Marine Energy in Scotland

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Written for Coursera (MOOC) Class ‘Ocean Solutions‘ by University of Western Australia (June 2014)

EMEC Kawasaki Tidal

Scotland is host to the European Marine Energy Centre, located on the Orkney Islands, off the north coast.  It opened in 2003 and is the only centre of its kind in the world for both wave and tidal energy testing.  The centre is an internationally acknowledged leader in marine energy and assists in the development of industry standards and guidelines.

BBC: Tidal energy: Pentland Firth ‘could power half of Scotland’ (20 January 2014)

BBC: Pentland Firth tidal turbine project given consent (16 September 2013)

Scottish Government: Marine Scotland – Marine and Fisheries, Offshore Renewable Energy

European Marine Energy Centre (Orkney, Scotland)

Tidal energy projects at the EMEC include:

  • Andritz Hydro Hammerfest (HS1000) 1 MW
  • Atlantis Resources Corporation (AR1000) 1 MW
  • Bluewater Energy Services (BlueTEC)
  • Kawasaki Heavy Industries (sea-bed mounted horizontal axis) 1 MW
  • Open Hydro (Turbine) 250 kW
  • Scotrenewables Tidal Power Ltd (SR250, SR2000) 250 kW & 2 MW
  • Tidal Generation Ltd (Deepgen) 500 kW
  • Voith Hydro (HyTide) 1 MW

Wave energy projects at the EMEC include:

Hydrokinetic Energy is the transfer of energy from natural water motion to usually electrical energy for consumption.  Hydro energy is a well established and widely adopted form of this technology associated with rivers and dams.

The leading current marine hydrokinetic designs are described below.  Taken from the Union of Concerned Scientists website.

Oscillating Water Column.  ‘Waves enter and exit a partially submerged collector from below, causing the water column inside the collector to rise and fall. The changing water level acts like a piston as it drives air that is trapped in the device above the water into a turbine, producing electricity via a coupled generator.’

Point Absorber: ‘Utilizes wave energy from all directions at a single point by using the vertical motion of waves to act as a pump that pressurizes seawater or an internal fluid, which drives a turbine. This type of device has many possible configurations. One configuration, called a hose pump point absorber, consists of a surface-floating buoy anchored to the sea floor, with the turbine device as part of the vertical connection. The wave-induced vertical motion of the buoy causes the connection to expand and contract, producing the necessary pumping action. Through engineering to generate device-wave resonance, energy capture and electricity generation by point absorbers can be maximized.’

Attenuator:Also known as heave-surge devices, these long, jointed floating structures are aligned parallel to the wave direction and generate electricity by riding the waves. The device, anchored at each end, utilizes passing waves to set each section into rotational motion relative to the next segment. Their relative motion, concentrated at the joints between the segments, is used to pressurize a hydraulic piston that drives fluids through a motor, which turns the coupled generator.’

Overtopping Device: ‘A floating reservoir, in effect, is formed as waves break over the walls of the device. The reservoir creates a head of water—a water level higher than that of the surrounding ocean surface—which generates the pressure necessary to turn a hydro turbine as the water flows out the bottom of the device, back into the sea.’

Rotating devices: ‘Capture the kinetic energy of a flow of water, such as a tidal stream, ocean current or river, as it passes across a rotor. The rotor turns with the current, creating rotational energy that is converted into electricity by a generator. Rotational devices used in water currents are conceptually akin to, and some designs look very similar to, the wind turbines already in widespread use today – a similarity that has helped to speed up the technological development of the water-based turbines. Some rotational device designs, like most wind turbines, rotate around a horizontal axis, while other, more theoretical concepts are oriented around a vertical axis, with some designs resembling egg beaters.’

Historic Greenhouse Gas Emissions

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Written for Coursera (MOOC) Class ‘Global Sustainable Energy, Past, Present and Future‘ by University of Florida (June 2013).

Greenhouse gas emissions have caused atmospheric concentrations to rise to unprecedented levels.  Consumption of fossil fuels at an extremely high rate during industrialisation is the cause of this environmental shift.  It has destablised the natural processes which maintain balance in the environment.

Some of the consequences of this change include: predominantly higher temperatures, melting ice sheets and glaciers, sea level rise and more frequent extreme weather events.  These all affect life on earth and alter the ecosystems which support it.

