Geothermal Energy In Scotland

A new survey carried out by WWF Scotland has revealed that the Scottish public want strong policies in the Climate Change Bill to help cut emissions and become more energy sustainable.

75% of those polled think that the government should invest more in improving the energy efficiency of homes across the country, up from 67% last year. Around 68% of people want to see higher investments to reduce emissions, like cleaner public transport and low carbon heat networks, another significant rise from the 2016 figure of 59%.

Renewable energy also received a boost with 71% stating that more electricity should be generated from renewable sources a rise of 10% from 2016.

The WWF said the results should encourage the Scottish Government to use the forthcoming Climate Change Bill to implement the policies and investments the public want to see happen.

Sarah Beattie-Smith, Climate and Energy Policy Officer at WWF Scotland, said: “We believe the forthcoming Climate Change Bill is can help to create jobs, improve public health and reduce poverty at home, whilst also ensuring Scotland plays its part in helping the poorest people in the world cope with the effects of climate change. These survey results should give politicians of all parties the confidence to be ambitious and take the steps needed to make Scotland a fairer, more prosperous society.”

While the Scottish public wants more investment in energy efficiency and renewable energy The British Geological Survey (BGS) and the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), the UK’s main funding body for earth sciences, have unveiled plans to investigate the true scope of recovering heat from water trapped deep underground in abandoned mines in a pioneering new project that will be based either in the east end of Glasgow or in Rutherglen, South Lanarkshire.

Glasgow and neighbouring South Lanarkshire both have a long history of coal mining and while that industry is long gone the remnants of it remain throughout the region with a network of disused mine shafts still in place. It’s these that experts believe could hold the key to what is a potentially substantial resource of green energy sourced from geothermal energy. Geothermal has advantages over other renewable energy sources as it is able to provide baseline power since it doesn’t rely on the sun shining, the wind blowing or the tide going in and out.

Two small-scale experiments using ground source heat pumps to tap warm water collected in defunct mines in Shettleston in Glasgow and Lumphinnans in Fife have already proved successful.

The proposed Glasgow Geothermal Energy Research Field Site is one of two such schemes being put forward as part of the £31 million UK Geoenergy Observatories Project the other being in England.

The BGS archive hosts extensive records of mining and oil and gas exploration and with the addition of new information garnered from these new projects will help those involved better understand the impact of exploiting geothermal energy in this way and to establish whether it can be a viable, cost-effective and sustainable addition to the renewables sector.

One of the proposed projects, in Glasgow’s Clyde Gateway area, involves the creation of a number of boreholes of depths up to 170m that will allow scientists to explore the area’s geology and underground water systems. Water temperature, movement and chemistry will be tested, with data continuing to be monitored and assessed over the next 25 years. Studies will also be carried out to determine whether gathering geothermal energy could potentially cause earthquakes, as has happened with fracking, or lead to water pollution.

Also on the agenda is testing whether the mine network is linked and whether tapping water at one site might affect supplies contained in a shaft elsewhere. If the project gains all the necessary planning consents, drilling work is expected to begin at the chosen site next year.

The West of Scotland is littered with disused mines, particularly in the Lanarkshire and Glasgow areas. Along with shipbuilding it was once one the prominent industries of the area. To create a positive clean energy use for some of the sites would be a wonderful addition to the country’s growing renewable energy portfolio.

Projects like these will go a long way in securing the renewable energy and energy efficient future that the Scottish people crave. However there is potential for more and as the machinery and materials required for these types of developments become both less expensive and more efficient we can hopefully expect more innovation in the future.

It is our hope that one day we reach a point where we do not need more renewable energy developments because we have reached a point where we are generating enough for everyone with a surplus to sell on. We are not there yet, but who says we can’t achieve it.

From Whisky to Biofuel

Scottish Energy Minister Paul Wheelhouse this week announced investment of £1.5 million in a project aimed at boosting offshore wind which it is hoped will help move renewables towards self sufficiency.

The Carbon Trust which runs the project – called the Offshore Wind Accelerator (OWA) – has stated the work the project is currently carrying out will help end the need for subsidies in the industry.

Carbon Trust director Jan Matthiesen said the funding showed real confidence in the ability of the project to drive down costs and make development and deployment more viable adding “This signals continuing support and investment into a programme that has helped to reduce the costs of offshore wind and helped to pave the way towards a subsidy-free energy source.”

The Scottish Government provided the same amount in 2016 and Paul Wheelhouse made the announcement for this year’s investment at a visit to Burntisland Fabrication yard in Methil, Fife.

Speaking of the new investment he said “The Scottish Government’s decision to invest a further £1.5m into the OWA is a ringing endorsement of the great potential of this programme to help Scotland to utilise the full potential of offshore wind, and to ensure that we make it as affordable as possible.

“The Carbon Trust have done a fantastic job so far in reducing the costs of offshore wind, as well as encouraging collaboration across the public and private sectors to improve the industry as a whole.

“The potential benefits of offshore wind energy in Scotland are enormous, which is why the Scottish Government is committed to its development. By continuing to invest in it, not only are we stimulating economic change for the better, but we’re also helping to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in Scotland and helping to fight the impacts of climate change.”

Lindsay Roberts, of industry body Scottish Renewables, said: “Scotland has huge amounts to gain from offshore wind and it’s an incredibly exciting time for the industry.”

