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It's Green Energy Day!

Brian Taylor | 15:45 UK time, Friday, 7 September 2007

Bet you didn’t know this was Green Energy Day?

Actually, take that back. Given the (mostly) erudite tone of the contributions to this blog, I expect you already knew it fine and well.

Anyway, Green Energy Day marks the point at which Scotland has, for the first time, the installed capacity to produce more energy from renewables than from nuclear.

The capacity, mark you. The potential. The calculation only really applies if all Scotland’s wind farms etc are operating at 100 %.

Anyway, Alex Salmond marked GED by visiting Crystal Rig windfarm near Dunbar. He said he was aginst new nuclear - and in favour of renewable energy. Wind, wave, tidal, biomass and the rest.

The response from Labour was markedly acerbic - and in line with their evident determination to depict Mr S as all mouth and no trousers.

Iain Gray, the comeback kid, accused the SNP of thwarting wind farm developments on the ground (or rather in the skies above the ground, but you know what I mean.)

Mr Gray said: “Scotland cannot be powered by Alex Salmond’s bluster alone. It is time for him to get real on renewables.”

Potent stuff - backed up, say Labour, by evidence from around Scotland. Although I imagine that the first minister might reflect upon the UK Labour Government’s support for new nuclear - and permit himself a wry smile.

Still and all, the former first minister, Jack McConnell, was of the view that new nuclear would not be needed in Scotland, that the Scottish contribution to UK energy needs would be a big push for renewables.

His then Lib Dem partners were firmly against new nuclear. Which could have made for fun coalition talks - except that I believe they could comfortably have finessed the issue, given J. McConnell’s stand.

In the event, of course, that particular “problem” didn’t survive the election. But the issue of Scotland’s energy choice certainly did.

As Iain Gray’s remarks usefully remind us, the renewables choice is far from the soft option. As Alex Salmond’s remarks helpfully stress, the nuclear choice can have long-term consequences.

Perhaps, in there somewhere, there is the prospect of a mature debate - once the unalloyed thrill of Green Energy Day fades.


The push for more windfarms should concentrate on over-the-horizon offshore installations. There is an awful lot of space out there, and the nimby problems are totally absent.

It's also usually more consistently windy offshore, so a higher utilisation rate is likely.

I imagine an armoured seafloor cable is less vulnerable and certainly less intrusive than a line of pylons marching down the glens, and may well be cheaper by far per kilometer.

But the best option of all is community-level distributed generation, supplemented by grid connection and individual household generation.

That's my tuppence worth, anyway.



  • 2.
  • At 04:47 PM on 07 Sep 2007,
  • R. S. Tornaway wrote:

Brian, do you agree with the headline writer on the BBC Scotland web page who claims that FM Salmond. 'Taunts UK over Nuclear' has he also "fired a shot across the UK Government's bow?"

It is strikingly odd that what had appeared to be comparitavely impartial reporting on the BBC has turned a corner. Drawing negatives when reporting what FM Salmond says then gleefully reporting insults from Labour politicians, without any exploration of their claims.

  • 3.
  • At 05:42 PM on 07 Sep 2007,
  • Peter wrote:

So may be Salmond will give the go ahead for the Isle of Lewis wind farms? That will signal the wholesale destruction of the Scottish landscape and wilderness - if he approves Lewis then all the rest will be built.

  • 4.
  • At 05:49 PM on 07 Sep 2007,
  • scott jack wrote:

I agree with R.S Tornaway's comments regarding the trend within the bbc of negative treatment of alex salmond.
The article on bbc website is far from impartial and smacks of Labour bias.
I hope this does not indicate a wider anti-scottish nationalist feeling within the corporation.

I have to agree with poster 1.It would seem that the BBC is incapable of unbiased reporting,with the exception of your own good self!!

  • 6.
  • At 06:06 PM on 07 Sep 2007,
  • Pendragon wrote:

It would seem that Iain Gray's passion for a Nuclear Free Scotland seems to have disappeared along with his other former enthusiasims ,the Sandanista Revolution in Nicaragua and the Marxist One-Party Regime in Mozambique.

As so often in recent years,The Labour Party "in Scotland" finds itself trailing in the wake of SNP policy initiatives as ultimatly,Labour Policy is decided in London . Mr Gray and his Scottish Comarades (oops ,I mean "Colleagues" will always have to defend a British Labour Party agenda intended to appeal to the quite differnt priorities of Southern Englands Voters.

  • 7.
  • At 07:00 PM on 07 Sep 2007,
  • Bryce Miller wrote:

Whatever happened to those under-water sea-turbines that were all the rage in the Scotsman a few months ago? How are those plans moving along?

