Scotland is on track to meet its target of 100% of electricity generation from renewable sources by 2020. Since the turn of the century we have gone from producing 10% of electricity from renewables to 60%. We hit our emissions reducing target five years earlier than anticipated and look set to preserve that momentum going forward.
Our transition to renewable energy has been made without any negative impact on the country’s finances demonstrating that there is no need to choose between ecological and economic considerations.
Wind power has played major role in this success with both onshore and offshore developments contributing significantly. Solar has also added its share although not to the same level as wind, as any resident will tell you, it is much more windy than it is sunny here.
It is not only these two major components which are providing clean electricity as more and more innovative ideas and projects are being realised throughout the country. With the reduction of new onshore wind and solar developments to almost zero over the past year it is these new type developments which will keep us on track for hitting and maintaining our targets.
For example in Glenrothes, Fife councillors have granted planning permission for a vast network of underground pipes to be installed throughout the town as part of the Glenrothes District Heating Scheme.
Although the councillors were concerned regarding the extent of pipe laying required committee members were reassured the pipework generally followed the route of roads and unless absolutely necessary would avoid existing utilities and greenspaces with all excavated land being replaced as it is.
The £17million project is being organised by the local council in conjunction with energy company RWE and the Scottish Government with the aim to provide low-carbon heat to both residential and business premises. It will use heat capacity from the local biomass plant and transport it initially to the council’ Fife and Rothesay House. A further 327 homes have been identified as potential beneficiaries as has Rothes Hall, a local library, a social club, a church and a number of shops.
Another example is a pioneering Scottish Government funded trial currently taking place in Aberdeenshire into the use of hydrogen technology to reduce and hopefully eliminate carbon emissions from tractors and other farm vehicles.
A number of farmers are taking part in the trial including David Barron who will using the hydrogen electrolyser technology on his JCB loader tractor. The special hydrolyser has been retrofitted and although it will not replace the vehicles diesel use it will reduce it significantly meaning a reduction in its carbon emission output.
The unit puts an electric current through distilled water to create oxy-hydrogen which is then put through the engine helping to keep it extremely clean. As well as reducing carbon emissions the hydrolyser unit reduced the machine’s fuel consumption by approximately three litres per hour.
Based on a fuel cost of 50p a litre, this equates to a saving of £1.50 an hour and a potential annual saving of £1,500 if the machine is used for 1,000 hours during the year.
Phil Davies, of Water Fuel Engineering Ltd, which fitted the hydrolyser to the loader, said Mr Barron’s JCB was the first agricultural machine in the UK to be fitted with this new technology. He said: “What we have created is an electrolyser which produces oxy-hydrogen on board and on demand.
“We have turned a standard diesel vehicle into a hybrid to clean up the emissions – it takes out about 80% of the emissions.”
He said the company was confident that the technology would be mass produced and commercially available to farmers, at an affordable price, from 2019.
“We are really excited because in the past five to 10 years the government has made a lot of noise about emissions in cities, but in rural areas it’s more significant. What perhaps we will need to be thinking about is how heavy industrial traffic could actually contribute to cleaner air. There’s a danger sometimes that we might take clean air for granted.”
Alan Bruce, of SAC Consulting’s office in Turriff, oversees Nether Aden’s involvement in the government project. He confirmed improved efficiency and reduced carbon emissions went hand in hand.
Mr Barron’s farm is one of nine taking part in the Scottish Government’s Farming for a Better Climate initiative which helps farmers find ways to make their businesses more profitable and efficient, while in turn reducing their carbon footprint.
As well as installing the hydrolyser on his JCB, Mr Barron has discussed a wide range of issues with fellow farmers attending meetings at Nether Aden as part of the Farming for a Better Climate initiative. In addition, Mr Barron has enrolled Nether Aden in the government’s Agri-Environment and Climate Change Scheme and green manure has been incorporated into cropping plans as part of this.
Over the coming years there will be many more creative ideas and inventive projects launched to utilise our renewable sources and continue to reduce our carbon emissions. However small they may seem they all add up and contribute significantly to us meeting our renewable energy generation and carbon emission reductions.
Whilst wind and solar are incredibly important for us is achieving these it is the combined contribution of the small projects that will take us over the line and keep us there.