True Grid

tidalMike MacKenzie on how a lack of interconnectivity is losing us economic and ecological advantage, and it’s happening for narrow, short-term political reasons.

There is a battle being fought across the Highlands and Islands that unfortunately did not get a high enough profile in the General Election campaign. It is a high stakes battle and quite simply the future of the Highlands and Islands depends on it. Its outcome could be every bit as profound as that of the Highland clearances.

It is a battle for economic opportunity; the opportunity afforded by renewable energy.

For generations we in these far flung corners of Scotland have fought against our weather, struggling in the face of raging winds, giant waves and surging tides. How delightfully ironic, that these same elements could now become our best friends, our economic allies. Scotland has 25% of Europe’s wind and tidal energy opportunity and 10% of its wave energy capacity and much of this lies dormant in the Highland sand Islands.

Harnessing this socio economic opportunity should be the stock in trade of good government but here there is a tale of two governments. The Scottish Government could not be more supportive but lacks any real energy powers. Those powers we do have are exercised through the planning system. We can say what we don’t want and we certainly don’t want new nuclear plants, but we can’t effectively incentivise those technologies we do want, like offshore wind, wave and tidal energy.

UK Governments of every political hue have let us down badly. Energy policy and especially the privatisation first begun by Margaret Thatcher continued by Labour and more recently the Coalition has proven to be a disaster whichever way you look at it. The acid test is spare capacity generation, which at the UK level has plunged to an all-time low, predicted to fall to 2% next winter. It is generally believed that security of supply necessitates spare capacity between 20%-30% in order to keep the lights on if, for instance, there was a fault at a major power station.

The reason for this dangerously low generating capacity is lack of investment in new power generation to replace older power stations, many of which have reached or are approaching the end of their lifespan. With energy companies often being both generators and suppliers there is and has been an inadequate incentive to invest in new generation. Why would they when scarcity of supply drives up prices?

The energy market, like any other, is subject to the law of supply and demand.

In order to keep the lights on, National Grid is forced to pay over the odds to buy in spare capacity, driving up wholesale prices as it does so. Thus we have fuel poverty well documented on some of Scotland’s islands now in excess of 50%. While this is a function of low wages and poor housing the main factor is the rising cost of energy. There is something immoral about communities suffering fuel poverty to such an extent when they are awash with such potential to harness energy.

In Scotland we currently export around 25% of the electricity we produce. Increasingly this is from renewable sources. We help to keep England’s lights on and help the UK Government meet its climate change targets. We were promised that if we voted No in the Referendum the broad shoulders of the UK would help to see our renewables industry flourish.

Instead the London Government seems desperate to buy in energy from anywhere but Scotland. Last year they spoke to the Irish Republic hoping to buy excess wind energy. They were told to come back in a decade. Lately they have dreamt up a capacity mechanism to subsidise two new interconnectors from France and Belgium to the south of England. A further interconnector has recently been given the go ahead from Norway to the northeast of England. Such is the desperation to buy in energy from elsewhere, anywhere it seems but Scotland.

No such interconnectors have been promised for Scotland’s islands, despite a report published in 2013 suggesting our islands could provide 5% of the UK’s electricity by 2030 and ultimately around 20% of its electricity requirement. This possibility is being strangled at birth for the lack of these interconnectors, the copper cables that transport the high voltage current to the mainland. This report was a jointly funded UK and Scottish Government report, is therefore free from political bias, and was warmly received and well regarded. It suggested around 10,000 jobs could be provided across Orkney, Shetland and the Western Isles by 2030, with a further 29,000 across the UK Mainland. The opportunity, of course, is not restricted to these islands only. All of the Highlands and Islands stand to benefit in an opportunity that can provide the means of rebuilding resilient and economically successful rural communities.

Ofgem’s formula for providing interconnectors demands a very significant contribution from prospective developers. So far this mechanism has been a show stopper. State Aid rules are often cited as an excuse but that has not stopped the European Central Bank from funding an interconnector to Sardinia nor the above mentioned interconnectors.

