You will have to forgive me for the corny pun, I but find myself especially pumped as I write this story. I have always wanted to go see Loch Ness, and now I have even more reason. On a side note, I intend to buy a green bond to offset the carbon emissions of this trip. This 400 MW pumped hydroelectric project can provide up to 6 hours of power. Multiple those two figures and you end up with 2.4 gigawatt hours of renewable storage.
The proposed project is being submitted by Intelligent Land Investments (ILI). Pumped hydro power effectively acts as battery and can provide electricity whenever it is needed. If you need a refresher about pumped hydro, here you go.
This crucial project quickly becomes a story about offshore wind power, because it will allow Scotland’s already considerable wind power capacity to be doubled. According to ILI’s website, “This can help reduce renewable energy curtailment and therefore promote grid stability.”
At the rate that Scotland is going I would not be surprised Scotland ends up with negative emissions on a year-round basis. Projects like this could allow Scotland to export more wind power. In October 2017, CleanTechnica‘s Joshua S. Hill reported Scotland produced 100% of its electricity demand for an astounding 15 out of 31 days in the month of October. Scotland has been a key pioneer in offshore wind development.
Over the years, CleanTechnica has covered onshore and offshore wind in Scotland with glee. Every time I have read a story about wind power in Scotland, I cannot help but I imagine Mel Gibson as the Braveheart character. In this daydream, Braveheart represents all of us fighting to protect our earth, our way of life, and what is essentially our freedom! In my mind, the evil king, Edward Longshanks represents either David Cameron, Teresa May, and any of the other misguided fossil fuel proponents that blocked onshore wind and other renewable energy efforts.
You will have to excuse me for disparaging these individuals, but I just cannot help it after the excitement of this project. I am being hypocritical, since I often advocate for not being so self-righteous when it comes to renewable energy. It is clear now that renewable energy has the ability to not just save the entire world from pollution and the most dire consequences of climate change, but also it has the long-term potential to save of considerable money. Renewable energy can help usher in a sustainable age of abundance. Therefore, we should really endeavor to not make renewable energy a divisive political issue.
Returning to the Braveheart analogy, we have the Scots’ belligerent response to such callous depravity of those who would destroy our world for money. The Scots will create their own Lochness Monster to fight back.
UK’s efforts to block onshore wind have not phased environmentalists’ determination. Ironically, efforts to stop onshore wind has actually helped a play a role in lowering the cost of offshore wind power by 50% over four short years. It was supposed to take eight years for that to occur.
Since this pumped hydro storage will mean even more offshore wind can be brought online, it will end up being a huge benefit for the rest of the world. Offshore wind turbines keep getting bigger and better, which means lower cost and perhaps more importantly more consistent wind power production. Additionally, manufacturing methods, design, and installation will continue to be improved. There is room for massive improvement in regards to offshore wind.
The project will require an uphill storage lake or loch in this case. Of course, this will create some environmental damage, but they have plans to surround the man-made loch with native vegetation. In my opinion, this minimal damage is more than offset by the emissions reductions. It is important to not only think about the direct emissions of the added wind capacity. It is important to think about the continued innovations and price declines in wind power this project allows.
The upper loch will sit 100 meters (vertically) above the hydroelectric turbine and will require 2,650 meters of piping. The project will take approximately five years to complete.
Currently, Loch Ness already has another pumped hydro station on the opposite end of the loch. Loch Ness is 36.3 kilometers long and covers an area of 56.4 square kilometers, so this may not be the last pumped hydro project on the loch we see. According to the BBC, “more details of the plans are to be given during public displays in Dores Community Hall next week.”
There are bigger pumped hydro plants built and being built across the world, but few will advance offshore wind energy like this project. Offshore wind is a crucial piece of the puzzle. Its costs are still a little high at the current moment for most of the world’s seas, but cost reductions are sure to come, which will allow for grid parity in an every increasing number of locations.
For now, the cost of offshore wind is higher than onshore wind, but that is not the whole story. Most of worlds cities are along the coastline. With turbines situated offshore, transmissions costs can often be lower. The current largest offshore wind turbines are 9.5 gigawatts in capacity, but theoretically they could reach a size of 50 MW. This scale could drastically reduce cost and improve capacity factor (the amount of time the wind turbine produces power). Offshore wind turbines produce power more consistently, which often makes their electricity have more value.
Offshore wind turbines can be much larger than onshore wind turbine because they can be built in harbors and transported by large ships. We just do not have the infrastructure and agility to move such larger turbines onshore.
Image source: http://www.redjohnpsh.co.uk/