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John Bowler, RSPB Tiree

Monsanto PCBs May Leave Orca Pod 'Doomed to Extinction'

By Carey Wedler

The Guardian reported last Tuesday that Lulu, the full-grown whale who died, "was a member of the UK's last resident pod and a postmortem also showed she had never produced a calf. The pollutants, called PCBs, are known to cause infertility and these latest findings add to strong evidence that the pod is doomed to extinction."

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Renewable Energy

Meet the World's First Island Powered by an Off-Grid Renewable Energy System

A tiny, scenic island lying off Scotland's west coast is truly a model for sustainable, off-grid living. With no mainland electricity connection, the Isle of Eigg gets its electricity from the water, the wind and the sun.

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The skyline of Ardrossan, North Ayrshire, Scotland, is dominated by an enormous wind farm. Vincent van Zeijst, CC BY

Scotland Sets Wind Record, Provides Enough Electricity for 3.3 Million Homes in March

By Amanda Froelich

Slowly but surely, it is becoming fact that households and entire countries can run on clean, renewable energy. Costa Rica, for instance, ran on renewable energy sources for 285 days in 2015 and achieved similarly in 2016. Additionally, Denmark produced 160 percent of its energy needs in one day in July of 2015 via wind power.

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Renewable Energy
Whitelee is the UK's largest onshore wind farm, located about 20 minutes from central Glasgow. Photo credit: Flickr

Wind Power Smashes Records Worldwide

Wind power is skyrocketing across the globe.

In Scotland, wind turbines provided more than 1.2 million megawatt hours (MWh) of electricity to the National Grid in March, according to an analysis of WeatherEnergy data by WWF Scotland. To translate, that's enough renewable electricity to power 136 percent of Scottish households, or 3.3 million homes.

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Can Kite Power Revolutionize the Wind Industry?

By Owen Agnew

Rod Read, an engineer and stay-at-home dad, lives on the remote Isle of Lewis in Scotland. For the past seven years, he's been designing a kite that he thinks could revolutionize wind power.

His prototype, a series of spinning rainbow-colored rings, stands out against the gray Scottish sky. On a good day, the kite generates more than 450 watts. It's just a small model, but Read thinks the technology could be scaled up to the utility level. His model still needs more testing, but kites have a number of advantages over traditional turbines and several companies are developing kite-based generating systems.

Traditional wind turbines require a lot of concrete and steel, which makes them heavy and expensive to build. Kites are much lighter and cheaper. They can reach powerful winds at high altitudes that are inaccessible to fixed turbines.

The challenge is getting all that power back down to the ground. Read's solution is a series of spinning kites, which transfer their motion downwards via a rotating column of tensioned tethers. He links his small-model kite to the drive train of his electric bicycle, which he stakes down to the thick Hebridean turf. With his kite spinning above him, he can charge the bike's battery. His kite model looks flimsy, but it uses tension to its advantage, much like a suspension bridge.

Read grew up on the Isle of Lewis and said that island life lends itself to making and tinkering. "Everyones got their own ideas of self-reliance and self-sustainability," he explained. "You've got to be a bit of a jack of all trades to survive on an island."

Read imagines a big future for his invention. He's created computer models of large arrays of connected kites, all generating power in unison. A network of kites, Read said, is safer and stronger than a single kite. If one kite fails, it is held aloft by the others. Read has published several of his designs on his website for anyone to use. More testing is needed to show the design can be scaled up, and Read is raising funds to help a PhD student at the nearby Strathclyde University test the design.

There are other kite-driven turbine designs in various stages of development around the world, including the Google-funded Makani Power in California. Scottish Kite Power Systems is building the UK's first kite-driven power station this year.

Whether kite power takes off on the utility level remains yet to be seen. For Read, his next goal is to build a kite large enough to charge his electric car.

Reposted with permission from our media associate Nexus Media.

