The Winds of Change

By Mike Small

It’s often sidelined in the media, but the energy focus we should be having – because it’s about our future – has just taken a massive step forward. Scotland now has the world’s biggest wave farm and the largest tidal energy project in Europe.

It should be on every newspaper front page but isn’t because it doesn’t fit with the print media’s narrow agendas and obsessions.

Yesterday it was announced that the largest tidal energy project in Europe will be launching soon after permission was granted for the first stage in the Pentland Firth. It’s  the first commercial deployment of tidal turbines in Scottish waters. A demonstration project will be built between Orkney and the mainland following the decision by the Scottish Government.

MayGen-image-21-nov-2011jpg

Energy Minister Fergus Ewing said: “Today we have granted consent to MeyGen Limited to develop the largest tidal turbine array in Europe and the first commercial project off these shores.

“This is a major step forward for Scotland’s marine renewable energy industry. When fully operational, the 86 megawatt array could generate enough electricity to power the equivalent of 42,000 homes – around 40% of homes in the Highlands. This … is just the first phase for a site that could eventually yield up to 398 megawatts.”

It’s a huge step forward and a feat of engineering. Each of the devices stands 73ft tall, weigh 1,500 tonnes and have a rotor diameter of 59ft), could generate up to 1MW of power.

Michael Rieley, from Scottish Renewables, said:

“This is by far one of the most important milestones for the tidal energy sector to meet.”

But there’s a problem beyond media disinterest, and it’s not just the connectivity issues identified by WWF Scotland.

As Lucy Conway (Eiggbox) writes in the forthcoming issue of Closer, the issue is as much about ownership and control as much as it is about the forms of energy we  are going to use:

Energy will be essential to the future of Scotland, whether independence is secured or not.  Much of the debate has focused on how the golden geese of oil and renewables might shape the economy.  But if an alternative political future is possible, perhaps its time to look at reshaping the finance of fuel?  What would Scotland look like if, instead of big business, politicians or economists being at the centre of energy production and distribution, it was the people who live here and use it?
On Eigg they cap energy use at 5kw per household and 10kw per business. They then reduce energy demand by issuing a warning when their renewable sources output is diminished. In her Closer article she looks at how this could be developed across Scotland. We need a range of renewable solutions but we also need to think beyond the paradigm of big privately owned companies owing our energy supply, we need to re-envisage energy as a collective responsibility, not a private utility. And it’s one that needs to be understood as the key to a rapid transition to a zero-carbon Scotland.
Yesterday was a massive day for Scotland’s future energy resilience. Why the silence?


Categories: Environmental Justice

Tags: , , ,

12 replies

  1. Pedant alert but shouldn’t this be called ‘the tides of change’?

    • Maybe. There’s two massive projects announced, one’s a big tidal one and one’s big wave one (Pelamis)… Wind, tidal and wave all part of the mix that we need.

  2. Is there any reason, with Independence, political will and public support, Scotland couldnt be the worlds leading supplier of sustainable and reneable energy technologies by 2025? Is there?

  3. Mike

    Good piece. We need to learn the lessons of Oil. there needs to be a long term fund put in place to invest the public revenues, and the local communities in Orkney, Caithness and eventually elsewhere really do get a fair share, that can be invested locally.

  4. The reason ‘I think’ is that they can moan and make political bites by harping on about how wind is not the answer we all know this but it is part of the solution for us all.

  5. ‘…the issue is as much about ownership and control as much as it is about the forms of energy we are going to use….’

    We are so set in our acceptance of control by big business that I don’t think even the most progressive thinkers wishing an independent Scotland – have dared to ‘blue-sky’ on such matters. It’s somehow akin to tethering a calved ice fragment and floating it to an arid country’s coast.

  6. Does anyone have any online links to the project? I’d like to learn more…

  7. Aye Mike excellent observation. The Largest tidal project in Europe has just been anounced in Scotland and …… the Herald hid it away on page 7 giving it all of a half page single column.
    We know why they’re doing this. It’s every persons job to get this information out far and wide.

    An informed electorate will vote for Independence!

  8. Yes,
    It is amazing that we allow a handful of big businesses to profit from energy assets laid down over millions of years, by billions of life forms on our planet.
    If a corporation can prove that they created the Moon and the Sea, then they should have exclusive rights to the profits generated from tidal energy. If not, then share it out. And let’s give a few quid back to mother nature as well.

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