Hydro-electric Power in Scotland

Hydro-electric Power in Scotland

Scotland has a rich history of hydro electric power generation dating back to the early 20th century but it was after World War II where things really took off on a national scale. Long before our knowledge of climate change had determined our future energy path Scotland experienced a renewable energy revolution with a number of new hydro electric facilities springing up, mainly in the highlands, serving both local communities and the entire nation.

At present there are over 100 commercial hydro developments operating in Scotland and that is about to change again as a new large facility including a damn is set to be built on the River Allt Coire Chaorach, near Crianlarich.

The development which is likely to cost £8.5million will generate up to 8GwH of electricity per year adding to Scotland’s target of producing 100% of its electricity needs by 2020. It is also likely to create a number of permanent jobs and bring sustainable economic growth to the surrounding area.

Jane Wilson of Jewson Tools, who helps young people into jobs in the construction and sustainability industries, spoke of the project: “It’s these kinds of projects that provide great amounts of jobs in local areas. The more we strive for renewable energy, the more jobs we will create; it’s that simple.”

Most of the initial capital will come in the form of an investment from the Green Investment Bank. The bank’s chairman Lord Smith of Kelvin also speaking about the project stated: “The UK is in the process of transforming how it generates its power. In future we will see less reliance on a small number of large power stations and more focus on a network of smaller, locally generated, renewable sources of power. Hydro is one example of how we can do this and we are delighted to play our part in helping this market grow, bringing investment to rural communities along the way.”

At some point in 2015 it is expected that Scotland will reach the halfway mark in attaining its target of 100% of electricity generated from renewable sources.  In the first six months of 2014 the renewable energy output increased by 30% and figures for the full year are expected soon. In 2013 it sat at 46% of total output and 39.9% in 2012.

This shows just how far we have come when you consider that only as recently as 2010 Scotland failed to meet its climate targets as greenhouse emissions increased by almost 2%.

Most of Scotland’s renewable energy comes from onshore wind, it is an industry which has flourished in recent years and has played a major role in putting Scotland on target for its renewable energy goals however we cannot underestimate the contribution that hydro has made and will continue to do so.

Like many of the renewable energy sources Scotland has an abundance of hydro resource which can be utilised to provide us with clean energy for the foreseeable future. With 2020 fast approaching and the 100% of electricity from renewable sources target that it brings all generation sources must be developed to their full potential.

A recent survey by Renewable UK has created a buzz in the UK Renewables industry. Two thousand of the UK general public were asked a series of questions relating to wind power in the UK and the responses have certainly risen more than a few eyebrows.

The most eye-catching of the findings was that the average estimate of what wind farm subsidies add to the typical duel fuel energy bill of £1,300 is £259, approximately 20%. The actual amount is around £18 per year, approximately 1.5% of the overall bill.

Other findings were equally striking. Those asked tended to misjudge how much public support wind farms have in the UK regardless of whether they supported them themselves. The response put support of wind farms at an average of 40% whereas the latest government survey puts support for offshore wind at 74% and onshore wind at 68%.

Polling also showed that people tend to underestimate the output of wind turbines with two thirds of those asked thinking the turbines generate electricity less than half of the time however depending on wind speeds they generate at between 70% and 85% of the time.

Finally 75% of those polled overestimated the speed of wind required for a turbine to generate electricity with the average figure being 14mph when the actual average figure is 7mph, not much more than a light breeze.

Maria McCaffery chief executive of RenewableUK said: “These independent polls show there considerable misconceptions about the cost of supporting wind energy – it’s much lower than people think, at just 35p a week per household. It’s also revealing to see that wind has almost double the amount of public support than was estimated.”

She concluded by claiming “the loud voices of a small minority” were trying to distort the facts.

The results from the survey are very interesting and there can be no doubt that there are very loud voices in a small minority distorting the facts about wind power. However with the majority of the populace supporting wind turbines the question has to be asked why are the facts being distorted? Many within the industry believe that some in the political world are pandering to their donors as opposed to listening to their voters.

We within the industry however know that these inflated subsidy figures, understated output figures, and the alleged reduction of public support are not true so it is our responsibility to inform and educate everyone the facts about wind power and renewable energy. It is time our majority gained a loud voice.


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