Did it? Really?

Scotland achieved a “huge year” for wind power with the sector up 16% and generating a total of 10,392,439 megawatt-hours of electricity, enough to meet around 97% of domestic demand in the country.
WWF Scotland figures based on data from WeatherEnergy showed that December wind output was up by 6% year on year and that turbines out-produced household needs on 29 of the month’s 31 days.
Wind met 41% of Scotland’s entire electricity needs for the year, added the wildlife charity.

I might actually believe that wind produced electricity equal to 41% of Scotland’s demand over the year. But given intermitentcy I’m very much less certain that it actually provided 41%.

58 thoughts on “Did it? Really?”

  1. This such good news. Now all it takes is a clever bloke finding a way to bag this electricity, like you can do with coal, to sell it so that you can use your bag of electricity when you need it. The excess bags of electricity can be stored in the coal bunker.

  2. Jeremy – I seem to remember the SNP used to boast about Scotland having “200 years worth of clean coal”.

    Seems they’ve decided not to dirty their clean coal by using it for any purpose.

    It’s rather alarming, seeing how many bat-chomping eco-crucifixes they’ve thrown up in Scotland of late.

    But at least, when the shite hits the turbine, we can let them eat Sturgeon.

  3. dearieme: Why is WWF issuing propaganda for bird-choppers?

    WWF is at war with RSPB.
    WWF has always been at war with RSPB

  4. WWF Scotland’s press releases are instructive:

    Scotland’s solar power capacity up by over a quarter
    30 December 2015
    The Scottish Government should do all it can to help encourage the roll-out of more solar power north of the border organisations said today (Wed 30 Dec).

    Renewables now largest electricity generator – WWF Scotland comment
    22 December 2015
    Responding to the figures released today which show renewables are now the single largest contributor to electricity generation in Scotland [1] Lang Banks, director of WWF Scotland said:
    “Given the urgent need to reduce global carbon emissions, we should all celebrate the news that half of Scotland’s power needs are now met by clean renewable sources. That renewables are now the largest single source of power, ahead of coal, gas and nuclear is a major achievement we should be proud of.

    Scottish ‘excess winter deaths’ – worst figures in more than a decade prompt warm homes call
    20 October 2015

    Hang the fuckers. Hang them with non-biodegradable plastic rope in the Grassmarket.

  5. “The Scottish Government should do all it can to help encourage the roll-out of more solar power north of the border”

    They also need to move Scotland a thousand miles or so south too, or adjust the Earth’s tilt. Either should be possible if enough Progressive zeal is applied.

  6. Hmm, let’s see if I’ve got the 21st century logic right.

    Scotland go 100% Green by 2025, but are hit with a £60 trillion bill from England for psychological damage to all of us suffering guilt complexes arising from our providing them with Dirty energy…

  7. Rob>

    Solar in Scotland isn’t quite as absurd as it first appears. There are three factors to consider: the cost of panels/installation, the cost of land to put them on, and the amount of useful energy harvested. The first is still a bit too high, the second is where Scotland shines (sorry), and the last is where Scotland doesn’t do too well. It’s the balance between the three that matters, and while at the moment it’s not good, it’s not inconceivable that within a few years it might make good economic sense to use marginal land for solar.

    If these decisions were made purely on an economic basis, people would at least be considering building solar installations in Scotland.

  8. The information would be more informative (truthful) if it said how much had been consumed, rather than how much output.

    We do know that windmills produce electricity when nobody wants it, so how much of the output got used?.

    This is the same disingenuous use of windmill rated capacity rather than what it will actually produce – from experience at best 25%.

    And if it is doing so well, why do they not disconnect all other generating sources from the Scottish grid?

  9. I suppose WWF Scotland might as well do this. No-one’s going to pay to watch two Scotsmen smash chairs over each other when you can just go to a pub in Glasgow.

  10. “it’s not inconceivable that within a few years it might make good economic sense to use marginal land for solar.”

