Scotland Goes Braveheart On Embracing Renewable Future

Wee Scotland is showing itself to be major player in the renewable energy sector, and it’s not afraid to blow its own trumpet about it. Mind you, it has plenty to crow about.

The Scottish First Minister, Alex Salmond, reaffirmed his government’s commitment to renewables recently by unveiling a map showing recent investment announcements in offshore wind, wave and tidal power.

scotland-renewables

image via Scottish Renewables

The map [PDF] highlights a number of projects in the pipeline including plans for next-generation offshore wind farms by international turbine manufacturers Mitsubishi, Gamesa, Samsung and 2-B Energy, and investments in wave energy projects by Alstom and ABB.

In a statement, Mr Salmond said: “Scotland has around a quarter of Europe’s offshore wind and tidal energy resource and a tenth of its wave power potential.”

The first minister said that leases had already been granted to develop more than 11 gigawatts of offshore wind, wave and tidal-energy generating capacity up to 2020 – by which point the country aims to be finding 100 per cent of its domestic electricity needs from renewables, while continuing as a net exporter of power.

Mr Salmond said that notwithstanding these latest offshore clean energy commitments, renewables already contributed more than a third of Scotland’s electricity needs in 2011. He said the sector was supporting more than 11,000 jobs, and promised that tens of thousands of more would be created in the coming years.

He pointed out that in the same week that the European Wind Energy Association had revealed that wind energy’s contribution to GDP on the continent had grown by a third in three years, Japan’s Mitsui had bought a 25 percent stake in Scottish engineering firm, Global Energy. The two companies are planning to develop multi-sector energy engineering at Nigg Energy Park in the Highlands.

“The map highlights many of the recent investment commitments and proposals announced in just one sector of our world-leading energy industry, which is helping to transform our economy and reindustrialise communities across Scotland,” Mr Salmond said.

The map does not show all investments in the sector, but is indicative of the level and spread of current and proposed activity announced for locations across Scotland.

The growth of renewables in Scotland has been an economic success story in a country that has frequently languished near the bottom of social depravation indicators and jobs tables compared to other parts of the UK.

Realizing that they’re on to a good thing, the Scottish government has invested heavily in the sector. The Scottish government has announced a loan scheme to help get community renewable energy projects up to the planning stage. Under the scheme, communities and rural businesses in Scotland can apply to get part of a £23.5 million ($38 million) pot of cash. Energy Minister Fergus Ewing declared the scheme open in a speech to the Scottish Highland Renewable Energy Conference in Inverness.

Paul Willis has been journalist for a decade. Starting out in Northern England, from where he hails, he worked as a reporter on regional papers before graduating to the cut-throat world of London print media. On the way he spent a year as a correspondent in East Africa, writing about election fraud, drought and an Ethiopian version of American Idol. Since moving to America three years ago he has worked as a freelancer, working for CNN.com and major newspapers in Britain, Australia and North America. He writes on subjects as diverse as travel, media ethics and human evolution. He lives in New York where, in spite of the car fumes and the sometimes eccentric driving habits of the yellow cabs, he rides his bike everywhere.