Along with breath-taking scenery, if there is one thing Scotland – particularly its Highlands and Islands – are renowned for, it is the wildness of its weather. In recent years, Scotland has begun harnessing their unique meteorological profile to its fullest, becoming a world leader in renewable energy production, especially through wind power.
In 2017, Scotland secured more than two-thirds, 68.1%, of its energy needs from eco-friendly schemes – an increase on 2016 of 26%. Wind, which generated 12 terawatt hours (TWh) last year was responsible for around 80% of the rise.
The figures confirm Scotland’s place at the top table for renewable energy providers, both in the U.K., where their output is around 45% higher than the rest of the country, and across the globe. And it is a pattern set to continue, with the nation on the cusp of its next stage of investment and development.
Ministers announced this month that wind power projects on and around some of Scotland’s most isolated, weather-battered islands will be eligible to bid for government subsidies, in the shape of Contracts of Difference. CfDs will cover any deficits between the cost of financing low carbon projects in remote locations and the average market price for electricity in the U.K.
It is part of the plan to double the number of offshore wind farms around the country in the next decade, with the bidding taking place every two years and providing up to £557 million in funding. From this year, the scheme will apply to onshore farms as well.
There are a number of projects already well underway. The Viking Wind Farm, having received the green light originally in 2012, had to face a challenge in the courts by anti-wind farm campaigners, before winning out and being reaffirmed in 2015. A joint venture between the Shetland community and utility company SSE, Viking has ambitions to be the most productive onshore wind farm in the world, consisting of 103 turbines with a height (to the blade tips) of 145m.
The build covers around 32,000 acres of central Shetland, which has an average wind speed of 16mph, allowing for a potential output of up to 457 megawatts. In addition, the project will create 35 permanent jobs. Through the project’s community shareholding, the island will receive millions of pounds in revenue each year.
The Scottish Government has announced aims to produce 100% of its energy from renewables by 2020, and several other ventures are in the pipeline to help achieve their ends.
In Loch Ness, a monster of a hydro pump storage facility nicknamed Red John is set to begin construction which could double the capacity of the country’s current offshore wind supply. The £500 million venture would be used to store the energy produced by Scotland’s wind farms when it is not needed. Importantly, this removes the issue of having to turn the turbines down to avoid overloading the grid.
And, perhaps unexpectedly considering the location, Elgin Energy has been granted planning permission to build Scotland’s biggest solar farm on a disused airfield in Moray. The 50-megawatt project, being built on a former military base in the northeast of the region, will consist of some 200,000 solar panels and produce enough energy to power up to 15,000 homes.
Scotland’s renewable energy initiatives have been an incredible success story for the U.K. over the last decade. With the new wave of financing and expansion, it looks set to carry on leading from the front for the foreseeable future and beyond.
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