    And employ a host of people in winter getting the damned snow off the panels each morning to make sure they provide the energy when it’s actually needed the most…

  11. There is nothing wrong with expanding Scotland’s renewable energy resources if you’ve tens, no hundreds, of £billions to spare to build capacity that will have to be duplicated with reliable generators that can be used during a lull in wind in January* and you don’t mind the countryside being spoiled by acres of windfarms (and you are happy to use a few gigawatts of energy smelting aluminium to build the windmills) and the damage to wildlife and you can spend a few more £billion connecting all the windfarms despoiling the highlands to houses in Glasgow and …
    * this happens most Januarys and sceptics periodically quote National Grid statistics showing windpower at 1% of capacity nationally for a few days during the most recent January.

  12. Dave:

    You cling on to this ridiculous idea that solar is going to be the answer to our energy problems (even in Scotland!) when I have already pointed out to you that it doesn’t even work here in Cyprus!

    As an example, it has been raining and overcast for most of the day here so installed solar here would have been producing nothing since about 4pm yesterday – 20 hours.

    As a double bonus, the 41 bird mincers that I can see from my house haven’t moved all day either…

  13. > why do they not disconnect all other generating sources from the Scottish grid?

    That seems to be the idea. Coal stations are closing, there are no plans to replace the nukes as they reach end of life.

  14. There are three factors to consider: the cost of panels/installation

    Ah yes. Do we get to see the solar panel array being supported by some untreated two-by-four and a handful of nails, placed directly on the grass again?

  15. There are three factors to consider: the cost of panels/installation, the cost of land to put them on, and the amount of useful energy harvested.

    But if you are a politician or a green lobbyist, the only factor to consider is the theoretical maximum total of installed nominal generating capacity. Keep stating that practically unachievable (and unadjusted for the fact it is dark up here most of the winter) number and nobody important will challenge you.

  16. Grikath>

    Solar panels in Scotland wouldn’t do much good in winter, clearly – primarily because of the short days. But, by the same token, they will be good in summer because of the long days. That’s a trade-off which may or may not make sense, depending on prices and so-on. The point I was making is that solar in Scotland isn’t the absurdity it may seem at first glance, although there’s still a way to go before it’s going to be seriously worth considering.

    BiC>

    As far as I recall, all we established was that regardless of the evidence to the contrary, you were going to insist that solar panels can’t ever work.

    Tim Newman>

    How are your GCSEs going? Do get back to us once you’ve actually had a job of any sort.

  17. Can someone remind me what wind turbines have to do with Wildlife (other than the fact they they kill it, obviously) ?

    It’s impossible to take seriously any verbal extrusions from this increasingly-bizarre leftwing pressure group. One simply assumes they have fiddled the figures, and goes looking for exactly what they’ve done.

    Really, what is the point of the WWF? Why do we pay for it?

  18. Andrew Duffin – what is the point of the WWF?

    They help kill the pensioners Dr. Shipman never got around to.

  19. “That’s a trade-off which may or may not make sense, depending on prices and so-on”

    No, it’s wouldn’t make sense, and it’s not a trade-off that will ever make sense, because you can’t use that summer power in winter.

    ” within a few years it might make good economic sense to use marginal land for solar.”

    Have you asked the people who live there? And have you remembered that most of that “marginal land” is in very remote areas, so the cost of grid connection, the cost of maintenance, and the transmission losses, are all going to be very significant. It doesn’t add up, truly, it doesn’t.

  20. Solar panels in Scotland wouldn’t do much good in winter, clearly – primarily because of the short days. But, by the same token, they will be good in summer because of the long days.

    Yes, let’s not take light intensity into consideration at all and assume that because the days are long in the northern countries that solar panels make sense!

  21. Solar panels in Scotland wouldn’t do much good in winter, clearly – primarily because of the short days. But, by the same token, they will be good in summer because of the long days

    Ah, an energy source that only works when demand is at its lowest point. Great.