In terms of direct human impact, low lying coastal regions are under threat, including major cities like Miami, New York and London, as well as many small island groups such as Tuvalu and the Marshall Islands.

The perpetrators of climate change and the subsequent degradation of habitats, human and other, are not always on the receiving end of the worst effects.  Furthermore, the direct link between GHG emission at source and climatic event has been difficult to quantify, until very recently.

Protection of the environment is only now being enshrined in law in a meaningful way, by creating economic mechanisms for compensation.  However, as these measures bed in and are refined, how well will the tariffs match the needs?

In his book ‘Sustainable Energy Without the Hot Air’, Professor David MacKay provides some startling graphs illustrating these emission sources.

SEWTHA Continental GHG

Regional GHG emissions in 2000.  Each coloured box defined by population against per capita GHG emissions, gives the national emissions total.


National GHG emissions.  Here the regional blocks are broken out at national level.  Although some Middle East countries top the per capita table, the relatively small populations mean that in global terms their emissions are less significant.

Viewing emissions on an individual basis though, where we take responsibility for our own contribution and being accountable for our environmental impact, Qataris and Kuwaitis have some work to do.

Since the cumulative emissions from decades and even centuries ago persist and affect global warming, should those who have polluted massively in the past be held to account, and contribute accordingly to adaptation funds?


Professor MacKay’s graph of Historic GHG emissions highlights the contribution from early industrial powerhouses such as the UK and Germany, as well as the USA.  It seems fair that some degree of compensation is paid for historic emissions which persist and contribute to current GHG levels.

Iceland’s Green Energy

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Written for Coursera (MOOC) Class ‘Global Sustainable Energy, Past, Present and Future ‘ by University of Florida (June 2013).

Iceland is unique and interesting place for many reasons, cultural, geological and economically.

  • Generates 100% of its electricity from renewable sources
  • Highest electricity consumption per capita in the world, more than double Norway’s, 2nd highest.
  • Many active volcanoes: Eruption of ‘Eyjafjallajökull’ in April 2010 – airspace closure Europe
  • Capital city Reykjavik: World’s most northerly capital, pop 120,000 (37.5% Iceland total pop)

(CIA Factbook)

Traditionally, Iceland’s main industry has been fishing and more recently Aluminium production.

The clip from the film ‘Dreamland’ highlights some of the opposing views that are currently being debated in the country.  Aluminium smelting and Hydroelectricity, also Environmental Protection and Geothermal Energy are hot topics.

Video Link: ‘Dreamland

Hydro-Electric Power

The geography and climate of Iceland lends itself to hydroelectricity production on a large enough scale to meet the majority of the country’s power needs.  Hydro accounts for 12,500 GWh annually, 73% of total electricity generation.

(Statistics Iceland)

Geothermal Energy

A consequence of Iceland’s geological activity is that it is able to harness heat from below the earth to generate electricity and heat houses.  It is used to produce the remaining 30% of electricity generation, annually 4,700 GWh.  In addition to this, a further 11, 700 GWh are produced as heat for residential space heating, as well as warming greenhouses and swimming pools, etc.


Total Energy Mix 

The table below shows the national energy mix for Iceland in 2010/11.

Elect Oil Heating
Total 16,290 7,245 7,028
Aluminium 12,341 0 0
Other Industry 1,527 256 222
Residential 863 0 5,694
Transport 0 5,106 0
Agriculture 220 0 194
Fishing 42 1,849 486
Services 1019 0   0
Utilities 700 0 431
Other 0 47   0

The Aluminium industry in Iceland began in 1969 when the smelter at Straumsvík opened.  A further two Aluminium plants were opened in 1998 and 2008.  As can be seen from the graph below, Aluminium production is by far the largest consumer of electricity and total energy in the country.

Aluminium smelting requires vast electricity input, and Iceland’s potential for hydro-generation provided a good economic match.

If Aluminium industry consumption is discarded, the Electricity per capita falls to 12,500 kWh annually, which is marginally above that of the USA.



Figure 1: Energy Consumption by Sector Giga Watt-Hours

As can be seen from Figure 1, Iceland still relies heavily on imported petroleum for most of it’s transportation mainly for automobile and air travel.  The Icelandic fishing industry is also a major oil consumer, required to power the fishing fleet.

