Featured image: The Glen App wind farm in South Ayrshire. Source: Daily Record
In February, Scotland’s power sector was criticised after it was revealed that dozens of giant turbines have been using diesel generators. The information came from a whistle-blower who said the “environmentally friendly” windmills were only turning thanks to hydrocarbon fuels, commonly referred to as fossil fuels.
When the revelation came to light it fuelled environmental, health and safety concerns, especially since the diesel-generated turbines were running for up to six hours a day.
ScottishPower said the company was forced to hook up 71 windmills to the fossil fuel supply after a fault on its grid. The move was an attempt to keep the turbines warm and working during the cold month of December.
South Scotland Labour Member of the Scottish Parliament (“MSP”) Colin Smyth said regardless of the reasons, using diesel to de-ice faulty turbines is “environmental madness.”
Straight Arrow News: Scotland’s wind turbines have been secretly using fossil fuels, 7 February 2023 (1 min)
The Scottish National Party (“SNP”) and the Green Party were held responsible for the damning incident. The two parties’ “dishonesty” over Scotland’s renewable potential had previously come under fire; they used data they knew to be inaccurate. Ministers were slated for incorrectly stating that Scotland possessed 25 per cent of Europe’s wind energy potential.
On top of this not being true, the revelation in February found that 60 turbines at Arecleoch Wind Farm in South Ayrshire and 11 at the nearby Glen App Wind Farm were connected to six huge diesel generators.
Last month, the Scottish Energy and Climate Change Directorate (“ECCD”) responded to a Freedom of Information Act request (“FoI”) asking how many wind farms use diesel generators as backup and how many do not.
The response read: “The Scottish Government does not specifically gather information on whether wind farms use diesel generators as backup.”
ECCD directed the FoI requester to the Energy Consents website to view Environmental Impact Assessment (“EIA”) reports submitted by applicants that indicate whether hydrocarbon-powered generators will be used at the wind farm.
“For example, we are aware that Whitelee Windfarm does have permission to use diesel generators located on the Ardochrig site as backup,” ECCD said. Supplying THIS link as evidence.
Following the link given, we were able to find a reference to “reserve diesel generators” in an application document titled ‘Supporting Statement providing further detail relating to the Development’. “The backup diesel generators will very seldom be used on Site,” the document claims.
Unable to deny that diesel generators had been used to power the wind turbines at Arecleoch and Glen App wind farms, ECCD added: “We are also aware from recent official level engagement with ScottishPower Renewables that Arecleoch and Glen App wind farms use diesel generators as a backup.”
We searched on the Energy Consents website for “Arecleoch” and the EIA submitted by ScottishPower as the ECCD had suggested. It is not one document. ScottishPower Renewables submitted 203 documents in its application for more than 20 onshore wind projects. Which of those documents mentions that diesel generators will be used as a backup would take a very determined person many hours to find. As many of the application documents cover all 20 projects, it could be that diesel generators used as a backup apply to all of ScottishPower’s wind farms.