  • 8.
  • At 07:09 PM on 07 Sep 2007,
  • Thomas Docherty wrote:

Those who claim "Labour's policy is decided in London" never quite explain how. As someone who was actually in the room in Glasgow at Labour's Scottish Policy Forum when we backed a balanced energy policy of nuclear, renewables and clean coal, I can assure everyone that there wasn't a single Westminster politician present. Still, when did the facts ever stop the SNP from spinning a good yarn?

  • 9.
  • At 07:56 PM on 07 Sep 2007,
  • wrhouston wrote:

I think GED is a bit of well-meaning hot air (or wind perhaps), and a good photo opportunity for our politicians too. I do not think any of the so-called renewable sources of energy address the question of the base load required by the power grid. Therefore, whether we like it or not we will have to seriously discuss the position of nuclear power rather than simply dismissing it. We could look at "pebble bed" and thorium reactors, not just the technology of 20 or 20 years ago. I am not rabidly pro-nuclear, but let's look at all the options before deciding.

  • 10.
  • At 09:30 PM on 07 Sep 2007,
  • derek barker wrote:

Another potent subject Brian,if the parliament can agree that coal is black and PM Brown can let us know if there will be a general election, we might just get round too debate the massive issue of less carbon energy, fuel's and needs?"AT THE MOMENT IT'S A SIMPLE CASE OF MAYBE EYE OR MAYBE NO"now! who said that phrase????

  • 11.
  • At 10:54 PM on 07 Sep 2007,
  • Cameron Edwards wrote:

R. S. Tornaway and Scott Jack are absolutely correct.

It's encouraging to see that many people in Scotland nevertheless have the ability and intelligence to see through tiresome anti-nationalist headline, after headline, after headline...

...whether from the BBC, Daily Record or British mass media in general.

It's also very depressing, as it speaks volumes about how much the 'reflection' of the country's political mood is out of whack with what we're reading and viewing.

Thus far, the SNP's first shot at government [that's GOVERNMENT] has chimed more with, dare I say, positive political ideologies that focus solely on improving Scotland.

This, in stark contrast to eight dreary, uninspiring Labour [London-led] years, where god alone knows there was enough broken promises, vapid pledges and ambiguous loyalties at hand.

More than enough to keep those same tabloids [sorry beep, speak like 'em, be counted amongst 'em] busy for a few decades.

This isn't 'another nat' lamenting conspiracies as seems to be the response should this matter be addressed.

This is an objective awareness, and one my [ex-Labour voting] parents and [ex-Labour voting] colleagues have noted with some curiosity, and much alarm.

This is important - and the serious questions that were being asked of the impartiality of the British media before the election campaign should not be simply swept under the carpet.

It would be very interesting to see the FOI minutes of the meeting between the BBC Scotland political team and worried seniour Labour party officials, which took place shortly before the election campaign.

Tried. Denied. Nevertheless, one wonders that their primary concern might have been that coverage was - shock horror - too 'equal'.

Has the British mass media signed some manner of oath to paint the very worst picture of our elected government for the next four years?

Shameful. Unsettling. A sad day for Scottish reportage?

  • 12.
  • At 11:58 PM on 07 Sep 2007,
  • Neil wrote:

Bias on the part of the BBC? There really isn't any espousing of unverified claims from the labour party here. The reality, whether you like it or not, is that Wind Farmas and other renewable sources don't have the same generating potential as Nuclear. This Green Day marks the "potential" for green energy to match the levels of Nuclear Power. Bearing in mind that wind farms operate on average at 30% efficiency this "potential" isn't going to do us very much!

If you want to see a position of political bias on the BBC, take a look at their acceptance of this term Scottish Government. Under all legal reality they are still the Scottish Executive, and as you point out Brian this is just a political point-scoring thing on Salmonds part, so why does the BBC not take the politically neutral stance and call them by their real name, and not the one adopted for political purposes?

I also agree with poster 1 & 5, the latest article by John Knox Political reporter, BBC Scotland where he likens Salmond to the soldiers in a terracotta army is poor journalism in my view. Where a large number of folks in Scotland have set sail on the good ship Independence, seems the Scottish media are hell bent on turning her into the wind to launch wave after wave of attacks on just about any subject the First Minister cares to comment on.

