Alex Salmond believes that tidal power in the far north of this island will produce a power house of exportable energy beyond all avarice. He believes that the Pentland Firth could produce 20GW of capacity, some 175,000 GWhr of electricity per year. Problem is that whoever fed him these figures is in a minority of one. Even allowing for the fact that the Pentland Firth is a shipping route, even allowing for the fact that tidal energy is not demand led and even allowing for the fact that tides only actually generate power for some ten hours per day, a new report from Oxford University with input from experts as far away as Australia suggests that Alex Salmond is living in a fantasy world. Like so much that comes from the First Minister’s mouth it is simply hyperbole. Not fact, a wet dream of a spin doctor. The maximum capacity of the Pentland Firth would be no more than 1.9GW, doubtful in delivery terms, which would equate to only 7,000GWhr per year, a meagre 4% of Alex’s dream and less than 4o% of one nuclear power station but at many times the cost. The longevity of such a tidal “barrage” in one of the most inhospitable parts of the world, in such a saline environment, would be a fraction of a nuclear or gas power station and the maintenance would throw up so many problems with large parts of the year when the turbines would be inaccessible. In off-shore wind farms, heavy duty maintenance and installation is limited to some 102 days per year. In the Pentland Firth that would possibly be optimistic. Read the full article here. Contrary to expectations it has been suggested by real experts that Scotland’s capacity for tidal and wave energy is actually very limited. The topography of our shores does not lend itself to wholesale usage of a meaningful level. Connectivity of our better coastal sites is limited. Our technology and ability to harness the enormous hydraulic forces of nature is immature. One thing to build a static rig in the North Sea, Entirely another to construct an engineered working machine in a tidal race. I would love to see the day when we have this capability and, in truth I am supportive of such research, but we have been experimenting in this field for some twenty years and we are still probably twenty years away from a truly workable solution. I think we are being too ambitious. We are aiming for Gigawatts when we perhaps ought to be looking at something more of a local size to support island communities. The problem with all sunrise natural generation is that they need storage of power which is technically, or at least financially, beyond our abilities at this moment in time. The Achilles heel of the Renewable industry.
Also we are not fully aware of the impact of these underwater power houses on the sea bed, on our fish breeding shoals and our marine environment. In the massed ranks that would be necessary for deliverable energy the impact to that marine environment may be detrimental and possibly disastrously so. Like so much of our new renewable energy technologies, we are walking blindfolded over a precipice. The visual, physical and moral impacts of these new technologies, driven by avarice rather than experience, are routinely over-ridden to the God of Climate Change against the advice of local interest and engineering experience. The Lunatics are in charge of the Asylum.
Whilst up in the far north, let us not forget the Viking Wind farm in the Shetlands. Not only is this of a scale that will trash a fantastic archaeological terrain but it will get nowhere without the undersea 600MW connection to Peterhead. As prices have spiralled on the western Isles link from £400 million to £700 million and climbing, it is without doubt that the Shetland inter-connector would well exceed £1 billion, although these may be shared with the Beatrice Off-shore Wind Farm and Moray Firth Wind Farm on a proportional basis subject of course to their approval and construction. One of the main players in the Moray Firth Wind farm has already withdrawn as the cost and problems of off-shore becomes more apparent. The Shetland Isles Council would seem to inhabit the same la-la land as the First Minister. We await with interest the Judicial Revue that has been forced on them. The problem is that you and I, the consumers are expected to pay for this madness.