Wind Energy in Scotland

By David Redfern – Re-Blogged From WUWT

I was invited by Charles the Moderator to write an essay with the emphasis on Scottish wind derived electricity.

I’m not a scientist, nor an engineer, in fact barely educated beyond high school, so, whilst you won’t get ‘shorthand’ scientific terms here, you will get something laymen can grasp, hopefully.

And that’s important as, whilst there are a small number of scientists/engineers etc. in the world, the majority of voters are like me, just plain old laymen and the subject of climate change is now political so every voter is vital.

Now, if you’re unfamiliar with Scotland, it’s wet and windy, with the North Sea, the Irish Sea and the Atlantic Ocean all converging in one small spot on the planet with the Gulf Stream rushing past it bringing plenty of moist, warm air up from the South. Without it, Scotland (and England and Ireland) would be frozen solid for much of the year.

I paint a bleak picture but thanks to that warm moisture Scotland has some of the most beautiful countryside in the world, a great deal of it accessible. If you take a look on Google maps at, perhaps, the River Clyde, the term ‘river’ is a bit of a joke. It has mountains rising from it. It’s home to the United Kingdoms Nuclear Submarine fleet (Faslane) and they are to bee seen sailing to and fro, mere dots on the water.

And whilst we don’t do things on the scale of, say, the USA, the country is Gods garden when the sun shines.

So, an ideal spot for wind turbines, in fact, pretty well perfect. But the most obvious problem is the destruction of the landscape, the intrusion on a wilderness that’s jarring. No romantic thoughts of isolation or Crofters tending the land in peace, turbines are a stark reminder that nowhere is far from technology.

But it is, in fact, a power grab, and I’ll explain that: Oil was discovered in the waters around Scotland in the 50’/60’s I guess (Dave Middleton will put me right on this I’m sure) and it began pumping in the early 1970’s. A bonanza! But being part of the UK it was shared equitably, but not according to the Scot’s, many of them claimed it was Scotland’s Oil.

And I’ll mention here that the reputation the Scot’s have for being good with money is a myth. In the late 17th/early 18th Century Scotland spent approximately 20% of all the money circulating in the country on an ill-conceived lunge to colonise the Isthmus of Panama; the ‘Darien scheme’. It failed and England basically bailed Scotland out in 1707 and a Political Union was the cost.

Ever since, Scotland has basically stumbled from one financial crisis to another, latterly with the socialist Labour party dominant, but more recently, the Scottish Nationalist Party, another socialist organisation desperate for independence from the United Kingdom, but with a terrible economy.

Meanwhile, industrious individuals were beavering away: James Clerk Maxwell –  The second great unification in physics. Alexander Fleming – Penicillin. James Carnegie – Steel. Douglas Lapraik – Shipping magnate and founder of HSBC Bank (Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporation) and many more.

I only mention these to highlight that governments are lousy at picking winners. But the Scot’s never seem to learn. Even today their mad dash to replace the now meagre Oil resources with the ‘miracle’ of wind power is largely a government decision, not that of the business community. If wind was such a great idea, why are governments required to shovel money into it at the expense of the taxpayer. And talk about putting all their eggs into one basket, in nearly 15 years of a devolved assembly, the SNP have notably failed to attract a single major industry to the country.

Wind might be considered that industry, but very little of the infrastructure is manufactured in Scotland. Despite SNP promises of an employment bonanza, with tens of thousands of jobs, barely a few thousand have materialised. Towers, Nacelles and Blades are mostly made overseas and transported to Scotland. The jobs thereafter are largely maintenance.

The whole thing is summed up well by Prof Tony Trewavas (Chairperson) Scientific Alliance Scotland:

“Throwing large amounts of money at unreliable sources of energy when others with much greater reliable potential are starved of investment is poor economics and will not be followed by any other country governed with good sense. This is gesture politics at its worst.”

OK, so now to the facts most readers of WUWT are familiar with but, as I said, it’s important the layman is furnished with basic, irrefutable facts, he/she can use to debate the subject with a degree of authority.

Many are derived from Matt Ridley’s excellent article Published on: Monday, 15 May, 2017 in the Spectator and available on his Blog:

“……wind and photovoltaic solar are supplying less than 1 per cent of global energy demand. From the International Energy Agency’s 2016 Key Renewables Trends, we can see that wind provided 0.46 per cent of global energy consumption in 2014, and solar and tide combined provided 0.35 per cent. Remember this is total energy, not just electricity, which is less than a fifth of all final energy, the rest being the solid, gaseous, and liquid fuels that do the heavy lifting for heat, transport and industry.” [Ridley] (My emphasis.)