  • 14.
  • At 11:27 AM on 08 Sep 2007,
  • John wrote:

It may have been more appropriate to ignore Mr Salmond's current comments, but promise to report his ramblings in another 15 years, when the actual supply of power from Scotland's renewable sources (rather than the installed capacity) matches that of nuclear power. But whoops - in another 15 years the current nuclear power stations will be on their way out, so we'll need another 10,000 windfarms just to replace them. I wouldn't want to be a bird around Scotland in 2020 - the chances of flying across the country without getting chopped to pieces must be low indeed.

  • 15.
  • At 11:33 AM on 08 Sep 2007,
  • Fraser Gray wrote:

Onshore windfarms are threatening to become the ruin of the highlands wilderness.Mis-guided greenies,(Alex this means you )the highlands are precious,windmills near cities please,not mountains.

  • 16.
  • At 12:39 PM on 08 Sep 2007,
  • Craig wrote:

I wish to be part of the generation that made our children and grand children proud.I want to tell my offspring how we fought and won the nuclear debate against the odds.How my generation voted in a party which was born in Scotland and stands for Scotland and how we created history together.I wish for my country to be nuclear free for all of our children.

  • 17.
  • At 02:48 PM on 08 Sep 2007,
  • PMK wrote:

No. 8 - Labour policy doesn't need to be formally decided by London anyway. The lack of inspiration and free thought in the Labour Party is so total that they cannot foresee circumstances in which policy in Scotland would significantly differ from policy south of the border. As a unionist party one would expect little else. But Labour is still a special case - it is less capable of devolving power internally than even the Tories!

That is why Wendy Alexander will become Labour leader "at Holyrood" but not "in Scotland". Indeed, I believe Wendy herself said something along the lines of "the Scottish Labour Party has contributed nothing, in British terms, since 1920". Does anyone know the quote?

  • 18.
  • At 04:29 PM on 08 Sep 2007,
  • David Robertson wrote:

I hope that in time the potential for radically new "green" technologies will also be explored. Of course this may already be on someone's agenda for all I know.

One that comes to mind is the Classical Quantum Mechanics Theory of Dr. Randell L. Mills of Cranbury, New Jersey.

Classical Quantum Mechanics (CQM) is the theory that physical laws (Maxwell's Equations, Newton's Laws, Einstein's Special and General Relativity) must hold on all scales. The theory is based on an often overlooked result of Maxwell's Equations, that an extended distribution of charge may, under certain conditions, accelerate without radiating. This "condition of no radiation" is invoked to solve the physical structure of subatomic particles, atoms, and molecules.

In exact closed-form equations with physical constants only, solutions to thousands of known experimental values arise that were beyond the reach of previous theory. These include the electron spin, g-factor, multi-electron atoms, excited states, polyatomic molecules, wave-particle duality and the nature of the photon, the masses and families of fundamental particles, and the relationships between fundamental laws of the universe that reveal why the universe is accelerating as it expands. CQM is successful over 85 orders of magnitude, from the level of quarks to the cosmos.

For the first time, the significant building-block molecules of chemistry have been successfully solved using classical physical laws in exact closed-form equations having fundamental constants only. The major functional groups have been solved from which molecules of infinite length can be solved almost instantly with a computer program. The predictions are accurate within experimental error for hundreds of molecules for which data is available.

The astonishing practical applications of this theory may be explored at the following website:

Inter alia, this demonstrates the potential for a hydrogen based energy system that far outstrips any other technology in its capital cost and operational efficiency. There is no longer any question as to whether economic "green" energy is possible. It is only a question of when we are willing to bring it to fruition.

  • 19.
  • At 06:48 PM on 08 Sep 2007,
  • art1000 wrote:

London Labour are just a conduit of influence for any big company that gives them money. More nukes just means more fissile material kicking around for terrorists to get their hands on.

The civil redox programme in the fities and sixties was a cover to create plutonium to make bombs. I would not be surprised if there was a similar intent behind the next generation of reactors.

We could generate more power more reliably and cheaply from renew ables. That is why I intend to vote SNP and NOT Labour at the next election. My only sadness is that the people of England do not have a similar choice.

  • 20.
  • At 06:55 PM on 08 Sep 2007,
  • Neil Small wrote:

Wind farms are a good idea, but unfortunately with today's energy requirements we still require nuclear energy. Mr Salmond needs to be honest and realistic about things. If we rely on another country for energy (ie Russia) what will we do when the tap is turned off?

  • 21.
  • At 10:48 PM on 08 Sep 2007,
  • huttcity wrote:

"Bias on the part of the BBC? There really isn't any espousing of unverified claims from the labour party here."
I think you missed the op's point - the way the SNP is presented, across all media is very negative eg "Taunts UK over Nuclear" and "fired a shot across the UK Government's bow?" It seems to my mind that there are certain elements in the BBC who find the nats very scary and are using language to promote that idea.