The missing ingredient has been political will, interconnectors having been talked about for our islands now for over a decade with no progress. Unfair transmission charges which are a product of a bygone era of centralised energy production are a further problem. Those same unfair transmission charges, which penalise energy generation in Scotland and which appear to have ensured the early demise of Longannet, also disproportionately penalise renewable energy generators in Scotland, especially those in the Highlands and Islands. Ofgem’s long delayed review of these charges, Project Transmit, is likely to be too little and too late.

Perhaps the real tragedy that is unfolding is the loss of our lead in wave and tidal technology. Orkney’s European Marine Energy Centre is ten years ahead of the rest of the world in developing these technologies but this lead is now threatened by the lack of a new interconnector as Orkney’s grid has been at full capacity for some time. Commercial scale deployment and testing of devices that are approaching market readiness is now not possible.

There is thought to be a world market for wave energy devices of around £460 billion. A significant slice of this could be Scotland’s. Our oil and gas supply chain earned more abroad last year than it did in the UK. We could do the same with renewable energy technologies. There is a huge economic prize to be gained if we maintain and consolidate our lead in marine renewables.

That great Labour Secretary of State for Scotland, Tom Johnston, brought hydro power to the glens and affordable electricity to our homes. LibDem Secretary of State for Scotland, Alistair Carmichael, did nothing to further our renewable opportunity, indeed it is arguable that he has overseen an era in which inaction on interconnectors has done real and lasting economic damage to the islands he is meant to represent and particularly to his home island of Orkney.

The SNP Manifesto included a commitment for investment in energy infrastructure so that we can maximise renewable energy generation. That is why I fully endorse the First Minister’s demand this week that the Scottish Government is properly consulted on energy policy. The socio-economic prospects of the Highlands and Islands depend on it.

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Comments (36)

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  1. john young says:

    The Pentland Firth I believe is one of the few areas in the world where 3 major seas/oceans meet giving an opportunity to harness a tremendous amount of clean sustainable energy,I know for a fact that Alex Salmond was looking into this years ago but it all has gone quiet??

    1. Tearlach MacDaid says:

      The first phase of Meygens 400mw tidal array scheme is now under construction just by John O Groats, 4 turbines £50m investment. The plan will be to have the whole scheme build out by 2022.

    2. robert fraser says:

      Every day I sit on a stone seat at Victoria walk in thurso and look at the Atlantic and the north sea tidal surges crash against the rocks and say why o why has wave power projects gone quiet.
      The Westminster goverment will never promote these projects as the are obsessed with protecting the union.
      Our only hope is UDI
      In the meantime I will sit and by my seat and dream of an independent scotland

  2. Connor McEwen says:

    You cannot expect Westminster to help Scotland to be dominant in fossil fuels and renewable energy now!! Tch,Tch, tut ,tut.

  3. Richard Gauld says:

    There has been plenty of work on marine energy up here in Orkney, with tidal designs starting to converge towards a sort of stumpy underwater turbine, however wave energy has been less of a success, due to the harshness of the environment around the islands, along with 20m+ waves.

    Wind energy remains the most important and cost effective of the energy sources in the isles, and although as discussed we have reached grid saturation, new undersea cables are being planned and should be installed within the next five years. This new grid is being underwritten by the wind energy companies, however the difficulty we now have is that there is no indication of renewable energy will be funded in the near future.

  4. Jones says:

    So basically everything Fergus Ewing said about indy not affecting renewables was rubbish. So the integrated market, and future UK subsidy does matter now? And there was no guarantee that rUK would source Scot energy? What happened to Saudi of the North.

    There were many who said investment would go elsewhere and that priorities would shift given a long uncertain and protracted referendum on independence. And 2/3 years later after stagnation, now that Wales is steaming ahead with a generation of tidal pools, alternate plans for interconnectors, suddenly this is the UK s fault (yet again).

    Besides why invest in expensive Scottish offshore wind and wave power, in a country that may soon leave UK and compete with rUK energy production in terms of tax incentives rather than investing elsewhere more reliable with longer term certainty?