    The point I was making is that solar in Scotland isn’t the absurdity it may seem at first glance

    No, it totally is the absurdity it seems at first glance. See here for details.

    TL;DR version:

    – It seems likely that solar photovoltaics deployed in Scotland will never repay the energy used to manufacture the panels. They will therefore produce more CO2 than if solar was not deployed at all and the emissions are emitted decades in advance of the solar electricity being produced.
    – The Dutch have effectively zero hydro power because the country is flat. Scotland should have zero solar power because the Sun rarely shines.

  22. @ Dave *and* Tim Newman
    Solar water heating panels made economic sense without a subsidy in Northern England forty years ago, so with the improvements in technology since then, they would make sense in Scotland now.
    Why does everybody witter on about solar PV before installing solar water heating panels? Both cut down on the use of fossil fuels but *one* of them does it *well*.

  23. Solar water heating panels made economic sense without a subsidy in Northern England forty years ago, so with the improvements in technology since then, they would make sense in Scotland now.

    They made economic sense based on the sheer number of people who actually installed them and saved money? I’ve been around a fair bit of Northern England and I have seen very, very few solar water heating panels.

  24. “Ah, an energy source that only works when demand is at its lowest point. Great.”

    You forget that demand will be high in summer, to meet the air conditioning required to make the future Scottish summers bearable.

  25. so with the improvements in technology since then, they would make sense in Scotland now.

    Actually, probably not: I’d be willing to bet the improvements in electric and gas boiler design, insulation, and manufacture has outstripped any gains in solar water heating panel technology.

    I had the misfortune to find my boiler leaking a few days before Christmas. Seems you need to keep the new ones powered on permanently to avoid corrosion: they are made from paper-thin steel to save cost and weight, and rely on a powered anode. The things come with a 9V battery UPS, but warranty is void if left unpowered for more than 24 hours. I switched mine off for 7 months. Whoops. Whole thing corroded. The boiler we had in our place in Wales in the 1980s was reconditioned from an old dreadnought I think. Corrosion allowance of 3 inches.

  26. “– The Dutch have effectively zero hydro power because the country is flat.”

    Actually, we would be quite capable of treating our river/estuary system as a giant generator.
    We may not have much in the way of geography, but the sheer mass of water of even a 50 cm raise at the sea end would be quite impressive.
    It’s actually been proposed several times in the past couple of decades.

    The reason we *don’t* is that experience with the Delta Works ( the Grevelingenmeer to be exact) has shown that messing with the water flow in that way has a huge and pretty terminal ecological impact on many levels, up to and including groundwater flows, and the way they stop everything salting up ground-first.

    It’s also why the quite expensive, complicated and impressive storm surge gates feature on our coasts on the major outlets. We *need* the continuous outflow of fresh water to keep the sea from pickling us.

  27. Another example would be the water basins in de Biesbosch.

    It’s not generally known, but *besides* acting as a fresh water/natural filtering system, they also act as a groundwater pressure generator to combat salt ingress 10’s of miles downstream.
    We got the technology to clean up our surface water enough to create potable water that would be the envy of most nations, but we *cannot afford* to let those reservoirs run dry.

  28. @ Tim Newman
    My father did the sums, bought solar water heating panels and saved money. Twenty years later when I bought a house with a south-facing roof, I did likewise [admittedly I’m in the south of England]. Not many people even around here have them because it isn’t sexy and puffed in the media but ask some of your engineering friends.

  29. Not many people even around here have them because it isn’t sexy and puffed in the media but ask some of your engineering friends.

    I dunno. I only remember seeing one on the roof of a house in Pembrokeshire, used to pass it on the way to school, in the late 1980s. This is the sort of thing farmers would have gone in for, but none did. My parents renovated the entire house to run on coal which was, at the time, the cheapest option. IIRC the farms mainly ran on coal or oil. Later in the mid 1990s we switched to Calor gas. I could see solar panels working back then *if* the primary heating fuel was expensive and/or the boiler was inefficient, but these days I think electric boilers are so damned efficient* the marginal gains solar panels would bring would make them uneconomic, especially with the cost of a decent tradesman to install them.

