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offshore wind turbines
Beatrice Wind Farm | Source: SSE

The third article in this series looks at Scotland, which in many respects is leading the UK in terms of renewables and their integration into the energy mix.

Scotland broadly has the same renewable energy sources as England and Wales, however with a slightly different mix and some key advantages.

  • Solar radiation is appreciably lower owing to the increasingly northern latitude.

  • However, this is significantly offset by the significant offshore wind resource around the east and west coast lines.

  • The fragmented nature of Scottish island’s geography also provides ideal locations for tidal stream energy with currents being focused through channels. Hence the European Marine Energy Centre’s base in Orkney.

  • Finally, the exposed Atlantic coast presents an ideal wave energy resource to be exploited.

A great deal of the wind resource has been exploited already with wind farms like Beatrice and Robin Rigg representing ~900MW. This has largely come about through positive support mechanisms in Scotland and ambitious renewable energy targets that the whole supply chain has bought into. However, to reach these targets it is likely to need to move to deeper water sites such as those identified in the latest Scotwind leasing round, where about 50% of the sites have water depths greater than 50m. These sites will focus on floating wind installations to provide power as we begin to stretch and exceed the capability of the monopile. Fortunately, there are already floating wind farms installed in Scottish waters with Hywind Scotland and the forthcoming Kincardine project. These pilot arrays are vital in proving the viability of the floating wind solution.

As tidal sites across the world have been developed it has been noted that the Fall of Warness site in Orkney is one of the most energy rich areas in the world and serves as a vital proving ground for may devices. Tidal energy in Scotland is not limited only to EMEC though; there are sites up in Shetland (Bluemull Sound) used by Nova Innovation and the Meygen project populated by Andritz and Atlantis turbines.

Finally, the wave resource, and this is perhaps the most intimidating of them all! Whilst the resource is amazing at over 65kW/m of wavefront on the exposed Atlantic coast, it brings with it the potential for very large waves challenging the survivability of wave energy devices. At present, we still feel this is one of the biggest challenges facing wave energy – the ability to survive in extreme waves. At this point in the industry’s development, if the device has proven survivability it is doing very well. Not a significant amount of resource has been exploited in Scotland with only a handful of devices installed at the Billia Croo test site, but there are plans for more device testing in 2021 (Mocean Energy's Blue X, for example).

In many ways Scotland is leading the rest of the UK in renewables development and deployment. This is due to the availability of the resource and the support mechanisms and institutions in place and the growth in renewables in Scotland looks set to continue for the foreseeable future.

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