Renewable Energy
There are currently 15,570 locally and community-owned renewables sites in Scotland, such as ones operated by faith-based organizations. Photo credit: Eco-Congregation Scotland

Locally-Owned Renewables Powers 300,000 Homes in Scotland

Locally-owned renewable energy projects are beneficial for communities in more ways than just reducing carbon pollution. Just look at Scotland.

About 300,000 Scottish homes are powered with 595 megawatts of clean energy thanks to the government's support of community and locally-owned renewable projects, according to a government report. That's a 17 percent increase from the last report in September 2015, when the operating capacity was estimated at 508 megawatts, the Independent reported.

"This is great news. We have exceeded our 2020 target of achieving 500 megawatts in community and local ownership and, in line with our 2016 election manifesto commitment, we now pledge to double this to 1 gigawatt in the same time frame," Scottish business, innovation and energy minister Paul Wheelhouse said in a statement, adding that 1 gigawatt would be enough electricity to power half a million homes in Scotland.

According to the Energy Saving Trust report released Thursday, there are currently 15,570 locally and community-owned renewables sites in Scotland, including ones operated by community groups, local authorities, housing associations, charities, faith-based organizations, schools and other higher education establishments, local businesses, and Scottish farms and estates.

Capacity of Scotland's local and community-owned renewable energy installations as of June 2016 by ownership categoryEnergy Saving Trust

The two largest power sources are onshore wind (273 megawatts) and biomass (162 megawatts). Solar, at 39 megawatts, is also leaping in popularity. Solar had the largest increase in capacity from the previous report, more than doubling due to councils and housing associations installing Solar PV cells in their buildings.

"Investment in solar panels is an integral part of our strategy to improve the energy efficiency of our homes and tackle fuel poverty whilst contributing to national targets for carbon reduction," Alister Steele, managing director of Castle Rock Edinvar Housing Association, said in a statement.

The Scottish government believes that a community has a lot to gain from renewable energy projects—above and beyond the generation of clean energy and financial benefits.

"Locally-owned renewables have the potential to help drive social, economic and environmental change in communities across Scotland," Wheelhouse said. "These projects frequently generate funds that can be spent at local people's discretion on a wide range of projects that reflect local communities' priorities, as well as playing an important role in our energy mix and helping us to meet our vital climate change obligations."

"Finally, these new figures provide a perfect introduction to 2017, which will be a very important year for energy in Scotland. We will publish a draft of our Energy Strategy early in the New Year," Wheelhouse continued. "This will form our strategic response to the challenges and opportunities facing the energy sector. It will also set out our long term vision for energy in Scotland up to 2050 as well as informing and supporting the Climate Change Plan to meet our annual, statutory greenhouse gas emission targets between 2016 and 2032."

Scotland is quite the renewable energy powerhouse. According to Motherwell Times, "renewable sources delivered the equivalent of 59.4 percent of Scotland's gross electricity consumption in 2015—up from 49.9 per cent in 2014."

This past August, on an unseasonably windy day, wind turbines generated more than 100 percent of the total amount of electricity used in the country.

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Trees Believed 'Extinct' for 20 Years Discovered in the Queen's Garden

A species of elm thought to be extinct in the UK has just been discovered in one of the Queen's gardens in Edinburgh, Scotland.

The 100-foot tall "weeping" Wentworth elms were found during a recent botanical survey of the gardens surrounding the Queen's official residence, the Palace of Holyroodhouse.

Wentworth elmRoyal Botanic Garden Edinburgh

Dr. Max Coleman of the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh (RBGE), who identified the trees, admitted the fact that they were found in plain sight is rather odd.

The trees were thought to have been wiped-out in the devastating Dutch elm disease epidemic that destroyed between 25 and 75 million trees in Britain during the late 20th century. Since then, Coleman said the Edinburgh city council has been surveying and removing diseases elms to help fight the spread.

