Sunday, 20 May 2012

The Wind of Change - The Interconnectedness of Everything

People in Scotland complain about the weather a great deal, the sun never shines enough, it's always raining, it's bloody cold. Another complaint I hear about a lot is the wind, it's either blowing a gale, or there's no wind at all, and this last complaint is normally made from the ever decreasing Luddites that seem to constantly moan about wind farms (as a small aside, these wind turbines don't have to spin like the propellers on aircraft to produce electricity, they have a gearing system, so a gentle rotation spins enough to step up the speed of the shaft that actually rotates within the generator to produce the electricity).

Wind turbines, you either love them or you hate them. The good news is they are here to stay, the even better news is, with Scotland having 25% of Europe's wind capacity, Scotland is in an excellent geographical position to take advantage of this green energy.

It is estimated that 11.5 GW of onshore wind potential exists, enough to provide 45 TWh of energy. More than double this amount exists on offshore sites where mean wind speeds are greater than on land. The total offshore potential is estimated at 25 GW, and although more expensive to install could be enough to provide almost half the total energy used in Scotland.
According to a recent report, the world's wind market offers many opportunities for Scottish companies, with total global revenue over the next five years estimated at £35 billion and continued growth forecast until at least 2025 (source)
So, let's just accept that with that kind of green renewable energy creation ability, these wind turbines are here to stay, at least for a while. As technology improves, and more of these wind turbines will be situated off-shore, we may see a decreasing instance of the NIMBY effect. But, let's face it, would you want to look out of your kitchen window and see a wind turbine, or a nuclear reactor, or a dirty old coal-fed power station?

Scotland though, doesn't just have the wind to rely on to power the collective kettles of the nation. Hydro electricity generation provides 6% of the nation's power, and is another segment of the market that is in expanding mode. (source)
Also, making minor contributions to date, but planning much more as development progresses, are the innovations in wave and tidal power generation.

"Scotland achieved a major milestone this week by successfully installing a 10MW tidal power array in the Sound of Islay, off the coast of Orkney." (source)

One of our close neighbours, Norway, also has vast renewable energy resources.

"Norway ought to have access to up to 40 terrawatt hours of renewable energy in 2020-2025, of which about half would come from offshore wind power." (source)

So, imagine the scenario, the wind has stopped blowing, the Scottish turbines are relaxing sedately in stationary mode, but just a wee bit across the North Sea, the turbines in Norway are in a whizzing tizzy. The next day, the situation is reversed, Scottish turbines are in a spin, while in Norway, they are having a relaxing break.

Ah! What about running a cable under the sea, connect the two nations, share the wind between them, share the hydro, what a best of two world's solution, interconnection!

Just this week, Alex Salmond, Scotland's First Minister has been on a visit to Norway. He said: "From world-leading offshore wind, marine and hydro energy in the north of Europe, to massive solar power in the south, we have huge natural renewable resources, which must be harnessed in the most efficient way to deliver benefits for all the continent's citizens. The NorthConnect project is an excellent example of the kind of grid interconnection that will be needed across the continent to ensure we maximise the contribution of all European nations to reduce our reliance on imported fossil fuels, increase energy security and meet targets for reduced greenhouse gas emissions and renewable energy generation." 

Odd Ygarden, Chairman of NorthConnect, added: "NorthConnect welcomes the support which the First Minister and the Scottish Government is giving to the project. We see a future with huge levels of wind based generation of electricity in the UK and the North Sea. The level of this electricity production will have fluctuations. NorthConnect connecting the Nordic hydro-based electricity production with this wind generation will create a unique renewable quality in security of supply in the European electricity market." (source)

The cable is in the pipeline, so to speak (pun intended), and a company called NorthConnect, with five partners, including Scottish and Southern Energy, is planning on linking Scotland and Norway with a 1,400 MegaWatt connector approximately 570km in length. The project is hoped to be completed before 2020.

So, perhaps you may look out the window around 2020, and see the wind turbine on the horizon in a lackadaisical state of inactivity, but yet, as you plug in the kettle, the wee light glows to show that heating of the water within is under progress, and shortly that craved caffeine break of Columbian coffee will soon be ready. You may wonder at the interconnectedness of everything, yet it is only down to the commonsense approach of two nations, taking advantage of each others resources in green renewable energy, to the benefit of both.

Ah, doesn't that coffee taste good!

 For those looking for information regarding the energy acronyms used

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