1.4 TWh from gas-fired power stations. That means that from January to July 2014 41% of Scotland’s electricity was generated from renewable sources. This period therefore saw a growth in wind energy generation of 20% and a hydro energy generation growth of 50%

These figures certainly show we are moving in the right direction at a good pace and we should be in a position to reach our first target by the end of 2015. Speaking of these figures Guy Mortimer Head of Onshore Development Scotland, BU Renewables said “The current Scottish government is very pro-renewables and excellent progress has been made so far towards reaching the target.”

As of June 2014 the installed capacity of renewable electricity was 7,083MW, the largest contributor being wind at 4,920MW followed by hydro at 1,507MW. In order to reach the 2015 target this will have to increase by about 25% however at current growth rates this does look to be achievable.

For example Vattenfall – who currently operate a large onshore wind farm at Edinbane in the Isle of Skye (41.4Mw) is in the process of completing construction on a new wind farm at Clashindarroch in Aberdeenshire of 36.9MW. Vattenfall alone have approximately 0.5GW of capacity in onshore projects when include sites in construction.

There is also significant growth potential in other forms of renewable energy including offshore wind, tidal, and solar. In October 2014 the Scottish Government approved a new project of over 500 wind turbines spread over four offshore wind farms off the country’s east coast.

The waters off the north and north-west of Scotland have some of the strongest tides in Europe and despite the relative lack of sunshine compared to some of our European neighbours, the advancement in solar PV technology has now made this a suitable solution to add to our energy mix.

Earlier this week Borders farmer Iver Salvesen staged an open day at his 600 acre farm near Stow, Galashiells for fellow famers and land owners to view the different renewable energy developments he has on his land. This includes two 5KW and one 2.5KW wind turbines as well as 6KW of solar PV in two installed systems (with another 30KW to be developed soon). Also the site has two 20 tube solar thermal systems and a 16KW ground source heat pump in addition to a 200KW biomass system which serves multiple properties in the surrounding area. Mr. Salveson also makes his own biodiesel from oilseed rape.

These diverse technologies serve his house, office, vehicles and several surrounding properties. The open day was designed to offer independent advice on renewable energy to farmers and land owners throughout Scotland. This event plus others throughout Scotland are coordinated by land agents Smiths Gore and have already helped hundreds of farmers in setting up their own renewable energy projects.

Whether it be through large or medium scale commercial operations or smaller projects run by farmers and landowners Scotland has shown it has the appetite for renewable energy. This coupled with a supporting government has helped us on our way to reaching our interim target of 50% of electricity from renewable sources by 2015.

However we are now faced with more obstacles in our quest to reach our overall target of 100% by 2020. As more projects are developed the capacity in the grid reduces making it harder to export the electricity from the point of production – likely to be relatively remote – to the point of consumption. As well as new infrastructure to link many of these remote locations much of the existing network needs to be upgraded to handle this increase in generated power.

This is where the UK government must get involved to ensure that Scotland’s plentiful renewable energy resources can be tapped and the power generated exported to areas of high usage. All of the UK can benefit from these renewable energy sources and the required infrastructure will be a small price to pay to safeguard our long term energy needs.

 

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