The Winds of Change


It’s often sidelined in the media, but the energy focus we should be having – because it’s about our future – has just taken a massive step forward. Scotland now has the world’s biggest wave farm and the largest tidal energy project in Europe.

It should be on every newspaper front page but isn’t because it doesn’t fit with the print media’s narrow agendas and obsessions.

Yesterday it was announced that the largest tidal energy project in Europe will be launching soon after permission was granted for the first stage in the Pentland Firth. It’s the first commercial deployment of tidal turbines in Scottish waters. A demonstration project will be built between Orkney and the mainland following the decision by the Scottish Government.

Energy Minister Fergus Ewing said: “Today we have granted consent to MeyGen Limited to develop the largest tidal turbine array in Europe and the first commercial project off these shores.

“This is a major step forward for Scotland’s marine renewable energy industry. When fully operational, the 86 megawatt array could generate enough electricity to power the equivalent of 42,000 homes – around 40% of homes in the Highlands. This … is just the first phase for a site that could eventually yield up to 398 megawatts.”

It’s a huge step forward and a feat of engineering. Each of the devices stands 73ft tall, weigh 1,500 tonnes and have a rotor diameter of 59ft), could generate up to 1MW of power.

Michael Rieley, from Scottish Renewables, said:

“This is by far one of the most important milestones for the tidal energy sector to meet.”

But there’s a problem beyond media disinterest, and it’s not just the connectivity issues identified by WWF Scotland.

As Lucy Conway (Eiggbox) writes in the forthcoming issue of Closer, the issue is as much about ownership and control as much as it is about the forms of energy we  are going to use:

Energy will be essential to the future of Scotland, whether independence is secured or not.  Much of the debate has focused on how the golden geese of oil and renewables might shape the economy.  But if an alternative political future is possible, perhaps it’s time to look at reshaping the finance of fuel?  What would Scotland look like if, instead of big business, politicians or economists being at the centre of energy production and distribution, it was the people who live here and use it?

On Eigg they cap energy use at 5kw per household and 10kw per business. They then reduce energy demand by issuing a warning when their renewable sources output is diminished. In her Closer article she looks at how this could be developed across Scotland. We need a range of renewable solutions but we also need to think beyond the paradigm of big privately owned companies owing our energy supply, we need to re-envisage energy as a collective responsibility, not a private utility. And it’s one that needs to be understood as the key to a rapid transition to a zero-carbon Scotland. 

Yesterday was a massive day for Scotland’s future energy resilience. Why the silence? 

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