    Talk about cake and eating it. Scotland already gets a third of UK renewable subs but only contributes 8% market share.

  5. john young says:

    Exactly Jones we shouldn,t have to look to others to create/solve our problems,we should have control/governance of our own,that is the only way we will ever move forward.

  6. Neil says:

    If you went by this article, you would think that the national grid in Scotland wasn’t owned and run by Scottish Power and Scottish and Southern Energy.

    1. Broadbield says:

      Yes, SP owned by Spanish company, I believe, and SSE has large English ownership and both have privatised profits which were once owned by the State – we need to bring them back into public ownership.

      1. Neil says:

        Yeah. But if you went by Scotland’s supposedly radical blogs, you may as well be reading an annual report for energy company shareholders. Seriously, is this as right-wing as the Scottish left has become?

  7. Broadbield says:

    According to the SG we have 25% of Europe’s offshore wind, 25% tidal and 10% of wave – so even more than in para 3.

  8. Neil says:

    Christ – I reread the article. A load of bobbins. Half the pylons in Scotland are making profits for Spanish investment shares on the back of UK energy policy. If you went by this article the thing to do is to give them money to increase their profitability.

  9. Iain wright says:

    There are highly relevant issues, around maintenance of system inertia and capacity credits appropriate to different generation technologies, that are missing from this article. Also the comment on Irish wind is reverse of the facts. Couple this with what reads like interpretation of the market as a hybrid private/public beast and failure to address the need for LRMC remuneration of investment and you have a somewhat superficial canter across the energy field.
    Don’t get me wrong, there are big issues to be addressed in energy policy. But I think that these have to be properly analysed and understood if we are to have any chance of developing a decent energy policy.
    There is also the correlation between generation and demand in the National Grid transmission charging policy to be addressed. This might be a bit uncomfortable if not addressed, although I agree that only an economist could think that ex-post locational incentives for long lived, capital intensive investments make any kind of sense in the real world. Particularly one where externalities of carbon reduction requirements inevitably distort simplistic investment analysis.
    Sorry, but energy sustainability (in all senses) is a very important issue, that is massively more complex than this short article suggests. But maybe you were just looking to encourage debate?

    1. I think we are encouraging debate (as your comment testifies), I agree this is a complex multi-dimensional field that we have barely touched on. We will be exploring this from many angles over the coming year and drawing on expertise from different fields: feel free to contact us and contribute.

      1. Gill Steele says:

        Excellent, this is an area of policy often ignored and which is/could be massively important in Scotland

  10. George Gunn says:

    There are three main areas, I think, in the business of renewable energy which hamper economic and social growth in the Highlands and Islands in particular and for Scotland in general. One is the ownership of land. The relationship between the power company and the laird is always at the expense of everyone else. Squabbling over local trust benefits from wind farms as is currently happening over the North Highlands is not good policy. This is true also in relation to the Crown Estate and ownership of the seabed, especially in the Pentland Firth and the development of tidal stream energy.

    As far as investment is concerned what we have in Britain at the moment is an economy led by the financial sector and as this is parasitic and short term the City brokers are not all that interested in long term investment in power distribution infrastructure. What the City wants the Tories do.

    The third thing is that in the Highlands we have to radically examine just how we create and use electricity, especially for our homes. Our houses should generate energy – from the ground and from the air – so that we do not have to endure the over industrialisation of our landscape and living environment.

    Until the Scottish Parliament and Government has control over every aspect of our energy generation and provision then it (and we the people of Scotland) cannot begin to implement the changes and policies needed in order to sustain a viable population in the Highlands and Islands and provide Scotland with a balanced supply of cheap renewable energy. As the article suggests, it is all their to be done if the political will was also there.

  11. Clydebuilt says:

    O/T The western Link a sub sea interconnect between Hunterston and the Wirral Peninsula is due to be in commission by 2016. The contract was signed in Feb 2012 work started around March 2014 …….so the thought of an independent Scotland wasn’t a deterrent to England making sure it has the infrastructure to allow the sourcing of additional electricity from us. Btw there is an additional sub sea cable linking Hunterston with the kintyre Penninsula being laid.

