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Monday, October 10, 2011

Hitting the Mark

Offshore Wind Generation

According to data from the UK National Grid, production of electricity from wind reached the marker of 10%  during September of 2011, largely from the largess of Hurricane Irene and thanks to Scottish Wind generators.  The UK Department of Energy and Climate Change reported a change in quarter 2 (Q2) that was 120% more than Q2 a year ago.  That substantial year over year renewable gain in Q2 translated to over a 3% gain in national energy provision.  That's a significant gain and one worth noting especially when we see 10% of the UK's entire energy requirement being met with renewable energy.  That's a huge accomplishment and worthy of emulation.

Dr. Gordon Edge, RenewableUK's director of policy, notes that producing nearly 10% of the national energy needs is a clear demonstration that renewable energy can play a huge role in supplying national energy needs, but also, in building jobs and contributing to a low carbon economy.  In fact, the UK Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) has created a roadmap (downloadable .pdf), a laudable document that outlines precisely how the UK will make the shift to clean renewable energy, laying out specific technologies and targets along the way.

Scottish Undersea Turbine

But it's not all peaches and cream, as Dr. Edge points out, as the renewable energy sector approaches around 13% of the UK's national power the bottleneck will become difficulties tying into the aging grid infrastructure in the country.  This is a problem that exists in every developed nation and inevitably, it will become an issue for Alberta. 

When the UK hit the 10% mark in September of 2011... at the peak time, 1860MW was being generated - largely from Scotland - and accounted for 4.7% of total generation at the time.  That's impressive by any standard of measure.  If, according to the National Gird, wind power directly feeding into the low voltage local electricity networks by smaller wind farms is taken into account wind generated about 10% of Britain's power during the 24 hour period. 

Solar Capacity added to a Bridge in London

We can accomplish that right here in Alberta.  But it takes courageous leadership, intellectual vision, and solid planning.  In fact, the biggest challenge we face in Alberta is not how to acquire energy nor how to increase renewable production, the challenge is how to rethink our transmission infrastructure.  A viable strategy to shift to renewable energy should be incorporated or associated with every new energy infrastructure plan.  Are we up for the challenge?

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