A lack of experienced renewable energy engineers could put contracts for nine new wind turbine projects in jeopardy as there are not enough suitably qualified people to install the turbines at their designated locations in the Firth of Forth and Moray Firth in the Scottish Highlands.
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At a time when governments and organisations are striving to make commitments to cut carbon emissions, the source of the UK’s energy is a bone of contention for many. Discussions about nuclear, new generations of coal fired power stations and carbon capture and storage (CCS) are discussed almost daily, and the arguments about wind power are certainly high up on the agenda.
Sitting at the top of Scotland with 22,000 inhabitants, Shetland receives more than its share of wind, making its small wind farm of 5 turbines, including Betsy, a 660kw turbine believed to be the world’s most efficient wind turbine in existence, very well placed.
The plans for the London Array, originally proposed in 2001 and which have stood in jeopardy for the last few years have finally been approved thanks to new funding secured by the UK government in last month’s Budget.
The RSPB have carried out a huge amount of research into the effects of wind farms on bird populations in the past few years. Although their stance was originally that on-shore wind farms were bad in general, they have now started to embrace the possibility of erecting turbines on specific sites.
Major energy companies E-on and EDF are putting pressure on the government regarding renewable energy development. They say that unless the government reduces the amount of projects and funding planned for wind farms and wind energy generation, they may be forced to rethink plans to invest in a new round of nuclear power plants.
Greenpeace have long been concerned about the relationship between nuclear and renewable technologies, and as reported in the Guardian, head of the energy solutions unit at Greenpeace, Nathan Argent, commented that Greenpeace has
“always said that nuclear power will undermine renewable energy and will damage the UK’s efforts to tackle climate change – now EDF agrees.”
Greenpeace opposes nuclear power, stating that it is not the solution to climate change. They also bring attention to the “incompetent at best” methods of nuclear waste disposal for years.
In an era where most of the population is well aware of what happened at Chernobyl, and those that didn’t live through it have seen films and photographs and heard stories of what has been left behind, perhaps there is a cautionary tale here that the people at the top of the energy companies are conveniently ignoring. It’s all too easy to gloss over the mistakes and accidents of the past as if they didn’t happen, and with a rationale that they have the solution to dwindling reserves of fossil fuels, and arguments that when run at capacity, nuclear is safe, and with no CO2 produced when energy is generated from it, no wonder the governments turn their heads.
Let’s hope future projects for renewable energy don’t end up being another casualty of consumerism, because let’s face it, if people needed less energy, renewables alone might have a chance to show their worth.
Experts at a Copenhagen global warming conference have suggested that installing a network of solar panels in the Sahara desert could satisfy the needs of Europe’s energy demands. Dr Anthony Patt from the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis in Africa commented that this, coupled with the installation of wind turbines grouped in different farms across the north of Africa would be able to provide enough energy for the whole of Europe. He stated that the lower cost of renewable energy combined with the technological advances we have seen of late would make it a viable option for imported energy for the continent.
The huge network of solar panels that would be installed if this plan was approved would work by using a system of mirrors which would focus the sun’s energy on small pipes containing water or salt, and would cover an area the size of “a small country”. The idea is that heat from the sun would either boil the water causing steam, or melt the salt, and the energy produced as a result would be used to drive turbines creating energy that can then be stored for a number of hours, making it better than wind generated power, as wind power is costly to store. It is expected however, that even if the plans are given the green light and funding, that local communities in Europe will not support the laying of transmission cables near to their homes.
The Green Village asks the questions whether, although the pioneering and investigation into using solar power and wind power to meet the needs of European homes and businesses’ energy use is a good sign, is it fair that other countries have to be used to generate this power, or should we instead be doing more to reduce our requirements in the first place? Could plans like this breed complacency towards saving energy because people feel that everything is fine because the Sahara has enough sunlight throughout the year to keep us all going? And if plans do go ahead and it proves be successful, what’s to stop other developed countries wanting to expand the site to another ‘small country’ worth of panels to keep themselves going too? Share your views below.