Scotland has potential to be self-sufficient with renewable energy

Scotland has the capacity to be self-sufficient with regards to electricity through using renewable energy, and would even have sufficient capacity to export electricity to the rest of the UK, says a new report commissioned by the Scottish Executive.

Scotland’s Renewable Resource 2001 (see Executive Summary – requires Adobe Acrobat), reveals that Scotland has a potential renewable energy resource of around 60 gigawatts (GW), three-quarters of the total installed generation capacity of the UK. The majority of Scotland’s potential energy is made up of on- and off-shore wind, as well as wave and tidal energy.

“This hugely significant study outlines the breathtaking scale of Scotland’s renewable energy potential and vindicates our strongly held belief that we are ideally placed to benefit from the sustainable energy revolution,” said Environment and Rural Development Minister Ross Finnie.

“The scale of this potential is illustrated by one stunning statistic: there is enough potential energy from onshore wind power alone to meet Scotland’s peak winter demand for electricity twice over,” added Finnie. “In all, the total resource amounts to 75% of the total UK existing generating capacity.”

Whilst all the technologies are constrained by some technical or environmental considerations, onshore wind is the only energy source to be constrained by consideration of a socially acceptable limit, says the report. The Ministry of Defence has also indicated that it would not be in favour of wind farms in low flying areas, which, in total occupy 26% of Scotland in the analysis.

Wave and tidal technologies are constrained by their risk to marine navigation, which could limit the availability of optimal sites.

Other renewable energies that are considered in the report are: small hydro; landfill gas; biomass from forestry residues, energy crops and agricultural waste; and municipal solid waste (MSW).

A second new report commissioned by the Scottish Executive reveals that there is currently sufficient capacity within the Scottish electricity transmission networks in order to accommodate the volume of generation required to meet the Scottish 18% renewables target for 2010 (see related story). Impact of Renewable Generation on the Electrical Transmission Network in Scotland (requires Adobe Acrobat), compiled by Scottish and Southern Energy, states that the cost of upgrades that will be required in order to increase the capacity will be under £200 million.

The areas that potentially require the most significant improvements to transmission infrastructure are: the Highlands – mostly the west – and Islands; Argyll, Knapdale and Kintyre; and Dumfries/Galloway/South Ayrshire. According to the report, such improvements to the network are likely to take a minimum of three to five years to complete, with a key factor being successful passage through the planning process.

The UK government recently announced that it was studying the possibility of constructing an offshore electricity transmission grid to link wind and wave resources to the mainland national grid (see related story).

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