The Press and Journal (Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire)
Heatwave takes wind out of turbines policy
Critics call for review
GOVERNMENT plans to generate all of Scotland’s electricity from renewables have been blown off course – by the summer heatwave.
Windfarm electricity output drastically fell away as a high-pressure system – bringing settled weather – dominated the country for weeks. Critics called for a change of official government policy to prevent higher consumer prices and fears of the “the lights going out”.
Stuart Young, of Caithness Windfarm Information Forum, said no one can say how much wind energy there will be at any time. “Wind is the only generation technology that can be entirely absent. Over that we have no control,” he said.
Figures have revealed output from windfarms changed dramatically dayto-day this summer. In June, turbines produced 1,044GWh ( gigawatt hours) of electricity representing 4.7% of the total 22,335 MWh (megawatt hours) input from all sources into the National Grid.
In July wind was respon- sible for 726GWh, or 3.1%, of the total. And so far this month wind turbines have contributed 667 MWh into the grid, or 5.1% of the total input.
The output from turbine speaked a nd dipped considerably. On June 23, windfarms contributed 95,206 MWh – but two days later the total fell to just 6,293 MWh. Over one week-long period at the height of the heatwave, output crashed. Total generation was
22,742MWh on July 21 – only to fall a 9,615MWh over the next six days.
Production has been so low that on Friday, one windfarm – Bilbster, near Wick – was generating enough to boil little more than 180 kettles.
Campaigners argue the sort of high pressure system which kept temperatures around 30C last month can happen in winter, whenenergydemandis high. The Scottish Government has a goal of generating the equivalent of 50% of the country’s electricity from renewable sources by 2015 and 100% by 2020.
Wind power dominates the green energy mix. Output hit a record high last year, up 19% on 2011 and four times the levels of 2006. It is SNPpolicy not to replace Scotland’s two nuclear power stations, that produce around half the country’s electricity, when they come to the end of their productive lives.
DrJohnConstable, of the Renewable Energy Foundation, said the margin between generated and consumed electricity in the next few years will be “uncomfortably tight”. “There is a real risk we are not going to have enough conventional generation,” he said.
He thinks politicians will probably have to take stopgap measures, such as reopening closed coal power stations. “Politicians are blundering ahead, dogmatically attached to these policies, not thinking about risk and costs,” he said.
JennyHogan, of industry body Scottish Renewables, said: “It won’t come as a surprise that some days are windierthanothers. Butit’s important to look at the average output for onshore wind over the entire year rather than snapshots of single days. Onshore wind in Scotland helps meet the equivalent of 22% of our electricity demand with other renewable technologies contributing 17%.”
A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “Renewable generation in Scotland was at a record high in 2012, meeting 39% of our electricity demand. Onshore wind, together with other renewable energy sources, will be a key part of a wider, balanced electricity mix, with thermal generation continuing to play an important role.”