One of the world’s most powerful tidal turbines operates in Invergordon, Scotland. It converts the up-and-down motion of the tides into electricity.
While many countries debate their future energy needs, Scotland has set its sights on renewable energy. Renewable energy comes from renewable resources, including sunlight, wind, waves, and tides. Unlike non-renewable resources, such as oil and gas, renewable resources can be replaced or replenished naturally. Scotland, which is part of the United Kingdom, is using new and developing technologies to produce more of its energy from renewables.
At the beginning of the twenty-first century, the Scottish people became concerned about their country’s dependence on fossil fuels, such as oil and gas. They recognized that the world’s supply of fossil fuels is limited, including the oil deposits off their own North Sea coast. They also worried that air pollution from burning oil and gas in Scotland contributes to climate change. As a result, the Scottish people joined together to research and create alternatives to fossil fuels by turning to renewable resources.
Under the guidance of the Scottish government, groups of businesses, universities, and citizens formed partnerships to increase the use of renewable energy. The government also set ambitious goals for renewables. One goal was to supply 100 percent of Scotland’s electricity from renewables by 2020. At the beginning of 2017, the country already supplied almost 60 percent of its electricity with renewables. Another goal was for 50 percent of Scotland’s total energy usage, including that used by vehicles, to come from renewables by 2030. To meet these goals, the Scots are pursuing energy mainly from wind, solar, waves, and tides.
Currently, wind is Scotland’s fastest-growing source of power. Wind turbines have been placed both on land and offshore. A wind turbine converts the wind’s energy that rotates the turbine’s blades into electrical energy. In October 2017, the world’s first floating wind farm was installed off the coast of Peterhead, Scotland. Its five huge turbines produce enough electricity to power about 20,000 homes. Experts estimate that wind could one day provide almost half of Scotland’s total energy needs.
Solar energy is another growing source of power for Scotland. Recently, a local council approved the installation of nearly 80,000 solar panels for a solar farm in Moray, an area in northeastern Scotland. It will be the country’s largest solar farm to date. Even though Scotland has fewer hours of sunshine compared to many places, improved solar technology now allows solar panels to operate even on cloudy days.
Wave power and tidal power have great potential as renewable energy resources for Scotland. The country has more than 7,000 miles of coastline. Turbines can be used to transform the motion of waves and tides into electricity. The advantage of tidal power over wind and wave power is reliability. The rise and fall of ocean tides always occur on a regular schedule. Turbines and other systems that convert wave and tidal power are still in early stages of development. Even so, several wave and tidal power projects are already providing Scotland with electricity.
Scottish poet and artist Alec Finlay has written several books promoting the development of wave and tidal power in Scotland. In these writings, he imaginatively compares the industry’s turbines and the ways they use the motion of the sea with legends from Scottish mythology. Some of these myths tell tales of imaginary sea creatures and a gigantic whirlpool that created the tides. Finlay hopes his work will help make renewable energy as permanent a part of Scotland’s culture as its rich folklore.
Overall, the Scottish people have made great progress with renewables. However, they face challenges going forward. The cost of changing the country’s energy sources is not cheap. Much more money will be needed to reach the country’s goals. In addition, Scotland still depends heavily on oil and gas and on nuclear energy. But the growth and importance of renewable sources of power in Scotland are undeniable. Today, nearly 60,000 jobs in Scotland are in the field of renewable energy.