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Study backs undersea cable to export Scotland's wind and wave power

Jan 17, 2008 - Ian Johnston - The Scotsman

VAST amounts of wind and wave power from some of Scotland's most remote areas could be exported to southern England and Europe, providing a secure source of power and significantly reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

There had been fears it would be too expensive to transmit the green electricity from northern Scotland to large population centres further south, but research commissioned by the Crown Estate found a sub-sea cable down the east coast of the UK was economically viable.

A draft report, to be published today, says a basic connection linking the Northern Isles, Aberdeenshire and Norfolk, and then overland to London, would cost up to 1.7 billion.

A more comprehensive network, with links to the Western Isles, Norway, Germany and the Netherlands, would cost about 4.8 billion by 2020 and could be connected to the proposed European Supergrid.

As oil and gas supplies become more scarce or have to be sourced from unstable parts of the world, and as climate change forces countries to seek more renewable energy, pressure will grow to exploit areas with abundant wind or tide power.

The report, by the consultant Econnect, is based on "substantial renewable generation" in the region of five to ten gigawatts by 2020 off the coast of northern Scotland. Nuclear power stations typically have the capacity to produce one gigawatt.

Rob Hastings, marine estate director at the Crown Estate, which pays its revenues to the government, said: "The prospect of taking green energy right down the east coast to heavily populated areas in the south, and potentially to the rest of Europe, is incredibly exciting: today's report brings that key infrastructural development one step closer.

People were expecting the costs to be probably uneconomic in the extreme. But when we completed the report and we consulted with many people on this there was an awakening that the newer transmission technology actually makes it much more economically viable."

Mr Hastings said the idea of generating ten gigawatts of power was optimistic, but the amount of electricity that could be produced in northern Scotland would make a significant impact in the fight against climate change.

"What UK plc gets is not necessarily just economic benefit. It's more to do with achieving international commitments on carbon dioxide reduction and climate change," he said. "The other part is energy security. As the price of oil and gas increases, it's sort of a good idea to be looking at other forms of energy."

Professor Maxwell Irvine, who chaired a Royal Society of Edinburgh inquiry into energy, said: "If (the cable] is affordable, it is probably the only way we're going to be capable of fully exploiting the north-west's potential for power production."

Jim Mather, the energy minister, said he recognised the need to increase the electricity transmission system's capacity.

LEWIS WIND-FARM FIRM ACCUSED OF 'SPIN'

DEVELOPERS of a planned massive wind farm in the Western Isles were accused yesterday of corporate spin to put pressure on ministers to approve the project.

Lewis Wind Power (LWP) plans to erect 181 turbines on the Barvas Moor, in what would be one of the biggest wind farms in Europe. The Scottish Government is due to make a decision this month on whether it will get the go-ahead. Yesterday, LWP said an agreement had been reached with REpower UK, an Edinburgh-based wind-turbine manufacturer, to open the way for the towers to be made at the former Arnish oil yard near Stornoway.

But the timing of the announcement was attacked by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, which opposes the wind farm.