Breakthrough year for wind and solar power

Wind power in Scotland had a record year in 2015, generating enough power to supply the electrical needs of 97% of Scottish households, according to WWF Scotland analysis of data provided by WeatherEnergy.

Solar power in Scotland met half or more of household electricity or hot water needs during seven of the 12 months of 2015, WWF said.

The WWF figures follow a recent Scottish Government report that said renewable energy is now the biggest contributor to electricity generation in Scotland and has reached a record 38% of total output — higher than nuclear (33%) and fossil fuels (28%) for the first time.

WWF Scotland’s analysis found that wind turbines provided a record 10,392,439MWh of electricity to the UK National Grid, enough to supply on average the electrical needs of 97% of Scottish households, or 2.34 million homes.

That represents an increase of 16% on 2014.

WWF said wind generated enough power to supply over 100% of Scottish household needs during six of the 12 months last year — January, February, March, May, November and December.

With Scotland’s total electricity consumption — including homes, businesses and industry for 2015 running at 25,161,916MWh — wind power generated about 41% of Scotland’s entire electricity needs for the year.

WWF said that for homes fitted with solar PV panels, there was enough sunshine in Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Inverness in April and May to generate 100% or more of the electricity needs of an average home, and 50% or more in the same cities during March, June, July, August and September.

For homes fitted with solar hot water panels, there was enough sunshine in May in Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Inverness to generate 100% of the hot water needs of an average home, and 50% or more in the same cities during March, April, June, July, August and August.

“Without doubt, 2015 was a huge year for renewables, with wind turbines and solar panels helping to ensure millions of tonnes of climate-damaging carbon emissions were avoided,” said WWF Scotland’s director Lang Banks.

“With 2016 being a critical year politically, we’d like to see each of the political parties back policies that would enable Scotland become the EU’s first fully renewable electricity nation by 2030.

“December will be rightly remembered for the damage done by the extreme weather, so it won’t surprise many to learn it also turned out to be a record-breaking month for wind power output.

“For 2015 as a whole, thanks to an increase in installed capacity, overall wind power output broke all previous records and was up by almost a fifth year-on-year.”

Karen Robinson of WeatherEnergy said: “Following the recent Paris climate talks where there were calls for greater use of low-carbon energy sources, the data show that renewables are already playing a major and increasing role in Scotland’s, and the rest of the UK’s, overall energy mix.

“Despite misconceptions, Scotland also has massive potential for using solar power too. The data clearly shows that there’s plenty of sunshine to meet a significant proportion of an average family’s electricity needs for the majority of months of the year. With hundreds of thousands of household roofs, it would not take much to tap more of the sun’s power.”