Scotland is often thought of as a land of tradition. Yet while many countries around the world have struggled to meet the increasing demand for clean, renewable energy, Scotland has lithely adapted. The European nation seems perfectly content to leave nuclear energy, which used to supply almost 100 percent of its electrical energy, behind in favor of wind energy.
Things have progressed so quickly over the past several decades, in fact, 25 percent of Europe's offshore wind resources are now located in Scotland. In valleys, on hills, and even atop mountains, massive wind turbines can be seen around the country, day or night, in constant rotation.
And they've got a lot to show for it. According to Pacific Standard, 2017 has been a record-breaking year for Scotland, in terms of renewable energy. So far, in the first six months of the year, the country has generated 57 percent of the country's total energy use, and around one million megawatt hours of electrical power.
In June alone, the country's wind turbines produced the equivalent of six day's worth of electrical energy for the entire country--enough to power 118 percent of Scottish homes. This is good news, considering Scotland's goal of reaching 100 percent renewable electricity by 2020.
According to Lang Banks, Director of WWF Scotland, Scotland's recent record-breaking energy output "...shows the importance of continuing increase capacity by building new wind farms." Lang told Power-Technology that, "As well as helping to power our homes and businesses, wind power supports thousands of jobs and continues to play an important role in Scotland’s efforts to address global climate change by avoiding millions of tonnes of carbon emissions.”
Yet, even with the incredible progress already being made this year, movement toward Scotland's 2020 goal has been tedious and difficult. According to Power-Technology, some policymakers in Scotland are concerned about the costs of building new wind farms, as well as their aesthetic effect on the landscape. Surprisingly, even some environmentalists are concerned about the expanding offshore wind farms, due to their potential effect on local bird populations, which includes species like gannets, puffins and kittiwakes.
Construction on four Scottish wind farms has already been delayed indefinitely due to legal battles between wind farm advocates and conversationalists, who believe that the turbines could have a devastating effect on colonies of migratory seabirds. Of the 1,000 wind turbines that were supposed to be in operation by the end of this year, only 63 have been raised, thus far.
The future of wind energy in Scotland remains uncertain, but one thing is clear: compromises will have to be made if Scotland is to reach its ambitious renewable energy goals. If offshore wind farms are not an option due to environmental issues, then onshore farms may need more support. The road to 100 percent renewable energy will certainly not be a straightforward one, but instead will likely be fraught with legal battles. Yet if the nation's recent record-breaking energy streak is anything to go on, progress is coming faster, in some ways, than many predicted, even if it is moving slower in others.
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