    *In France, modern apartments seem to have moved away from community heating for the whole block, and even moved away from gas. Most are now 100% electric, with either underfloor heating or small electric heaters in place of radiators which work really well on a dual tariff. No 1-2 bar electric fires any more! No central heating, either.

  30. As far as I recall, all we established was that regardless of the evidence to the contrary, you were going to insist that solar panels can’t ever work.

    Not at all…

    I’m a technofreak and an early adopter. I’ve got a high tech house and a smart watch! 🙂

    Trust me, if solar PV really worked I’d have my house and garden covered in it – but it doesn’t. The only reason for doing solar PV here is to have a grid connected system that farms EU subsidies…

    Solar water heating does work (in Cyprus anyway) and for that reason I have an array on my roof that gives me free hot water for most of the year…

  31. Solar water heating does work (in Cyprus anyway)

    You’d expect it to there. In the Gulf countries the water tank for apartment blocks and houses sits on the roof exposed to the sun (usually left white or painted beige). During what passes for winter a boiler heats the water that comes out the hot tap and the cold is drawn from the tank on the roof. As the weather gets hotter the water coming out of the cold tap increases in temperature until you have two taps providing hot water. You then switch your boiler off and use the hot tap for cold water. When I first arrived in the ME it was summer, and I spent months thinking the builders were dickheads for getting the hot and cold taps mixed up.

  32. Tim Newman:

    We are unusual in that our two cold tanks are indoors so while the cold water warms up in the summer they don’t ever become hot tanks!

    It is interesting that even in the gorgeous weather we had here (still and sunny) just before New Year the low winter sun wasn’t able to heat our water so we had to resort to the gas boiler…

    …I’m guessing the PV around here didn’t produce much in the way of electricity either…

  33. @ Tim Newman
    “specially with the cost of a decent tradesman to install them.” On an engineering blog I used to read until the connection got lost when I changed ISP there was a couple of threads on solar panels and a guy in Harlow had built and installed them himself (yeah, he was an engineer, unlike me).

  34. Don’t renewables exist on the back of subsidies, and isn’t this just another means of transferring money from Westminster to Edinburgh? Even if Scotland went its own way in due course, would England be committed to paying these subsidies in perpetuity?

  35. Then again I guess we’re obliged by Brussels to source a certain percentage of our energy supply from renewables, and we have to stick the wind farms somewhere.

  36. Tim N>

    Well done, you’ve realised that Dave’ is a pseudonym, and not my full, real name.

    Ladies and gentlemen, for his next trick TN will demonstrate swallowing *all* of his saliva rather than allowing some to roll down his chin.

    BiC>

    “a smart watch! :)”

    Blimey, you are a glutton for punishment…

    I don’t recall ever saying that solar PV must work right now. I said it will work in the near future, as it gets cheaper. When it hits the price of window glass, you’re bound to find a use for a panel or two on your roof.

    Andrew Duffin>

    Storage/conversion of power is a different kettle of fish. It’s plausible, even if not likely, that it might be economic to install panels just for summer use. More likely, the extra energy in the summer will be stored or converted so it can be used in winter (with some losses in the process, natch).

    “It doesn’t add up, truly, it doesn’t.”

    Quite possibly. But not adding up is rather different to being an utterly absurd proposition. The latter doesn’t require calculation to see if it’s viable.

    Jerry C>

    “No, it totally is the absurdity it seems at first glance. See here for details. […] TL;DR version:”

    When you have to have such a long explanation that a TL;DR is necessary, then whatever is being explained away is clearly not an absurd proposition.

  37. Bloke in Costa Rica

    So the whirligigs produced 10392439 MWh, did they? Gosh. That’s a lot. It’s the same as a 1.2 GW nuke plant working all the fucking time (which they do) for a year. The nuke plant doesn’t fail in the middle of a cold snap because it’s emitting the wrong sort of neutrons. It also occupies about 25 ha instead of miles of open moorland.

