Ann Arbor (Informed Comment) – The small country of Scotland, with a population of about 4.5 million, has forged ahead with renewable energy at a much faster pace and to greater effect than most other industrialized countries. Virtually all of its electricity consumption can now be met from wind, solar, or hydro, though because it exports some of that electricity to England, the grid mix in Scotland itself is not actually 100% renewables.
The biggest source of electricity in Scotland is onshore wind, which last year generated 78% of renewable electricity generation. Offshore wind so far provides only about a fourth of the electricity that onshore wind farms do.
Nevertheless, Scotland is making a big push to expand offshore wind, and has 40 gigawatts of offshore wind in the pipeline.
President Joe Biden set a goal last year of 30 gigawatts of offshore wind power by 2030, so the US ambitions in this industry actually fall short of those of Scotland. The US is sixty times more populous than Scotland
Some of those gigawatts are sited at the $3.75 billion Seagreen wind farm, which began producing electricity in summer 2022 and is set to be completely functional in a matter of weeks. Scotland currently has 1.8 gigawatts of offshore wind generating capacity in place.
Jillian Ambrose at the Guardian reports that the consortium of the Scottish SSE and the French TotalEnergies that has built the Seagreen Wind Farm only have two turbines remaining to install of the 114 turbines in the wind farm.
The 112th turbine was put up this week, with its foundation having been laid almost 200 feet underwater. This depth makes it the deepest wind turbine in the world. Wind turbines can be installed in the relatively shallow waters immediately offshore most coasts. Where the seas are deep, floating wind turbines can be installed.
The cost of offshore wind has plummeted 70% since 2015. The Scottish government has decided against pursuing further nuclear plants because just as much power can be generated by wind farms, with much less expense.
Scotland is also seeking vastly to expand its offshore floating wind farms. It plans the Ossian wind farm off the coast of Aberdeenshire, which will have an incredible 3.6 gigawatts of generating capacity. Scotland has raced ahead of the U.S. in floating turbine technology because Trump was hostile to wind power.
Seagreen will generate enough electricity to power 1.6 million Scottish households. There are about 2.5 million households in Scotland, so this one project could generate 64% of the electricity needed to power all the households in the country.