Neil (10),

"Bearing in mind that wind farms operate on average at 30% efficiency this "potential" isn't going to do us very much!"

Would you like to look up the 'efficiency' of nukes?

The efficiency of PWRs and BWRs is limited to around 33 percent, because water can be heated to only a certain temperature and only a certain amount of heat can be taken out of water.......



  • 23.
  • At 11:41 AM on 10 Sep 2007,
  • Mark wrote:

All this talk on your blog of general BBC Scotland anti-nationalist sentiment (not directed at you, though) makes me rather glad we have you and your blog, Brian. A journalist friend of mine was up from Bristol last month and was impressed with your spots on the 6.30pm bulletin. So, if you ever fancy a change of scene to somewhere along the English Riviera...

  • 24.
  • At 11:52 AM on 10 Sep 2007,
  • mairi macleod wrote:

it seems to me vapours(hot air) is spouted all over the place,lets look
at lan grey, he accuses alex salmond, of why dont we combine the two and double it,its a start.
also we have lots of EXPERTS actually,what constitutes an EXPERT,
IF WE KEPT OUR ELECTRICITY we would produce enough to suply our needs, let COUNTRYS produce their own

  • 25.
  • At 12:05 PM on 10 Sep 2007,
  • Alan wrote:

All thermal generating stations operate at around 30-40% efficiency in terms of thermal vs electrical power output. This is not the same as the power factor which is how often they generate electricity within a year. For nuclear this is around about 80-90% of the time versus ~25% for on-shore wind farms and 30% for off-shore.

Nuclear makes up 20% of the UK's electrical capacity yet generates 25% of the electricity we use because they generate the base-load, something wind and other renewables cannot provide.

You can't replace 1GW of Nuclear (the rough capacity of Hunterston or Torness) with 1GW of installed wind. You need around 4GW displaced around he country for that. And when even the largest turbines are only 3-4MW that's 1000-1300 turbines plus the installation of the associated transmission infrastucture (and look at how easy it's been to get the Beauly-Denny line approved...) just to replace one nuclear station.

But hey, why should the technical issues get in the way of some political rhetoric? The SNP think we can get all our electricity from renewables? Is it possible? Yes. Is it feasible? Well not unless the public is willing to pay several orders of magnitude more for their electricity and allow lots of transmission lines to be strung across the Highlands to vast wind farms.

  • 26.
  • At 12:54 PM on 10 Sep 2007,
  • JonD wrote:

Ed (17)

The 33% nuke efficiency for light water reactors you quoted(gas cooled reactors, like Hunterston and Torness have higher thermal efficiencies), relates to how much of the theoretical energy output of a fission reaction can be used to convert water into steam and then used to drive a turbine. Taking this and other calculations can then give you an output capacity for the plant. Say its 500MW then this means that 500MW of electricity will always be being produced from the nuke except when it is switched off for refuelling / maintenance. Refuelling takes about 2 months and the plant can then run for 18 months so the overall efficiency of a nuke (how much electricity could we have versus how much did we actually get) is therefore high.

A wind turbine could have a theoretical output capacity of, say, 10MW if the wind was blowing perfectly all the time but the wind is sometimes too strong or too weak or the turbine needs to be shut for maintenance. The 30% efficiency of wind farms means that over a period of time the plant produces only an average of 3MW of electricity instead of 10MW.

A further difficulty is that wind farm electricity is variable and can't be known in advance whereas refuelling times of nukes are. This makes it difficult for the national grid to deliver a constant supply of electricity without power outages. (Look at this article for a explanation of how the grid works

The problem with discussions about power generation is that while there are important technical issues to discuss about carbon budgets, efficiencies, etc., too many people just fling around facts they've found on the internet without any understanding of the context or science behind the issue.


  • 27.
  • At 07:42 PM on 10 Sep 2007,
  • Archytype wrote:

No Nuclear PLEASE!

Nuclear is not cheaper. The fuel is dirty (radioactive), and does run out!

Uranium mines in far off countries like South Africa, Australia, Canada and other West African Countries will run out, just like coal.

Do you see us running out of air or water anytime in next couple of centuries!?

And those that say renewables don't add-up against Nuclear probably have vested interests in the companies that will build the Nuclear Power Stations and those Mining companies who extract the Uranium Ore.

Come one people, get a grip!

Where exactly do you think it is safe to (bury) dump nuclear waste material?

The answer is NOWHERE! Not on this planet!