    If you take a look on Google Earth at the IOW, there’s quite a few houses with solar PV on the roof. But it’s one of the sunniest places in the UK and 50.5° N instead of 57°. It might not seem like a great deal but cos(50.5°)/cos(57°) is ~1.17, which makes a difference. Even then I bet most installations never pay off the initial cost.

  38. Ten years ago electricity from solar PV panels was price-competitive *in Southern California* with the price paid to the local utility for electricity imported from Colorado with transmission losses and two lots of capital cost (generator and transmission lines) to amortise and three lots of labour costs (generation transmission and distribution) and three lots of profits for the three sets of shareholders.
    Scotland is not in Southern California.

  39. Well done, you’ve realised that Dave’ is a pseudonym, and not my full, real name.

    Eh? You sure you’ve got the right thread there, fella?

    It is your fuckwittery regarding solar panels I’m mocking, not your pseudonym.

  40. On an engineering blog I used to read until the connection got lost when I changed ISP there was a couple of threads on solar panels and a guy in Harlow had built and installed them himself (yeah, he was an engineer, unlike me).

    Ah, if you can do installations yourself then an awful lot of things become cost-effective. 🙂

  41. I don’t recall ever saying that solar PV must work right now.

    You said that panels produced 100W/sqM and that a space the size of your driveway could therefore power your house or something…

  42. Tim
    “They made economic sense based on the sheer number of people who actually installed them and saved money? I’ve been around a fair bit of Northern England and I have seen very, very few solar water heating panels.”

    I’ve actually been wondering this myself in recent times. As a kid I remember these being around in New Zealand, but I can’t recall the last time I saw one, let alone saw one being installed new. They seem like they should make sense, but the margin perhaps is just so small it’s not worth the hassle of having plumbing on the roof perhaps.

  43. “The extra energy in the summer will be stored or converted so it can be used in winter (with some losses in the process, natch).

    How and where would it be stored?

  44. @ Tim Newman
    “Ah, if you can do installations yourself then an awful lot of things become cost-effective.”
    Also the sums work better if you’re paying cash, as I was, instead of taking out a second mortgage. Also if you’re intending to stay put for a decade as estate agents have, at best, an Arts degree so they never adjust the selling price of a house to reflect the benefit of the heating panels: if you’re planning on moving in a couple of (or 4 or 5) years you don’t get your money back.
    Professor MacKay* said the cost of installing solar PV panels was four times the cost of installing solar water-heating panels but they only produced half as much energy. So unless your electric boiler has 800% efficiency, solar water-heating panels were a better bet. The reason why we have hardly any is Ed Millionaireband’s decision to give grotesque amounts of subsidy to solar PV and none to the more efficient solar water heating. Amber Rudd has introduced some equality (but not totally from the right direction) by introducing a subsidy for solar water heating.
    *”Sustainable Energy – without the hot air”

  45. if you’re intending to stay put for a decade as estate agents have, at best, an Arts degree so they never adjust the selling price of a house to reflect the benefit of the heating panels

    And if they did the adjustment would be downward. I am currently looking for a house, anything with solar PV is an instant no, and if on neighbouring houses I rate that much the same as the presence of satellite dishes.
    I did look at a house with solar water heating, self installed: it is still on the market a year later.

  46. Much argument here about the engineering / economics of alternative energy.

    You’re writing about Scots, a people with a long history of religious and other fanaticism and sheer cussedness. They don’t give a fcuk about the engineering / economics of alternative energy.

    They believe what they are doing is “right” or that it will piss off the English.

  47. Bloke in Cyprus said

    As a double bonus, the 41 bird mincers that I can see from my house haven’t moved all day either…

    Ah. I know where you live now…

  48. @Fred: “They believe what they are doing is “right” or that it will piss off the English.”

    It’s the second of those possibilities that is the driving motivation for practically everything.

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