Scottish support for wind power outstrips rest of UK

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By a Newsnet reporter

Analysis of a recent poll on energy reveals that Scottish respondents show greater support for wind and wave power than people resident in other parts of the UK.

The Yougov poll found that 70% of Scottish respondents believe that wind power has the potential to reduce CO2 emissions, compared to just 54% across the UK as a whole. 

Meanwhile 77% of Scots believe that newly developing wave power technology can potentially make an impact on CO2 emissions, as against 60% across the UK as a whole.

These figures were substantially higher than those responding from every other part of the UK, underlining the determination of people in Scotland to grasp the opportunities offered by renewable energy.  Support for wind power reached just 51% in London and 52% in the South of England.  

The poll follows a recent Panelbase poll which demonstrated that a majority of people in Scotland support the SNP Government’s target to generate the equivalent of 100% of Scotland’s electricity demand from renewables by 2020.

A clear majority, 61%, of Scottish based respondents told pollsters that they believe wind farms are a viable source of green energy.  A majority also believed that the benefit of wind turbines outweighed any negative impacts from their appearance or noise.

Objections to wind farms often centre on aesthetic arguments.  Earlier this week it was reported that former Blue Peter presenter Peter Purves has begun a campaign against three wind turbines being built in the Suffolk village of Laxfield.  Mr Purves has written to his local council to protest that the three turbines would be visible from his home and would create a “real blight” on the landscape.

In April this year, controversial developer Donald Trump appeared before the Scottish Parliament’s economy, energy and tourism committee, which was conducting an inquiry into whether the Scottish government can meet its green energy targets.  Mr Trump claimed that an offshore wind farm visible from his golfing development at Menie in Aberdeenshire would damage tourism.

He went on:  “[Wind farms] are so unattractive, so ugly, so noisy and so dangerous that, if Scotland does this, I think Scotland will be in serious trouble – I think you’ll lose your tourism industry to Ireland and lots of other places that are laughing at what Scotland is doing.”

Yet there are many who claim the opposite, and say that they find wind turbines to be a graceful and elegant addition to the landscape.  An article for the British Mountaineering Council in 2004  found that local reaction to a wind farm overlooking Ardrossan had been overwhelmingly positive, despite previous concerns about the noise and visual impact of the wind farm.  The article quoted local Labour councillor Margaret Munn, who said:

“The Ardrossan wind farm has been overwhelmingly accepted by local people – instead of spoiling the landscape, we believe it has been enhanced.  The turbines are impressive looking, bring a calming effect to the town and, contrary to the belief that they would be noisy, we have found them to be silent workhorses.”

Other objections centre on the inefficiency of wind turbines.  The theoretical maximum amount of the energy contained in the moving wind that a turbine can extract is 59.3%, according to Betz Law.  100% of power can be captured only if the wind velocity is reduced to zero, but this is an impossibility as the air driving the turbine must also leave it.  Additional factors, such as drag and friction, also reduce the efficiency of wind turbines.

Wind turbine efficiency has improved markedly since the technology was first developed.  As wind turbine design technologies improved, their power generating capacity has increased from the 100 – 200 Kilowatt level to over 5 Megawatts per turbine.  The wind speeds at which power generation occurs has also been improved so that turbines now generate power, even at very low wind speeds of 5 kph.

Investment in the technology continues, and gains continue to be made in the efficiency of turbines.  The Scottish Government actively promotes renewable energies, and as a result a number of large companies have made significant investment in Scotland.  In January it was announced that Korean giant Samsung Heavy Industries (SHI) is to base its first European offshore wind project in Fife in an inward venture worth up to £100m, which is expected to create more than 500 new jobs in Scotland.

Commenting on the poll findings, Highlands SNP MSP Mike MacKenzie – who sits on the Economy, Energy and Tourism Committee – said:

“The fact that the support for wind energy is markedly higher in Scotland is a clear confirmation that the Scottish Government’s ambitious targets enjoy widespread support across the country.

“The SNP Government has a clear vision for our country and seizing the opportunities for jobs and investment that wind power offers us is a key part of it.

“These figures show that people across Scotland share that vision, and clearly confirms a recent opinion poll that put support for the SNP at a fantastic 47%.

“As well as the obvious role that wind energy has in reducing our carbon emissions, people are extremely enthusiastic about the thousands of jobs the industry is already bringing to Scotland.

“Our record of leadership on this issue is a clear demonstration of the kind of things that can be achieved when decisions are made in Scotland, by people 100% elected by people in Scotland.”