Scotland’s grid becomes even cleaner as gigantic offshore wind farm comes online

Graphic: Sean Creighton/The Progress Playbook
Graphic: Sean Creighton/The Progress Playbook

Scotland’s efforts to phase out fossil fuels took another step forward in mid-October after a gigantic new offshore wind farm was fully synchronised to the grid.

The 1.1GW Seagreen facility in the North Sea — a joint venture between TotalEnergies and SSE Renewables — was completed in slightly over three years. Its foundations plunge to depths of nearly 60 meters below sea level.

According to the developers, Seagreen alone will deliver enough energy each year to power two-thirds of the country’s households. That’s a significant addition to an electricity mix that is already one of the world’s cleanest:

  • In the 12 months to end-June, fossil fuels (in the form of gas) accounted for just 14.8% of Scotland’s electricity mix, according to government data. Wind was the single largest contributor, at 54.4% of the total.
  • And much of Scotland’s wind energy is distributed to other parts of the UK, as it produces more power than it needs. In 2022, the country exported 18.7TWh of electricity (on a net basis — after subtracting imports), valued at around £4 billion.

In the days after Seagreen’s commissioning, Scotland was almost entirely powered by low-carbon technologies. On the afternoon of October 19, for instance, wind accounted for 81.1% of the mix, followed by nuclear (10.4%), hydro (5.7%), gas (1.4%) and biomass (1.2%).

That equates to a carbon intensity — the volume of emissions produced for each unit of electricity generated — of just 7g/kWh, according to the grid operator. In comparison, England’s grid was emitting 125g/kWh and Poland’s 804g/kWh.

Changing ownership structures: While Scotland is looking to further exploit its vast offshore wind resources, onshore facilities still dominate, with around 9GW of installed capacity.

And the country wants to more than double that to 20GW by 2030 as it electrifies transportation, heavy industry, and other sectors.

In doing so, it’s encouraging greater participation from ordinary citizens.

The government wants to have 2GW of community and locally owned projects by the end of the decade, up from around 908MW today.

A rapid transformation: Scotland’s electricity system has come a long way in a short period of time.

In 2010, just a quarter of the country’s electricity came from renewables, according to official government data.

But climate concerns and the rapid decline in the cost of wind energy — now the cheapest option for new-build electricity generation — prompted a change of course.

Alongside onshore and offshore wind, Scotland has invested in solar and even wave energy.

Despite the nation’s gloomy weather, the government plans to add another 4-6GW of solar PV capacity by 2030.


Most Read

Related Articles

A pioneer of big batteries and other decarbonisation tech, the state aims to get to 100% net renewables within seven years.
These states also dominate the electricity affordability rankings.
For the time being, the US is a laggard when it comes to the adoption of zero-emission vehicles.
In March, prices dipped to just €19.26 per megawatt hour in Portugal as renewables covered 91% of the country's electricity needs.
That's up from 73% in the same quarter last year, according to the grid operator.


One Response

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *