Scotland’s potential for energy storage

The Scottish Chambers of Commerce have announced that due to excess electricity production from wind farms, Scotland could become a world leader in developing new energy storage technologies which in turn will create more than 5,000 jobs throughout the country.

The Chambers of Commerce predict that up to 30 locations could benefit from this new industry, some of which would be rural, with potential investment totalling £1.5 billion if the opportunity was fully realised. It did however recognise that areas such as California offer strong competition due to excess electricity generation from solar power.

Garry Clark, head of Scottish Chambers’ economic development intelligence unit, said: “It is an area that other countries are looking at very strongly. We have got all this renewable energy capacity in there. It is often not producing energy at the right time. California has the same problem with solar.

“It is an area where we have the potential not to get left behind, so let’s seize it with both hands. It could be something that is capable of generating multiple investments around the country, particularly in rural areas as well. To us, it seems something well worth exploring.”

Scottish Chambers of Commerce chief executive Liz Cameron said “Scotland already has a significant installed capacity of wind energy infrastructure, but the future of this industry will be dictated by the development of new technologies to store excess electricity production for use at times of peak demand.

“Scotland has the potential to become a world leader in this area, with the right investment, helping to increase the efficiency and lower the costs of renewable energy as well as rooting skills and talent in Scotland.

“That level of forward planning is essential if businesses are to have the confidence to make investment decisions, and would put an end to recent uncertainty in the sector due to fundamental changes in policy such as the UK Government’s decision to shift the goalposts on renewable energy policy following the 2015 General Election.

“Energy is what enables every part of our economy to flourish and the various components of the sector are huge economic contributors in their own right. From a strategic point of view, it is vital that Scotland, and indeed the United Kingdom, develops a coherent energy plan for the future over a 50-year period.”

One Scottish company, East Lothian based Sunamp, already making inroads in the area of storage technologies recently, announced multi-million pound fundraising. Sunamp, which has developed batteries that store renewable energy as heat for future use and can deliver heat and hot water on demand, revealed yesterday that it had raised a further £3.2 million development funding from investors as it eyes growth in international markets.

“The global thermal energy storage market is expected to reach $1.8 billion by 2020 and we are excited about the potential of our product to solve a worldwide problem,” said chief executive Andrew Bissell. “We are now ready for the next phase of expansion, and have our sights set on the North American markets, Europe and Asia-Pacific.”

Those that view renewable energy production negatively have long used the intermittent nature of generation aside low storage capabilities as a stick to beat it with. So far the grid has coped admirably with the renewable energy generation levels however with further increases in capacity due this year, a capable storage solution would go a long way in supporting the generation targets set by the government.

It is something that ILI Energy is researching presently and we welcome the Scottish Chambers of Commerce announcement.

While the race to attain cost effective energy storage intensifies the wind industry in Scotland received a boost when it was revealed that the presence of wind farms does not affect the ability of peat land to capture carbon.

As peat land provides an excellent location for wind turbine installations and previous studies established that clusters of turbines create localised microclimates there was a concern that a multiple turbine installation could affect the carbon capture ability of such areas.

However a new study published in the Environmental Research Letters journal and carried out by researchers from University of Glasgow, the National Centre for Atmospheric Science, Lancaster University and The Centre for Ecology and Hydrology placed a grid of one hundred temperature and humidity sensors around wind turbines at Scottish Power Renewables’ Black Law wind farm in North Lanarkshire.

The results were that when the turbines were operational at night the air temperature increased by 0.2°C and marginally increased the absolute humidity. When the turbines were not operational there was no effect to the localised climate.

Susan Waldron, Professor of Biogeochemistry at the University of Glasgow’s School of Geographical and Earth Sciences, said: “It’s important to understand the effects of wind farms as they are projected to output seven percent of global energy production by 2035, with more than three-quarters of wind farm coverage on land. These effects are likely to be very small compared to the much larger effect that the changing of the seasons have on the temperature of peat lands.”

With the majority of Scotland’s wind farms located on peat land it is reassuring to know that the environmental benefit they bring is not being out-weighed by a negative effect upon the land they are located.

 

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