Kudos to Scotland

Last weekend on PBS Newshour, a two-part series called “Scotland is betting on tidal energy” was presented. Per the series, Scotland “is nearly 70% powered by renewable sources already, with the goal of reaching 100% by 2020, 10 years ahead of schedule.” Let that quote sink in a little – by 2020. Their focus has been on offshore wind energy, but the true wave of the future is tidal energy.

A project in the Pentland Firth is called MeyGen which includes three tidal wave turbines each with three thirty foot blades, the apparatus weighing 150 tons. The turbines provide a very predictable amount of energy powering over 1,000 homes each. “As the tide ebbs and flows, the turbines spin between 7 and 15 times a minute generating power to a wind turbine.”

Tim Cornelius, the CEO of SIMEC Atlantis said the tidal turbines have been expensive at first and have required half the cost to be subsidized by the Scottish government. But, he said the costs are coming down and after one year the cost of production is 50% of the year before. The turbines also build off existing technology used in the oil and gas energy, with cranes, ships and equipment to position a new turbine.

Scotland has been the leading edge implementer of these tidal turbines and others are taking notice. Cornelius says SIMEC plans to deploy 250 additional tidal turbines in the next several years. Other coastal countries are taking notice and creating their own pilots. The US is behind others, but will be investing in a testing facility off the Oregon coast.

As discovered with solar and onshore and offshore wind energy, the production costs decline over time so as to be more on par with fossils fuel production costs. But, in my view, when all costs are factored in – maintenance, litigation, environmental degradation, transportation, water loss and health – renewables are far cheaper than fossil fuel. For example, maintaining coal ash is a cost that never goes away.

While good things are happening with renewables in the US, we can all learn from countries like Scotland. We have a few cities like Burlington, VT, Georgetown, TX and Greensburg, KS which are 100% renewable energy powered. And, while California is a solar power and Texas a wind power champion, we have far more ways to go.

So, kudos to Scotland!


34 thoughts on “Kudos to Scotland

  1. Scotland is gradually becoming the leader nation on this collection of islands…..Meanwhile The Brexit Circus is in full swing…..(as Fred Flintstone used say ‘Oh boy,)

    • Roger, per the people interviewed, one of the greatest threats to their progress is Brexit. They have a burgeoning customer base across the channel. This is yet one more reason Scotland may take a vote to remain in the EU. You are right about the Scots being more forward thinking. Keith

      • As I understand it Keith one of the things any business hates is uncertainty, particularly in its nation government or the nations’ governments it must deal with.
        And what do we have in the UK at present???
        As I write we, The UK are not sure if Mrs May Prime Minister will survive a vote of No Confidence by her own Party…The chances are she will, but with only 108 days to go when the UK must leave the EU it hardly paints a reassuring picture does it? (We should know if she has in about 1 hour 30 mins)

      • Sha’Tara, if they don’t do another Brexit referendum, I can see a peaceful William Wallace rebellion voting to leave the UK. Keith

      • Roger, well she survived, now let’s hope some cooler heads prevail. There is no great outcome with Brexit, only a less painful one. If the EU throws her a few bones, it may help. I have felt all along, Brexit was poorly sold to voters and too many young voters did not vote. Same thing happened here in 2016. Keith

  2. Thanks for this post, Keith. I had never heard about tidal turbines before. Canada’s Atlantic coast should be ideal for this type of project too!

      • I wonder if both coastlines would support those turbines – the same applies to the US too.

      • I live on the west coast and we have fiords here with tidal currents so strong, boats have to calculate their ingress and egress based on those currents. Yes, such tidal currents could certainly power huge turbines. Just a bit of engineering.

  3. It is wonderful how more or less every European country works on using alternative energies. I really hope that the US will take a look at them. You truly have all the resources and experts you need and Europe will share gladly! In the end, all countries need to work together to heal this planet.

    • Linda, good question. I hope that is part of any study. New wind mills are taller and erected away from migratory paths working with the National Audubon Society. Keith

      • Linda, I think the cost got in the way. It is not just the turbine, the electricity produced has to be cabled back to land and then cabled on land to utilities. I think with the offshore wind mills, Scotland has a leg up on the cabling. Keith

      • Sha’Tara, you raise an excellent point. Anything with moving parts needs to be serviced, especially if in sea water. Coal plants require a huge amount of servicing, which tends to be overlooked in comparisons. Keith

      • …and of course the obvious part I overlooked in my comment was to say that corrosion means pollution of surrounding waters. No, Keith, what we need most and drastically, isn’t alternative technology to ‘service’ the wants consumerist capitalism has created and seeks to broaden, but to kill those wants. We need to look to nature itself for answers to our survival. Our civilization is our real problem and alternative technology will only prolong its necessary death. We won’t, of course, face that fact, but the fact itself will kill us.

      • Sha’ Tara, to emphasize a key point that I take away from your comment is conservation – reducing usage of materials and energy – is far more impactful than using renewables. We are sold on the concept over newer, faster, shinier things that has caused a huge over use of goods, energy, water, etc. Even fruits and vegetables that are not pristine looking are passed over and often end up in garbage dumps.

        I am typing this on an I-4 phone. Filtered tap water is more than fine. Walking to the store or on errands is more than OK. And, it goes on. Thanks for your thoughts. Keith

  4. I hadn’t heard of Scotland’s efforts and tidal wave turbines, but two thumbs up to them!!! The U.S. is quickly becoming the pariah for the lack of support for innovation in renewable energy, for promotion of destructive fossil fuels. Though some of our cities, states and even corporations are making strides, without the support of the federal government, it is but a drop in the bucket compared to what it could be if we had foresight in the upper echelons. Hats off to Scotland!

    • Jill, truly hats off. The US has made strides in spite of the current administration. Yet, you are so right if we just invested more federal dollars and planning. Keith

  5. Dear Keith,

    I love these stories about innovation being conducted to battle climate change like the tidal turbines in Scotland.

    The US could be the leader in the development of these technologies but our GOP lawmakers including President Trump have been kow-towing to the fossil fuel industry (Koch Brothers along with fossil fuel executives like Marathon) because of the monies they use to buy our legislators.)

    We need to take away the anonymous nature of any entity/ individual which donates monies to GOP candidates and their causes.

    Hugs, Gronda

    • Gronda, all your points are valid. We are spending a fortune to preserve models that are slowly becoming obsolete. The new industries must be invested in or we risk being left behind and harming our planet.

      We are passed the tipping point on renewables as new coal plant will be obsolete by the time it is done. Hugh and I talked about this before, but utilities better go heavier into renewables as many models can bypass them altogether. Keith

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