  12. Neil says:

    I agree that the Pentland Firth N sea/Atlantic tidal development is a great undertaking, but the whole thing is run by a company from Singapore who are getting millions of quid from the Scottish government. Serious millions, I believe (like a quarter of the higher education budget). I do wonder how inadequate the government has to be that it finances Singaporean pension funds to get turbines put in the Pentland Firth.

    1. Broadbield says:

      I don’t know about this particular issue, but “Small State” conservatism (the hidden agenda behind austerity policies) has failed to provide state funding for R&D, basic & applied science research on a long-term basis – the very thing private capital will not invest in due to their short-term pursuit of profit. China is powering ahead in the field of renewables. The US has, in the past, invested heavily in research into the internet, nanotechnology etc. There’s hardly a piece of technology in the iPhone which doesn’t rely on state funded research, a fact rarely acknowledged. Meanwhile, Apple gets all the profits. See The Entrepreneurial State by Mariana Mazucatto.

  13. Allan Thomson says:

    ” why invest in expensive Scottish offshore wind and wave power in a country that may soon leave the UK”

    It would seem that Mike MacKenzie has generated an overdue wave with his article. No doubt there are complex issues at play. They are likely to remain complex as long as UK politics are involved. The quote from Jones above confirms this. I would however refer him/her to the excellent recent articles by the Cuthbertsons and the conservative estimates (£150 billion) of Scotlands net contribution to the UK exchequer since the introduction of the Barnet formula. This is either a realistic figure or it is not. If it is, then it can certainly be posed as moral justification for investment now in Scotlands offshore renewables. (sadly, only of course in an environment where morals count). If it is not a realistic figure then perhaps Jones will offer the arguments against?
    It will be interesting to see what history makes of this politically and finance driven debate in the not too distant future. The absence of a model which includes some estimate of the future costs of carbon induced climate change is amateurish in a cost driven decision.
    Mike MacKenzie of course is simply doing his job by raising the issue and sparking debate. He will well appreciate the inherent risk in sticking ones head above the parapet. It will be a tragedy if the maximum possible benefit is not derived from Scotlands natural resources. The time is upon us where this issue and that of land ownership (as highlighted by Lesley Riddoch) comes right up the in tray for resolution one way or the other. I have a depressing feeling that history may prove to be a harsh judge of the outcome.

    1. Ann says:

      “It will be a tragedy if the maximum possible benefit is not derived from Scotlands natural resources.”

      I wonder why the new SNP MP for Ross, Skye & Lochaber objected to a wind turbine being built close to his home on Skye?

  14. Arthur Robertson says:

    I agree with George Gunn’s comment.
    I was worried by the Magnox story today
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-32827580
    There was a House of Lords amendment which took power over Renewables from The Scottish Government (someone will be able to refresh us with the details & date?)
    Ed Davey and the borrowing from China so French companies can build Nuclear Reactors at Hinkley Point
    & the Toshiba/Westinghouse reactors planned for Cumbria 3-5 (pressurised water ones at that)
    fill me with horror.
    Orkney, where I live, has an advantage in that the infrastructure to export power from Dounraey Nuclear Reactor (now decommissioned except for Naval work connected to Trident)
    is within feasible reach for Orkney Renewables.
    UK government could apply for Derogation from EU restrictions on Government funding transmission infrastructure or Devolve the authority to Holyrood it refuses to do either and the progress made in Orkney will stall if we do not get an Interconnector soon. Seatricity has already relocated to Cornwall.
    If this was Germany our Interconnector would have been in 5 years ago.
    With finite fossil fuels, Global Warming, the dangers of Fracking and Nuclear there are surely enough reasons to overcome market shortsightedness to develop Renewable Energy for future generations?
    If Amber Rudd the new Conservative Energy Minister (who worked under Ed Davey) does not have the will to help us in this endeavor, the Tories will again see Scotland straining at the leash of UK government indifference. I lapsed from SNP over the NATO oxymoron & am now a member of The Green Party though I still for a variety of reasons support Independence for Scotland.

