Sunday, 4 December 2011

A whole new industry

In the Scottish Government's 2010 Draft Energy Policy Statement, there is an energy mix for the 2020, 80% targets (Annexe A, Table 1 refers). Now, I know the target is now 100%, but more than 6 months after the policy shift was announced, we still do not know what the new energy mix will be - not publicly anyway. Since a growing number of people are getting more and more concerned about what is going on outside their windows (at least in relation to wind turbines), I decided to have a look at the 80% target energy mix and see how we are doing against that - sort of an end of term report really and the numbers are more than a little curious.

The 80% target energy mix requires an installed onshore wind capacity of 6,500MW by 2020, 7,500MW by 2030, and an interim figure of 5,000MW by 2015. Remember, this is onshore wind. According to Scottish Renewables, at the time of posting, there was an installed capacity of 2,784.67MW for wind as a whole. Installed Scottish offshore wind, as far as I am aware is currently limited to just 190MW - although if you know different please let me know. Subtracting the installed offshore figure from the 2,784.67MW gives us 2,594.67MW of onshore installed capacity - as of now. The first thing to notice is that we almost need to double our installed capacity to reach the interim 2015 target of 5,000MW. So, if you think what we have now is a problem, the bad news is it's going to get a whole lot worse - twice as worse - to be precise. Turning to the 2020 target (6,500MW) our current installed onshore capacity represents just 39%, and looking further ahead to 2030, our current installed capacity represents just 34% of the target capacity. Clearly then, a lot more onshore wind is going to be required, and it doesn't look like it is being installed at the required rate to hit the mix targets. So, in summary - we're not doing very well.

But hang on a minute. The same 80% energy mix figures state the following target values for offshore wind: 500MW for 2015, 1500MW for 2020 and 3000MW for 2030. Now, Renewables UK detail the following large offshore projects:

  • Moray Firth - 1500MW
  • Firth of Forth - 3500MW
  • Neart na Gaoithe - 450MW
  • Islay - 680MW
  • Inch Cape - 1500MW
  • Beatrice - 920MW
  • Argyll Array - 1500MW

Adding these numbers up, we come to 10,050MW or 10GW. Err, hang on a minute - what were the 80% offshore targets? 500MW(0.5GW) for 2015, 1500MW(1.5GW) for 2020 and 3000MW(3GW) for 2030. So, current large scale proposals for offshore wind projects total 335% of the 80%, 2030 target offshore energy mix (assuming all of the above are built and operational by 2030). That's quite an over-capacity. Not all of these will be built, well I hope not anyway. Wigtown Bay has shown us that offshore projects do get withdrawn, and the size of these developments are mind boggling. So, loosing some during the planning process will obviously reduce the installed capacity figure by quite a wide margin. However, we should start asking ourselves why such a massive over capacity?

Going back once again to the 80% energy mix figures, we can read off a total installed generational capacity for 2020 for Scotland - its 16,748MW, or 16.748GW. So, that 10.05GW of offshore capacity would represent a massive 60% of Scotland's total 2020 generational capacity, yet the 80% energy mix figures call for offshore wind to represent just 8.9% of total capacity (1.5GW out of 16.748GW).

Are we starting to see the future in terms of the 100% energy mix? I think so. And if we have a look at the map below that shows 'research areas' for additional offshore wind farm capacity:

a pretty horrendous picture starts to emerge. According to this article, these areas could accommodate a further 10GW of offshore capacity. This then is Scotland's future. The national imperative so often stated in support of planning applications for wind farms is somewhat irrelevant. The wrecking of people's lives and the natural environment is not about securing our energy future, it's about our new industry - energy export - I just hope there's a market for it as otherwise the planned, wanton vandalism will have been for absolutely nothing. Oh, and if you want to see what the potential impact of large offshore is, visit this site. To me, offshore is well, offshore - right offshore - like, over the horizon offshore. Clearly, the industry has other ideas and we wouldn't want to inconvenience the industry now would we? And who pays for all of this this - I'll leave you to figure that out.