The renewables lobby make wild claims that 14% of world energy is provided by them, but they are misleading themselves: “In fact the vast majority — three quarters — is biomass (mainly wood), and a very large part of that is ‘traditional biomass’; sticks and logs and dung burned by the poor in their homes to cook with.” [Ridley]

But this is the bit that really bowled me over. Global energy consumption is growing about 2% per year, and I’ll dispense with the detail here as it’s available from Matt’s article – with an area of about 50 acres of turbines to produce a Megawatt of electricity, it takes roughly 350,000 turbines installed every year just to meet demand, that’s an area half the size of UK and Ireland every year.

Over 50 years that would represent a land mass half the size of Russia (3,300,835 square miles) just to keep up with growth, never mind displacing mankind’s existing use. I did a rough beer mat calculation (before I drank the beer) and, very roughly, if we replaced what mankind already uses, that would be the entire land mass of Russia (6,601,670 square miles) or, put another way, almost wall to wall wind turbines across the USA (3,531,905 square miles) and Canada (3,511,023 square miles) Total 7,042,928. OK, Americans/Canadians get 44,1258 square miles all to themselves.

Then we have the thorny subject of batteries. How else are we to store all this energy for when the wind doesn’t blow and the sun doesn’t shine. The concept of a continent wide wind infrastructure is fine, but at some point there will major climatic events that impacts the performance of turbines/solar arrays.

And if, as we are assured by the climate hysterics (but not the IPCC) that catastrophic climate events are to become so much worse, turbines are going to be operational far less than they are now. But that doesn’t seem to occur to the hysterics.

I’ll refer you to a report commissioned by the GWPF (Global Warming Policy Foundation) from Michael Kelly, the Emeritus Prince Philip Professor of Technology at the University of Cambridge, formerly Chief Scientific Advisor to the UK Department for Communities and Local Government, and a fellow of the Royal Society and the Royal Academy of Engineering:

Kelly discusses the practicalities of converting the UK from internal combustion engine reliant transport to electricity reliant transport.

“The power pack for a Tesla weighs half a tonne and occupies much of the floor pan of the car: for the same 600-km range in a petrol car, you would need 48 litres of petrol, weighing just 36 kg. And the size of the battery means that they require huge quantities of materials in their manufacture. If we replace all of the UK vehicle fleet with EVs, and assuming they use the most resource-frugal next-generation batteries, we would need the following materials:

  • 207,900 tonnes of cobalt – just under twice the annual global production;
  • 264,600 tonnes of lithium carbonate – three quarters of the world’s production;
  • at least 7,200 tonnes of neodymium and dysprosium – nearly the entire world production of neodymium;
  • 2,362,500 tonnes of copper – more than half the world’s production in 2018.

And this is just for the UK.” [Kelly].

So what do we have left to produce all the batteries required to store the energy from wind turbines?

There are, of course, alternatives e.g. pumped storage, but I can’t think of a country which has sufficient to produce vast amounts of electricity during turbine down times. If a country had enough, it would almost eliminate the need for wind turbines, wouldn’t it?

Referring back to Matt Ridley’s article, wind turbines require “about 200 times as much material per unit of capacity as a modern combined cycle gas turbine.” [Ridley]

“A two-megawatt wind turbine weighs about 250 tonnes, including the tower, nacelle, rotor and blades. Globally, it takes about half a tonne of coal to make a tonne of steel. Add another 25 tonnes of coal for making the cement and you’re talking 150 tonnes of coal per turbine. Now if we are to build 350,000 wind turbines a year (or a smaller number of bigger ones), just to keep up with increasing energy demand, that will require 50 million tonnes of coal a year. That’s about half the EU’s hard coal–mining output”. [Ridley]

So now we are talking mind boggling numbers, enormous emissions, vast amounts of Coal/Oil/Natural gas etc. land and resources to mine/drill/excavate and transport materials to burn, just to produce wind turbines.

But of course the argument goes (by some daft enough to make it) that when the wind infrastructure is in place it’ll provide all the energy to manufacture more wind turbines.

If ever there was a Unicorn argument, that’s it right there. It demonstrates a staggering level of ignorance of physics by promoting the concept of perpetual motion. It’s just not credible.

This is the insane environment the Scottish assembly are hurling the country into. Germany’s creaking Energiewende policy should act as a warning, but it seems it’s being ignored.

See what I mean about us Jock’s being utterly useless with money. Common sense is also in short supply.

And just a wee thank you to the level headed, scientific community of WUWT especially, (obviously, Anthony) Charles, Willis, David Eric, and Chris Monckton etc.; and the forum contributors like Allan McRae, and the ever caustic MarkW 😊. I visited skepticalscience to understand climate change some years ago, ignorant of everything climate related. But it scared me, the level of aggression is unreal. Contrastingly I was welcomed at WUWT, people were/are patient and educated me, not in climate science, but how to hone my limited analytical skills. I still have to take my socks off to count but the debate has moved into the realm of politicians who have never bothered to take their socks off.


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