There are some hydrogen filling stations already in Reykjavik, which indicates that the country is working towards 100% clean indigenous energy.


Figure 2: Energy Consumption as Percentage of Total

As seen in Figure 2, Industry currently uses nearly half of all the energy consumed in Iceland.  The government estimates that there are over 20,000 GWh as yet untapped geothermal generating capacity.  Since the population growth rate has hovered around 1% since 1960, and is currently 0.3% (World Bank Data), it seems likely that when this additional energy is exploited, it will be used in industry, therefore increasing the fraction of total energy consumed by the sector.


Figure 3: Electricity Consumption Per Capita (annual kWh) (

The figure for Icelandic electricity consumption per capita, see Figure 3, seems astonishing when compared to the other nations in the top ten.  However, the fact that this quantity of energy consumption is 100% renewable, all the more remarkable, is a success story from which other nations can benefit.

Iceland is interested in exporting this energy in some form, they are investigating an interconnector cable to the UK and possibly mainland Europe.  They are also trying to attract energy hungry business to their shores.

They are world leaders in Geothermal Energy, which has great potential across the globe as a source of clean renewable energy.  Oil drilling technology can be adapted to reach into the hot sedimentary rocks, which heat pumped water, which emerges as steam to power turbines and generate electricity.

Geothermal Energy Diagram

Figure 4: Geothermal Electricity Diagram

Planning For Renewables Projects

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For an assignment in the Coursera (MOOC) Class ‘Wind, Waves and Tides‘ by the University of Toronto (Nov 2014).

The north coast of Scotland is sparsely populated, especially to the west of Thurso and Wick, which lie at the north-east corner.  These towns are connected to the cities in the south by the A9 road, a railway line and a 275 KV electrical transmission line [1].

The wind data for Wick Airport (10m mast) shows an average wind speed of 5.7 m/s.  The wind is mostly from the west and south-east [2].  The national UK wind map gives average wind speeds as 6.8 m/s at 10m, 7.7 m/s at 25m and 8.3 m/s at 45m, and these computer model values are a little higher than measured [3].

Figure 1- Wick Airport Wind Speed Frequency

Figure 2- Wick Airport Wind Direction

Figure 3- Wick Airport Monthly Windspeed

Figure 4- Wick Wind Data (DECC)

The area is in a prime location for wind turbines and many have been built within convenient distance from the high voltage grid connection.

Scottish planning law, in line with European Union directives, requires that all developments are assessed for environmental impacts [4].  Initially a screening process examines if the proposal may have any serious environmental impacts.  If potential environmental risks are uncovered, a full Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) is required.

Factors taken into consideration include the overall size of the development and cumulation with other developments in the vicinity, use of natural resources, production of waste, pollution and nuisance.  Special attention is given to conservation of wild birds, habitats, flora and fauna.

On the whole, the UK is welcoming of renewable energy development.  A poll conducted in 2013 found that 70% of people were in favour of wind farms being built locally [5].  Another poll found that 51% positively supported government assistance for wind energy projects [6].

During a feasibility study for a community wind turbine in my area, the majority of people were in favour of the turbine.  The biggest negative response was from tourists who were keen on preserving the views.

In general, I think that most people see the need for clean energy development in order that we reduce CO2 emissions and combat global warming.  The question of siting wind farms and NIMBYism issues can largely be resolved by good public consultation and the inclusion of community benefit schemes.

It seems fair that any community willing to host wind turbines, with associated issues of noise, electromagnetic interference, construction disruption and altered landscape, should also benefit from the development, over and above the national collective benefit of generating carbon free electricity.

The Scottish government has published ‘Good Practice Principles for Community Benefits from Onshore Renewable Energy Developments’ [7].   The benefits are not solely financial, and an ongoing and active role in the development of local renewable energy is encouraged.

  • Benefits directly related to the development, improved infrastructure
  • Socio-economic, job creation
  • Community ownership in the development
  • Monetary payments to the community, an annual cash sum to a benefit fund
  • Other benefits which the developer provides to the community, funding of other projects, or a local energy discount scheme.

The guide recommends that a minimum community benefit of £5k ($8k) per installed megawatt be offered in annual payment to the fund.


