9 January 2010

Renewables revelation

I have a confession to make. Despite being close to a peat worrier or two, working in the Scottish renewables sector (who I trust will forgive me), the sense of impetus and the energy-generating possibilities presented by Scotland’s geography and enterprising schemers hadn’t entirely dawned on me, instead just sloshing about in the shadows of my half-conscious. I imagine this is true of most people – even those without an urban-rustic associate to reel off the technical terminology, calculated to stop up the lugs, deafening you to understanding.

Increasingly, however, I find myself becoming rather excited by the accounts of the renewables schemes emerging across Scotland. Writing as a distinctly uninformed member of the public common. On a superficial level, the imagery is easily appealing. Renewable energy’s metaphors appeal to a distinguished idea of human creativity, cloud-compelling cunning. Like the God of Genesis at work, its tools are the maelstrom of wind, tide, wood, wave, water, sun. Don’t lets be dazzled by the bigness of all of this. Buildings are made of bricks, monuments to human efforts the sum of innumerable smaller acts, efforts and cares. Think naught a trifle, though it small appear; Small sands the mountain, moments make the year, And trifles life. It is this aspect which I find so compelling about these large projects, their coordination. Their allure is precisely in the sum of their smallness, their dullness even. Some of this enthusiasm in my part is probably furnished by how far it contrasts with my own labours. It must be existentially rather dissimilar to see your efforts given material expression. The planning and building up, coordinating and engineering will be attested by a sea of white windmills, blades scudding through the froth and foam.

Although I’m unable to independently verify the information, pause for a moment and consider the following estimations of Scotland’s renewable capacity. 7.5 gigawatts (GWs) of tidal power, some 25% of the total capacity for the whole of the European Union. Up to 14 GWs of wave power, 10% of the estimated EU total capacity. A further estimated potential of 36.5 GW of wind power. Politically speaking, this sort of optimistic, up-beat tale of Scots potential is just the sort of thing Alex Salmond gets excited about. He looks like the chubby child who finds the sweet shop door unlocked, and the toothsome candies within easy reach. Although support for renewables isn’t generally politically contentious in Scotland, the Maximum Eck clearly finds its storied narrative intensely compelling. That most black-hearted of Unionists, Alan Cochrane, described the FM as ‘positively ecstatic’, the air of the Crown Estates’ announcement of two huge windfarms in Scottish waters ‘almost euphoric’. Generally speaking, wise people should ensure that their thoughts spy on each other. Nothing ought to make one more suspicious than charisma or great expectation. The triumph, as always, will be in the details, in small places. That said, as a positive image of Scots possibility - its hard to beat.


  1. "Although I’m unable to independently verify the information"

    Right. So you've been conned.

  2. Needless to say, I'd be quick to defend my lack of expertise - one poor soul has little enough time to understand the area of reality which my education has fenced off for me without a plunge into the veracity or otherwise of gigawatt estimates.

    Care to elaborate concretely on the detail of your critical case?