As August ended, the Scottish government unveiled plans for the world’s largest wind farm in the Moray Firth, in the country’s far northeast. The government plans to spend £4.5 billion to erect 339 wind turbines off shore which would generate 1,500 MW, about the same as a conventional power plant. This is part of the government’s goal of generating 100% of Scotland’s power needs from renewable energy sources by 2020.
The Scotsman newspaper quotes Dan Finch, project director and managing director of EDPR UK (one of the firms involved in the plan), as saying “By working in deeper water, more than 12 miles from shore, we can take advantage of the excellent wind resource in the outer Moray Firth, and make a significant contribution to cutting greenhouse gas production and reducing the need to burn fossil fuels. We estimate that the project will be capable of supplying the electricity needs of 800,000 to one million households.”
The General Registrar for Scotland stated that in mid-2011, there were 2.37 million households in Scotland – the wind farm could take care of about 30% of them.
Mr. Finch added, “Supplying more energy from renewables means reducing the need to burn fossil fuels and so reducing the production of greenhouse gases. Each year, this development could save between 3.5 and 4.5 million tonnes of carbon dioxide compared with coal-fired generation, and between 1.5 and two million tonnes of carbon dioxide compared with gas-fired generation.”
The Environment Secretary, Richard Lochhead of the ruling Scottish National Party, stated, “Scotland has huge potential for generating clean, green offshore energy. With around a quarter of Europe’s wind and tidal resources and ten per cent of wave energy potential, Scotland is well positioned to capitalise on our natural assets. That’s why we’re pressing ahead with plans to generate the equivalent of 100 per cent of our electricity needs from renewables by 2020.”
Opposition comes from various sources. Some, like anti-wind-farm campaigner Lynsey War worry about the effects on the marine ecosystem.“My major concern is that not enough is known about the devastation caused to fishing grounds and marine life.” Some have quality of life concerns, Stuart Young, a consultant for Communities Against Turbines Scotland and chairman of Caithness Windfarm Information Forum, told The Scotsman, “They are going to be in people’s eyes and in their windows. It will be inescapable. They will be a blot on the landscape which will be left for future generations to deal with.”
And then, there are plain unhelpful types, like Donald Trump, who’s Aberdeenshire golf course has a view of another wind farm. A spokesman for Mr Trump said: “This project, like all wind turbine proposals, is totally dependent on subsidies that will cost the taxpayer dearly. Watch your wallet – Scotland’s energy bills will continue to skyrocket and the coastlines will be decimated by these steel-and-concrete monstrosities.” When it comes to steel-and-concrete monstrosities, Mr. Trump is an expert, having built so many himself. Of course, most Scots pay him no heed; if Mr. Trump were to produce a long-form birth certificate, it would almost certainly show that he was not born in Scotland; his interest is purely commercial. He’s free to sell up and leave, say my friends in the area.
If the plan goes forward as is, construction will begin in 2015. What is interesting is the expected referendum on independence in 2014. I expect all the Scottish political parties will eventually accept the 2020 target, even if this particular project is in dispute, if only to remove renewable energy as a political issue. And win or lose on independence, this will have a significant effect on the U.K. as a whole.