[1] ‘Community Renewable Energy Toolkit – Part 7’, Scottish Government, 2009

[2] ‘Wind Data for Wick, Speed and Direction’, RenSmart, 10 years of hourly measurements

[3] ‘Wick UK Wind Speed Data’, UK Government, Dept of Energy & Climate Change.

[4] ‘The Town and Country Planning (Environmental Impact Assessment) (Scotland) Regulations 2011’, UK Government

[5] ‘Mail on Sunday, Survation Poll on Wind Farms development’, 25 October 2013, PDF download

[6] ‘Sunday Times, YouGov Poll on Wind Energy’, 25 October 2013, PDF download

[7] ‘Good Practice Principles for Community Benefits from Onshore Renewable Energy Developments’, Scottish Government, April 2014

Climate Change Attitudes Survey

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For the Coursera (MOOC) Class – ‘Turn Down the Heat, Why a 4oC Warmer World Must be Avoided‘ by the World Bank, I conducted a small survey to gauge perceptions and attitudes (UK May 2015).

Most of the participants live in Scotland, UK  and are a mix of rural and urban dwellers.

I was primarily interested in:

  • Personal Carbon Footprints
  • Family and Community Awareness
  • Future Trends and Behaviour
  • Plans of Action

I calculated each respondent’s carbon footprint from the lifestyle and consumption survey data.

Sect 1 Graphs Carbon Footprint

  • The results in the graph show that the highest carbon footprint was just over 14 tonnes of CO2 per year, and the lowest just under 5 tonnes.
  • The group average was 9 tonnes of CO2 annually per person, which is lower than the Industrial Nations average (11 tonnes) and the UK average (9.8 tonnes).
  • However, the group were above the World average (4 tonnes) and the United Nations target of 2 tonnes of CO2 emissions per person.

Sect 2 Graphs Community _PERC

  • Most are aware of Global Warming and report that coverage by UK news media indicate some of the threats.   With more choosing the ‘agree’ option, there may be some dissatisfaction on how well the issue is reported.
  • There is broad acceptance that anthropogenic Climate Change is real.
  • Government policy as it affects basic commodity prices seems less well observed.  The neutral responses may indicate a perception that Governments are not taking a strong enough lead in combating Climate Change.
  • There is broad agreement that renewable energy projects and other progressive initiatives are on the increase.

Sect 3 Graphs Trends _PERC

  • Adverse conditions due to Global Warming and Climate Change are seen as imminent.
  • At a national and international level, it is agreed that adaptations to our way of life as the climate changes will demand an increased share of public finances.
  • There is almost universal agreement that more should be done to mitigate CO2 emissions now in order that we limit environmental damage for future generations.

Sect 4 Graphs Behaviour _PERC

  • Where changes in behaviour are easier to accommodate, in food and energy consumption, most have done so to reduce CO2 emissions.
  • Transportation is a more difficult element of lifestyle to change given the reliance on petroleum vehicles and air travel.
  • All respondents place some weight on environmental policy when choosing their political representatives.
  • Most are aware of other people’s altered behaviour recently linked with environmental concerns.

Sect 5 Graphs Action _PERC

  • Most people seem engaged with the Global Warming problem, and see the need to take action now.
  • While most propose individual action to tackle CO2 emissions, some feel that broad international agreement by Governments is necessary.

Tesla’s Elon Musk Announces Affordable Home Energy Storage System

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The electric car company Tesla has announced its entry into the energy market, unveiling a suite of low-cost solar batteries for homes, businesses and utilities, “the missing piece”, it said, in the transition to a sustainable energy world.

The batteries, which will retail at $3,500 in the US, were launched on Thursday at a Tesla facility in California by the company’s ambitious founder, Elon Musk, who heralded the technology as “a fundamental transformation [in] how energy is delivered across the Earth”

Wall-mounted, with a sleek design, the lithium-ion batteries are designed to capture and store up to10kWh of energy from wind or solar panel. The reserves can be drawn on when sunlight is low, during power cuts or at peak demand times, when electricity costs are highest.’  (The Guardian – Friday 1st May 2015)

  • This could be a significant step towards maximising small scale renewable energy systems, storing excess power during sunny and windy periods, for use later.
  • The low cost makes it a viable option for people who are serious about combating climate change and reducing reliance on fossil fuel energy.
  • The battery system is said to be scalable to provide grid energy storage in addition to distributed domestic storage.