Wind energy has been championed over the last few years as a safe and renewable energy option. Replacing electricity generated by fossil fuel power stations, can lead to a reduction in carbon emissions heading towards the Scotland’s Net Zero commitment for 2045.
Wind energy is generally created through two methods: onshore and offshore wind farms. Due to stronger and more consistent wind speeds, offshore wind farms can generate more electricity and at a more constant rate than onshore farms. There are two types of offshore wind, fixed and floating, and the industry is moving towards floating as there is less disruption to marine environments.
Scottish Governments, Draft Energy Strategy and Just Transition Plan, 2023 states: “ScotWind, the worlds largest floating offshore leasing round, represents a massive step forward in delivering an energy revolution with market ambitions to deliver up to 27.6 GW of capacity - more than double our renewable energy generation capacity currently in operation. This growth in renewables will enable Scotland to meet a large proportion of demand through renewables alone, while creating an export opportunity for our surplus.”
Excess energy created can be stored for periods of lower wind or higher demand. Currently there are range of storage options available such as, batteries, pumped heat storage, hydro, high-energy super capacitators, etc.
There is also ongoing research considering the life cycle of wind farms and this is helping to improve their environmental impact by enhancing the materials used to construct them and long-term maintenance. One of the key areas to be developed further is the manufacturing and recycling of low-carbon steel and recyclable composites for blades.
There has also been public concern over wind farms with regard to noise pollution and its possible effect on surrounding environment and people living near by. There is also ongoing research investigating wildlife, in particular birds and bats through collision, disturbance, or habitat damage. Another issue to be resolved is that they shut down the wind farms when the wind is too strong and change over to diesel power when wind is low.
Developing wind energy, in combination with a wide range of other renewable energy technologies, such as wave, hydrogen, tidal, hydro and solar, could help to meet Scotland’s electricity needs.