The goal of radically reducing Co2 emissions and ensuring energy security by converting to 100% renewable sources of energy for the full range of energy use; electricity, heat and transport is looking more achievable as time goes by. A small but growing number of local communities have already achieved this goal. Usually they are relatively small towns and villages with good local renewable energy resources. Converting big cities and whole countries to renewables is a more challenging prospect. However for a growing number of countries this is becoming a very real possibility.
“Scotland could phase out all fossil fuel and nuclear power by 2030, maintain a secure electricity supply and generate significant revenue from renewable exports, according to new research by one of the world’s leading energy consultants, Garrad Hassan”, quoted from Friends of Earth Scotland (http://www.foe-scotland.org.uk/power-secured ). And this includes the electrification of heating and transport. Scotland has the windiest climate in Europe, so on average each turbine will produce about 50% more than the same turbine in Germany, giving the Scottish wind industry a huge economic advantage.
Wind is famously fickle. It stops and starts, and it varies in strength: intermittence and variability in the language of the power industry. These problems can be overcome with either energy storage or power grids covering a sufficiently large area to even out the fluctuations in the wind. The eventual solution will be an evolving mixture of both grids and storage.
20th January 2011 was a very good day for the UK wind industry in general and the Scottish wind industry in particular. David Cameron announced his support for a Supergrid linking wind farms from the Irish Sea through the North Sea to the Baltic Sea. ( http://www.businessgreen.com/bg/news/1938599/david-cameron-steps-support-north-sea-supergrid ) Once built, this will have a dramatic effect on levelling out the fluctuations in wind power. On the same day the German engineering giant Siemens announced their plans to build a large wind turbine factory in Hull, and the Spanish turbine manufacturer Gamesa announced plans to build a factory in Glasgow and are considering another in Dundee. Wind is rapidly becoming a very major power source, as shown in the above graph.