Renewable energy, it’s the way of the future. Well, St Andrew’s humble home of Scotland is leading Europe’s modern mission to find alternative energy solutions, specifically in the field of wind power. Currently, our windy country is home to numerous wind farms, both onshore and offshore, generating an extraordinary amount of energy, exceeding both the expectations of the public and the targets set by the Scottish government. As these wind farms continue to surpass the nation’s target of producing 50% of all renewable electricity, the bar is being raised, investments are being made, and the future of wind power in Scotland is looking even bigger and better. However, is this increase in investment in wind power purely a positive for Scotland?

Thanks in part to Scotland’s extremely blustery climate and location, the country is leading the production of renewable wind power in Europe by producing 25% of all of its wind energy, with even greater potential to expand the industry. According to Scotland’s First Minister Alex Salmond, seven gigawatts (GW) of renewable wind energy is already installed or under construction on or off the shores of Scotland, while still exceeding the existing target of 50% of energy consumption. Scientists estimate that Scotland’s full potential of wind energy in both onshore and offshore farms lies at 206 GW, suggesting the capability to produce 25 times the amount of renewable wind energy already being produced. To put this astounding statistic into perspective, to keep a typical light bulb lit for one hour, approximately sixty watts are required, equating to only 6×10-8 GW. These incredible statistics shed light on the further growth and potential for the wind energy industry.

Just last month, Salmond announced the Scottish Government’s plans to invest £70 million in the offshore wind industry. Along with this plan of investment, the First Minister established new targets for the production of renewable energies for the year 2020 at 80%, essentially securing the importance and reliance upon investment in the renewable wind energy industry. Large international energy corporations currently investing in Scottish wind power include Skykon, REpower and Nordex, among others.

Aside from the most obvious positives of wind power -its production of alternative energy and the transition from fossil fuels- the wind industry in Scotland has also had beneficial effects on the economy, such as its creation of jobs. Currently, the onshore wind industry supports 3,000 local jobs for Scottish citizens. More importantly, with greater investment in the industry, the Scottish Development International Agency estimates the further increase and development of 16,000 more jobs in the wind power sector by 2020.

Although many argue against the investment in alternative wind energy and turbine farms in Scotland, recent polls suggest an overwhelming support for the projects, even by the farms’ closest neighbors. According to the Scottish Executive Survey, less than one in ten citizens object to the construction of wind turbines as they claim it disrupts natural beauty, protection of wildlife and everyday way of life. However, in a survey conducted recently by the British Wind Energy Association in conjunction with Scottish Renewables Forum, results showed that Scottish citizens living in close proximity to wind farms had tremendous support and high levels of acceptance of such wind projects. Despite the misconception of popular opposition to these wind projects, it is evident through these surveys that investment in alternative wind energy has the support of the Scottish people.

The next decade will prove to be a vital and prosperous one for the development of alternative wind energies in Scotland. Through the support of the people and interest of international energy companies, the Scottish government’s investment in both onshore and offshore wind farms is expected to produce significant results, paving the way for a greener Scotland.

Julianne Funk

**All statistics sourced from the Scottish Government’s website.
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