  15. john young says:

    Ere it ever was lack of investment anytime we as a country tried to raise our profile,from as far back as The Darien Project now how far sighted was that we have been pushed aside,our only hope is to have full control of our destiny,how do we raise the money and keep control to invest in these new and exciting ventures? I haven,t the foggiest,maybe some of our posters can enlighten us.

  16. Patrick Hogg, Biographer of Robert Burns says:

    Top notch piece of writing. Nails it. Lack of will in Westminster’s Neo Feudal elites to do anything to benefit the people of Scotland is holding back progress in renewable energy big time. We are consumers to them. We are to sit down shut up and do as we are told as financiers play economic fiscal responsibility by gambling with profits in their game of Greed, regardless of need, poverty and people freezing over winter. But fiscal responsibility in playing games with money means real economic pain (and debt deflation! which sucks money we should be investing in new tech and renewables into furnishing debt). But this economic insularity is Greed manifest and protects monopolies where the old boy network comes in. We consumers dont matter. They have us by the short and curlies. Monopolies. Its time we in Scotland invented independent electricity producing technology for individuals, for streets, for communities; whether that be small windmills or mass production of solar panels. We must break monopolies for the people of Scotland, Highland Central and Lowlands. Take the wasted energy every day at the tidal ebb race at the Mull of Galloway where the rip tide would generate electricity for most of Galloway if harnessed right. SCotland needs out of the UK to get hold of all our finances to create new ways of power generation that puts our people, not BIG BUSINESS first. That is what the SNP is about under this brilliant FM!

    1. Iain G Richmond says:

      Patrick…..

      I think you should stick to writing biographies and leave Electrical engeneering and power supply solutions to those who know something about it ….

      Iain G Richmond……..( I’m a descendent of John Richmond whom you should know about ! )

  17. Mark Potter-Irwin says:

    This problem is also stopping small scale Community Energy projects such as our hydro scheme at Dalavich on Loch Awe. 5 to 7 years till we can get a grid connection due to lack of investment in upgrading the lines from Taynuilt to Inveray. Yet public grants and loans are available to get it going despite the blockage. It’s bordering on insane.

  18. Iain G Richmond says:

    What puzzles me is the reluctance to develop Nuclear power, an almost inexhaustible source of energy. The Chinese, Indians and Norwegians are ploughing money into the Development of Thorium which looks very promising and the French get 70+ % of their power from Nuclear. Modern reactors are now very safe ( Nuclear powered Warships have been sailing the oceans for 60 years without any major incidents) and the problem dealing with nuclear waste seems overstated.

    Surely the decision to choose the main source of power must come first…the distribution of it is a lesser problem.

    I can’t see the advantage of regressing to technology used by the Babylonians in the form of wind and water power. All very nice tree huggy stuff but useless as far as power production goes for a 21st century industrial society.

    1. Let’s agree that ‘promising’ comes to fruition in a meaningful timeframe, let’s agree that all safety issues are overcome, let’s agree that there’s public support and lets agree that nuclear powered warships are somehow relevant, and lets agree that the Babylonians had – say – the tidal technology of the MeyGen project (expected to power 175,000 homes).

      Can you tell me the clean up costs for Sellafield? And can you tell me how it relates to the cumulative clean up costs for the UK’s decommissioning process? Then can you tell me who’s paying for it?

      1. Iain G Richmond says:

        Well, yes I’d say that ‘promising’ and inexhaustible is better than useless, ineffective, costly, intermittent for wind power and facing an engineering nightmare for wave and tidal power which so far has bankrupted companies and swallowed up government grants and produced nothing. A single nuclear plant will produce power continuously for 60 years for millions of homes and businesses. The Meygen project will supply possibly 400MW Power, about half that of a small gas fired plant. Can you tell me how many turbines will have to be deployed to achieve this, how they will be serviced in a hostile environment and the cost in subsidies ?