While wind energy remains the country’s most productive form of renewable energy one of the country’s most traditional industries, whisky distilling, is also now lending its support to renewable energy in the form of a biofuel called biotanol.

Biotanol, a direct replacement for traditional fuel, is produced from draff, the sugar-rich kernels of barley which are soaked in water to facilitate the fermentation process necessary for whisky production.

It is normally discarded following the distillation process however Scottish Company Celtic Renewables believe it could be refined using a groundbreaking process to be used in vehicle transport.

Tullibardine Distillery have teamed up with Celtic Renewables to produce the fuel for commercial purposes. Professor Martin Tangney, the company’s founder and President, commented “This is the first time in history that a car has ever been driven with a biofuel produced from whisky production residues.

“ It is fitting to do this historic drive in Scotland, which is famous not just for its world-renowned whisky but also for being a powerhouse for renewable energy. Celtic Renewables is playing its part in sustainability by taking this initiative from a research project at Edinburgh Napier University to, what we believe will be, a multi-billion-pound global business with the opportunity to turn transport green.”

With over £8 million of funding support from the Scottish government and private investors, the company plans to open a factory in 2018 able to produce 500,000 litres of the fuel per year.

Tullibardine distillery manager John Torrance added: “Right from the outset when Celtic Renewables approached us we could see the game-changing potential of a new fuel created from our by-products. We’re a forward thinking distillery and we’re happy to support what promises to be a groundbreaking first for renewable energy, for transport and for the Scottish whisky industry alike.”

Putting together two of Scotland’s greatest exports, whisky and renewable energy, looks like a perfect match up. Although the current distillation process is a very modern one the industry itself is one of Scotland’s most traditional.

Renewable energy is very much in the modern category but with the resources we have it was always an industry that was going to thrive here, given the correct strategy.

Up until recently it has done but with changes to government strategy it may not for too much longer. Therefore it is important that projects like the Offshore Wind Accelerator can show a sustainable model without the need for subsidy.

If projects like this are successful they will attract further private investment which in turn should lead them to be even more sustainable and less reliant on government investment.

However while we believe wind energy will provide the majority of our renewable energy for many years to come we must not be completely reliant on it. Other traditional sources of renewable energy such as solar and hydro will also provide a large percentage of our requirements but other newer innovative projects will go a long way to securing a 100% renewable future.

This is where new projects such as Biotanol are vital. Scotland produces a lot of whisky approximately 99 million cases were exported in 2015. Should the Celtic Renewables / Tullibardine Distillery project prove to be commercially viable then there are 114 other distilleries that no doubt will look to get in on the act.

That could mean over 60 million litres of high quality biofuel produced each year in Scotland without the need of any additional plant growth or land use. Something that we believe is worth getting excited about.

Scotland’s first floating wind farm

Scotland is once again leading the way with renewable energy technology as this week the initial phase of the world’s first full scale floating wind farm commenced. The project, named Hywind, off the coast of Peterhead in Scotland’s north east when fully developed will host five giant turbines which will provide electricity for up to 20,000 homes.

Manufacturer Statoil says output from the turbines is expected to equal or surpass generation from current ones, “This is a tech development project to ensure it’s working in open sea conditions. It’s a game-changer for floating wind power and we are sure it will help bring costs down,” said Leif Delp, project director for Hywind.

Due to the nature of the turbines they can be located in waters far deeper than conventional offshore turbines, in this case 15 miles from the mainland. This could allow the wind farm to take advantage of stronger wind currents, allowing it to generate more electricity and funnel this power back to the mainland. The project could also herald a new era for the wind energy space, where turbine technology is advancing at an accelerated rate.

One turbine has so far been installed with the four to follow currently being stored in Norway. It is expected that all five will be in place by the end of August. The operation to raise the turbines includes a number of tug boats, incredibly strong and thick cables and remote-controlled submarines, used to check for obstacles.

While the turbines are currently very expensive to make, Statoil believes that in the future it will be able to dramatically reduce costs in the same way that manufacturers already have for conventional offshore turbines.

“I think eventually we will see floating wind farms compete without subsidy – but to do that we need to get building at scale,” said Mr Delp. The company have already confirmed that should this project be a success they plan cash in on a boom in the technology, especially in Japan and the west coast of the US, where waters are deep.

The Hywind project is being run in collaboration with the Abu Dhabi firm Masdar. The £190m cost was subsidised by bill-payers under the UK government’s Renewable Obligation Certificates. However with the cost of conventional offshore wind projects falling by 32% since 2012 it is hoped that this new technology will soon follow suit.

Scotland has been for some time a well established leader in the wind energy industry and continues to invest heavily in it. Over the next few years some of the largest offshore wind farms are expected to be built of our coast. With the advent of this new floating wind farm we are again placing ourselves at the forefront of cutting edge renewable energy technology.

While we always maintain that a diverse mix of renewables technology is required to safeguard our energy future we also know that generating energy from wind is one of the most proven, reliable and cost effective methods for doing so. New techniques to harvest this energy, like the Hywind floating wind farm, creates a new way of tapping an established source in areas thought impossible only a few years ago.

As more efficient and consequently less expensive methods come onto the market we will eventually be able to reduce our carbon based fuel reliance to next to nothing. In turn this will reduce our emissions and go a long way in protecting our environment which ultimately is our goal.