Archive for February 2011
A Film from Red Orkney
Orkney is playing a global role in the evolution of wave and tidal technologies, thanks to the unique facilities provides by EMEC, the European Marine Energy Centre.
As the first centre of its kind to be created anywhere in the world, EMEC offers developers the opportunity to test full-scale grid-connected devices in unrivalled wave and tidal conditions.
This video highlights the global potential of tidal energy, Scotland’s leading role in tidal power development and reviews some of the technical, environmental and social challenges facing the tidal power developers.
For further details, please visit,
A short video
This 6 minute CGI animation was produced by 5 Square of Edinburgh as part of the Scottish Low Carbon Investment Conference, held at the Edinburgh International Conference Centre on the 28th and 29th of September 2010.
We’ve seen more exciting movies, but it is a reasonable introduction for those new to the Scots renewables scene.
Outrage Over Forestry Comission’s 1,000 Turbine Plan
Reports in last weekend’s Scotsman that this week will see an announcement by the Scottish Government that contracts for the erection of up to 1,000 large wind turbines on Forestry Comission land are threatening to start a furore on two fronts, enraging both NIMBYs and Nat-bashers.
Government critics are enraged that the rights to exploit parts of the Forestry Commission’s land-holdings have been handed to Spanish-owned Scottish Power, German-run EoN and PNE, and Norwegian company Fred Olsen. Why, they demand, are the contracts not going to indigineous companies, who are furious that they have been frozen out of the deal.
Their anger is understandable; it looks as though huge profits from the singgle biggest onshore wind initiative yet announced are now set to flow into the pockets of Europe’s energy giants, leaving home-grown firms out in the cold.
Leaving the vexed question of who builds the towers to one side for a minute, let’s look briefly at the whinging of the NIMBYs. Gillian Bishop, the spokeswoman for anti-windfarm group ‘Views of Scotland’, said:
”Just as Westminster has been forced into a U-turn on forestry sell-off plans, the Scottish Government, without any public consultation or sense of shame, plans to hand swathes of Scotland’s forests for felling and industrialisation by overseas companies”,
while Bob Graham of Highlands Against Windfarms said it was
“. . . horrendous that Scotland’s heritage is being destroyed by an incompetent government” , thus providing fuel for both protest camps in one short phrase.
The Comission has said that when areas are cleared for turbines an equal area will be replanted elsewhere. Perhaps more significantly, Friends of the Earth Scotland Chief Executive Duncan McLaren said:
“Some Forestry Commission Scotland (FCS) land is actually poor for growing trees – due to thin soil and high wind – two factors that hint at good sites for wind turbines.
“Most FCS land is already used for a variety of purposes, which is one of the reasons for keeping it in public ownership. This initiative can adds to the diversity of use, and increase returns for the public, as long as it is undertaken with proper account of complementary forestry, public access and biodiversity interests.”
“As long as the search for sites focuses on parts of the estate that are poor for forestry and do not have deep peat soils – or other important sensitive wildlife interests, this is a sound plan.”
While it is regrettable that this work is going to non-Scots companies it is probably inevitable. Scotland has come to the wind market with too little too late, and we should get over it and concentrate on our strong suite, marine renewables, where we are if not streets ahead of the competition at least in the running.
Regarding whether or not Forestry Comission forests are the best places for wind turbines – well, we can see the planning attraction for the government. With ever increasing opposition to onshore wind this is a way of getting a large number of turbines up with minimum fuss and opposition. A huge monoculture conifer plantation is one part of the Scottish landscape where wind turbines might even enhance the view, and it might also take some of the pressure off local authorities to approve every small inappropriate ad-hoc development pushed by greedy landowners. If we have to have another thousand turbines onshore then we are with FOE on this – the forests are probably the best place to put them.
Big on rhetoric, low on specifics
The Rt Hon Chris Huhne MP, UK Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change gave the keynote speech at the Royal Geographic Society’s Society Policy Seminar on clmate change last week.
Much of the speech was vague rhetoric about how aware and committed the government is and – even less credibly – how committed and aware and proactive the US and Chinese governments are. There wasn’t that much specifically on renewables, but here are a few key points:
. . . the low carbon economy . . . will be overwhelmingly electric. The next decades will see a massive increase in our demand. Electricity use could double by 2050, as we turn to the grid to charge our cars and heat our homes.
That demand must be met with secure, affordable low-carbon supply. But our current energy system is not up to the job. We will lose a fifth of our generating capacity over the next 10 years, as our ageing power plants shut down . . .
Our plan for affordable low-carbon electricity rests on three pillars:
The first is renewable energy. Like onshore and offshore wind; Wave, tidal stream, and micro-hydro power; solar, biomass, and energy from waste like anaerobic digestion.
The second is new nuclear – without public subsidy . . .
And the third element is clean coal and gas, delivered by carbon capture and storage, giving us flexible and reliable backup without the carbon consequences.
No-one knows what the most successful low carbon technology will be in thirty years time. The only way . . . is to build an energy portfolio. It is exactly the same principle as a pension fund. When we’re planning for the future, we don’t put all our eggs in one basket. It would be irresponsible for us to try and play god with the country’s energy future.
So we must create a policy framework that lets us discover and then use the lowest cost options. That means thinking about a range of scenarios. At one end may be a world where fossil fuel prices are exceptionally high. We will rely overwhelmingly on renewables and nuclear. With pumped storage to meet peaks in demand.
At the other end, some argue that plentiful gas from unconventional sources will cause gas prices to tumble. Then we would rely much more on clean gas, with carbon capture and storage.
Our policy is about keeping our options open between technologies, but ensuring that we are on the road to the low carbon economy. We have set a direction. We don’t yet know which particular technology will get us there. But we know that the fundamentals of the low carbon economy are not going to be expensive.
One interpretation of this is that the current UK government has no clear policy on renewables, or on energy policy in general. It could be summarised as: ‘We don’t know what is going to happen or what is going to be effective so we don’t really have a specific plan’.
The statement that the UK is going to lose 20% of its current generating capacity over the next ten years seems optimistic, with some sources believing this figure could be nearer 40%. Most scenarios suggest that the figure will be at least 25%. By the end of 2015, closures due to the large combustion plant directive and end of life closures of some nuclear plant will already have cost us 18 GW, or 24%.
The refusal to comment on any specific technology and to include statistically negligible future sources of power such as anaerobic digestion in the same breath as offshore wind brings to mind the phrase ‘all the gear, no idea’.
The commitment to renewables seems to be seriously watered down by the naïve hope that ‘unconventional’ gas (from shale and sands etc) will come to the rescue. This is a technology whose environmental implicationshave yet to be revealed and which still involves releasing stored carbon. To perpetuate a fossil fuel energy economy long past its due retirement date based on an unproven and fundamentally ‘dirty’ technology seems like wishful thinking at best and dangerous procrastination at worst.
And if the idea that the private sector is queuing up to build new nuclear stations with no public subsidy for decommissioning is truer then why is it taking so long for the new generation of nukes to get off the ground?
How often has ‘keeping our options open’ been a political excuse for inaction or at best putting off a decision for far too long? Sorry Mr. Huhne, but we thought your speech was part of the problem, not part of the solution – just another load of political hot air.
Plans for a £3 million renewable energy centre which could create around 90 jobs have taken a step forward.
Planning permission was granted last week for the Fife Renewables Innovation Centre project at Methil docks, which put Fife in the front line of Scotland’s renewables revolution. The centre will be next door to the pioneering £4.7 million Hydrogen Office, which was officially opened by First Minister Alex Salmond last month.