        You use the word ‘expected’ which of course sums up the whole delusional aspect of people who are technically dysfunctional about provision of power.

        As far as costs go, subsidies to wind power alone by 2020 will be approx £7 billion annually enough in 10 years to decommission several nuclear power plants.

        The relevance of nuclear powered warships is that nuclear power has been proven to be operationally safe in close proximity to humans and even accidents like the sinking of the Kursk have not produced the ‘expected’ nuclear devastation.

        Of course whatever power source…..consumers pay !!

        1. I note with interest your inability to answer my question.

          1. Iain G Richmond says:

            Ah! Sellafield….that pit of corruption !! The super gravy train on steroids !

            Nothing to do with actual real costs of decommissioning. The project which has been bloated by snouts in troughs, poor control, inadequate performance and a catalog of payments bordering on the criminal.

            Sellafield is the ‘T-Ford’ of the Nuclear industry. A plant more than 50 years old and built, I believe, mainly to produce weapon grade material for nuclear bombs……..a dirty site indeed !!

            The cost of the clean up of this hyper filthy place is expected to be in the region of £70 billion+ which is, I reiterate to get things into perspective,the cost of subsidies of just over 10 years for the wind industry scam.

            Unlike modern nuclear plants I doubt if Sellafield was designed to take account of decommissioning problems and cost………….things move on y’know !

            PS. I note with interest your inability to answer my question…

          2. Can you tell me how many turbines will have to be deployed to achieve this, how they will be serviced in a hostile environment and the cost in subsidies ?

            It’s 269 turbines. I’m not an engineer on the project so I cant answered detailed questions on servicing. Does that somehow make my opinion invalid?

            I see the price of renewables is falling and investors are responding: http://www.theclimategroup.org/what-we-do/news-and-blogs/renewables-offer-best-outcome-for-dollars-invested-investors-talk-carbon-risk-in-paris/

            Is the cost of storing and disposing of nuclear waste coming down too?

    2. Dave McEwan Hill says:

      Thorium nonsense.

      “My wish is for a nuclear future, Fusion preferably. It represents Unlimited energy, the Holy Grail for humanity.”
      We’ve been hearing about this since the 1960s and they still haven’t managed to work out how it can be economically utilised as it takes as much power as it can generate to actually prepare it for use.
      Now, if you were to double the price of electricity………..

      I am old enough to remember being told that nuclear power could produce us almost costless electricity. I wonder how that worked out

  19. Iain G Richmond says:

    Thanks for the link to the Climate group……I’ve got to admit I winced a bit when the first image I noticed on this page was that of Tony Blair smarming his way at some conference or other. Not a good start.

    However, their aims seem to be in line with a zero carbon future that nuclear power can deliver, viz.,

    ” Our mission is to inspire and convince leaders at the top of government, business and society to reduce carbon emissions now and accelerate the transition to a vibrant low carbon economy”

    Only Nuclear can do that effectively, predictably, efficiently with an almost inexhaustible fuel source. And, with the likelihood of thorium nuclear plants the problem with nuclear waste is negligible. (Thorium plants can degrade the present stock of nuclear waste). Yes, modern techniques do make the storage and disposal of nuclear waste much more cost effective and safe. Remember, we’re 60 odd years down the line in the nuclear industry with much more expertise and experience available.

    The prospect of Nuclear Fusion power plants within the next 50-70 years is I think possible. With that scenario humanity will have the ability to deliver an almost infinite power source incredibly inexpensively…amazing! We will then have the ability to help the poor, the dispossessed, the hungry and those living in misery and squalor.

    I believe this is where our efforts should be directed. New technology will save the planet not 4000 year old stuff that’s been tested and failed to deliver.

    I think it’s pretty obvious that you have little engineering background but common sense should prevail if you care to look at the detail of the tidal power scheme. Each of these 269 machines, I believe, weighs up to 150 tonnes and is designed to produce ~2MW of power. Each has to be tethered to the sea bed covering a vast area, presumably on a massive concrete platform then have a cable attached to bring electricity generated ashore to some remote location (Orkney/Shetland?) before being hooked up to the grid. It will be expected to operate at sea, the most hostile environment for any machine(particularly electrical in nature), at a depth of 40m. How in the name o’ the wee man are you supposed to maintain a machine as complex as this when it’s under 40m of raging sea?