Jon D (26)

"he 33% nuke efficiency for light water reactors you quoted(gas cooled reactors, like Hunterston and Torness have higher thermal efficiencies)"
Which you don't provide.

As to the issues of grid, it would be far better to have many more, smaller points of generation, distributed nearer demand points, with the grid in place. Many of these matters are discussed in considerable depth in the report from the Royal Society of Edinburgh, which I commend to all interested parties.


  • 29.
  • At 10:59 AM on 18 Sep 2007,
  • Hugo wrote:

Wind power is getting the headlines as a renewable energy source.

What are the plans for wave and underwater power generation?

  • 30.
  • At 01:55 PM on 20 Sep 2007,
  • Charles hay wrote:

with regards on the subject of energy windmills, as a expat from the aberdeenshire area and living in the Netherlands for the last 30 years approx ,and the Netherlands being one of Europe's foremost "green" motivated countries whereby the government here hands out subsides to every tom dick or harry who applies for them to install one or more of these so called environmental friendly windmills, whereby the open green areas are being covered by these unsightly installations, where it has been revealed by government agencies that it will take approx 21 years to recover the investment costs of one windmill constructed,this is not including any maintenance costs etc occurred within this 21 year period this time span is also based on present fuel prices increasing at the present rate for the coming 21 years, i cannot imagine that the average life span of these windmills will be much longer than 21 years due to corrosion,of both external and internal parts,also to make the parts for these installations large amounts of the present energy resources are required to make the steel,plastic,and paint etc before they even produce 1 kw of energy. therefore i would suggest that the investment required to construct and install windmills would be better spent by giving the money to technical university's, colleges, and private companies to research for a more suitable solution for energy problems on the long term, Therefore Scotland having strong history in the engineering and physics section of there education system would be better equipped to invest in there brains than in a white elephant for a solution to the future energy problems that are going to effect everyone in the future. Best regards Charles hay.

  • 31.
  • At 09:58 PM on 10 Jan 2008,
  • David McEwan Hill wrote:

The silliest thing about this debate is that a lot of people commenting here seem to imagine its all about nuclear v wind farms. Even the most ardent supporter of wind farms recognises that this soirce will provide only a fairly modest(but very useful nonetheless)proportion of our power needs. Why do they wilfully ignore hydro, wave power,tidal power, clean coal, biomass and solar etc. when they rabbit on?
Why do they ignore nuclear waste? Why do they ignore the fact that uranium is the ultimate non-renewable and we are already running out of good quality ore?
Why do they wilfully ignore the massive subsidies that have to be handed out make nuclear viable?
Why do they talk in reverential tones about nuclear poer when its only a very expensive, very dangerous and very inflexible way of biling lots of watter?
Why do they never mention that the proposed Severn barrage for instance could produce as much power as 10 nuclear power stations and the fact that the potential in the Pentland Firth dwarfs even that?
What they are supporting is a power "quick fix" which future generations will pay for - but this of course has been the hallmark of everything new Labour has done over the last ten years.
Get real! If we put in the the very large sums of money now to clean energy development we can have green, clean and almost free power for evermore.

  • 32.
  • At 06:22 PM on 12 Feb 2008,
  • Liz Alderson wrote:

I would love to know, given its stance on New Nuclear Build, why Scotland has just been awarded 20Million GBP funding for a Nation Nuclear Archive. Surely this should go to an area that cares? Like Cumbria? Is this meant to be a back hander to pursuade them to change their stance?

Of course the real solution is to use less power...but I cant see anyone going for that...not in this plastic world.

  • 33.
  • At 03:33 AM on 17 Feb 2008,
  • Keith, West Lothian wrote:

This has been interesting ....

The BBC is generally anit-nat given that they are the BRITISH Broadcasting Corparation. What else can you expect?

As for going green any long term energy policy must focus on the future. Green technology maybe slow now but in five or ten years we'll be laughing at the first generation of it just as we do now with mobile phones. Dump nuclear, no one wants it even though they think we need it. Green is the way forward and yes I'd stick a few domestic turbines on my house as well as solar panels. I'd have that before I'd have a windfarm on my doorstep (even though I like them). We can all do our bit. However fear of the unknown is not reason enough to have another generation of nuclear.

One thing that disappointed me hugely was the British governments new build homes plan which seems to have focused solely on mumbers. This was a great opportunity for them to include 'built in' efficiencies, under ground water heating, minimum glass levels for natural lighting and solar panels but it wasn't done. Seems they will forever be reactive rather than proactive.

No bias here, the Nats are right. No more nuclear please. Thank you.

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