    As you know 2MW is a piddling amount of electricity (a small gas fired power station can produce 600MW and covers the area of about 4 football pitches). So to have the same power output as a small gas fired power station we would need as you say almost 300 of the damn things and at what cost, God only knows!

  20. bigal says:

    You’re still using fuel ( which must be obtained from somewhere- mining, etc), and producing waste that you propose to ” store “. There are clear issues surrounding sourcing of fuel. ” Storage ” of waste effectively means; ” let another generation worry about it. I’ll be dead. ”
    That’s before we even start on potential reactor problems.
    Nuclear may well be cheapest. That doesn’t mean it is the best option.

    1. Iain G Richmond says:

      I begin with a quote from James Lovelock, probably the most famous Environmental Scientist on the planet, regarding his views on Nuclear Power …..”the public belief in the harmfulness of Nuclear Power is too strong to break by argument. Instead, I have offered in public to accept all the high-level waste produced in a year from a Nuclear power station for deposit on my small plot of land; it would occupy a space about a cubic metre in size and would fit safely in a concrete pit. I would use the heat from its decaying radioactive elements to heat my home. It would be a waste not to use it. More important it would not be a danger to me, my family or the wildlife” (The Revenge of Gaia: pub 2007 page 118)

      Fossil fuels represent energy which is not of our time. It is energy from the Sun stored compactly in dead plant matter. Nuclear fuels represent energy which is not of our place. Their immense energy density, about a million times greater than fossil fuels, comes from the final moments of collapse of ancient stars and while fossil fuel will no doubt ultimately peak, such is the energy density of nuclear fuels, they are essentially forever.

      The fissioning of 1 gram of U-235 releases 2.28 x 104 kw-hr of heat, which is equivalent to the heat of combustion of 5 metric tons of coal or of 13 barrels of oil. One kilo of U-235 is equivalent to 2000 metric tons of coal or 6000 barrels of oil. (Within narrow limits the same values are valid for U-238 and for thorium)

      2.5 Hinckley size new generation reactors could easily supply the whole of Scotland’s power requirements 24hrs/day for 60 years without any Co2 production. They operate at efficiency levels ( capacity factor ) of 96%.

      There is no energy source that does not have an adverse impact on our environment. Take for example the manufacture of Solar cells……

      Hexafluoroethane which is used in their manufacture has a global warming potential that is 12,000 times higher than CO2, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). It is 100 percent manufactured by humans, and survives 10,000 years once released into the atmosphere. Another product used, Nitrogen trifluoride, is 17,000 times more virulent than CO2, and SF6, the most treacherous greenhouse gas, is over 23,000 times more threatening. The life expectancy of Solar cells is only 15 years so to keep the same power output this manufacturing cycle must be an ongoing situation creating more and more pollution.

      Every Wind Turbine between 1MW and 2MW has about 1tonne of neodymium and copper in its generator. Currently there are approximately 5000 turbines in the UK rising to 10000 by 2020. Both these metals require intensive mining, Neodymium leaves a particularly toxic environment behind. Inter-connectors like those between Holland, France and England use 800 tonnes of copper per kilometre.

      An onshore 1.5MW Turbine needs 1000 tonnes of concrete for its base, a hugely carbon intense product to manufacture and of course we’ve got to consider the steel used in its manufacture and the energy consumed in its construction. The effective life span of a wind turbine is 15-20 years, gives intermittent power with a capacity factor ( efficiency) of 30% and needs to be backed up by fossil or nuclear power.

      If wind power was effective we’d be use sailing ships to transport cargo across the oceans.

      My wish is for a nuclear future, Fusion preferably. It represents Unlimited energy, the Holy Grail for humanity.

      You pays y’er money and you makes y’er choice……as they say!

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