"Without that work many more of the thousands of elms in Edinburgh would have been lost," Coleman said. "The success of this program may be partly demonstrated in the way two rare trees have been preserved."

Now, the RBGE is trying to figure out how the trees got there. Archives have revealed that three Wentworth elms arrived at RBGE from Germany in 1902, after which all subsequent records refer to a single tree at the garden. That elm died in 1996 when it succumbed to the disease.

"It is very tempting to speculate that the Wentworth elms at the palace are the two missing trees from RBGE," Coleman said.

Coleman said anecdotal evidence indicates that there was a close relationship between the RBGE and the palace in the early 20th century, and the head gardener at Holyrood had trained at the garden.

"Although we have no record here of elms going out, we know that a large number of ivy plants went from here to Holyrood to plant round the abbey ruins," he said.

Now that the Wentworth elm species has been given a second chance at life, horticulturalists are considering ways to propagate the trees so that they can make sure a second extinction doesn't occur.






World's Largest Tidal Energy Farm Launches in Scotland

Scotland, already a renewable energy powerhouse, has launched the first and largest free stream tidal power project in the world.

MeyGen

The MeyGen tidal stream project, operated by Edinburgh-based tidal developer Atlantis Resources Limited, aims to deliver 398 megawatts of energy—harnessed purely from water currents—to the grid.

The goal of the project is to help develop Scotland's marine renewables industry, creating jobs and investment, the Scottish government said. The project is expected to generate around £275 million (about $360 million) for the country's economy.

Tidal stream generators work similarly to wind turbines, but instead of air currents they draw energy from waves. This form of hydropower has incredible promise as a form of carbon-free energy, but progress has been slower than expected. It wasn't until 2014 that the MeyGen project became the world's first large-scale tidal project of its type to successfully reach a funding agreement.

Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon visited Nigg Energy Park in the Scottish Highlands on Monday to help unveil the array's first turbine. The Scottish government has provided £23 million (about $30 million) to fund the first phase of the MeyGen tidal farm.

"I am incredibly proud of Scotland's role in leading the way in tackling climate change and investment in marine renewables is a hugely important part of this," Sturgeon said. "MeyGen is set to invigorate the marine renewables industry in Scotland and provide vital jobs for a skilled workforce, retaining valuable offshore expertise here in Scotland that would otherwise be lost overseas. Highly skilled operation and maintenance jobs will also need to be carried out locally, providing strong local employment opportunity for rural areas."

According to Maritime Journal, four 1.5 megawatt turbines, weighing nearly 200 tons each, make up Phase 1a of the project. The turbines will stand 15 meters tall and with blades 18 meters in diameter. The turbines will be installed on their foundation structures at Nigg before its eventual deployment to the MeyGen site in Pentland Firth, a strait in the north of Scotland known for its vast and untapped quantities of tidal, wind and wave power.

Former Energy Secretary Ed Davey said in a 2014 statement that "wave and tidal power have the potential to provide more than 20 percent of the UK's electricity needs, and MeyGen could pave the way for future projects in the Pentland Firth."

Atlantis said that it is on track to deliver power to the grid from MeyGen Phase 1a later this year—"a landmark event for the global marine power industry." Once construction of the full array is complete, the MeyGen tidal farm will consist of 269 turbines and generate enough energy to power 175,000 homes in the United Kingdom.

"Today marks an historic milestone not just for Atlantis and our project partners, but for the entire global tidal power industry," Atlantis Resources CEO Tim Cornelius said. "It gives me enormous pride to have reached this juncture after 10 years of tireless work, preparation and planning by everyone associated with this project. This is the day the tidal power industry announced itself as the most exciting new asset class of renewable, sustainable generation in the UK's future energy mix. This is an industry that is creating jobs and Scotland is the undisputed world leader of this high growth sector."

Following the Brexit, a cloud of uncertainty has remained over the UK's climate policy. Scotland has its own climate goals, but the rest of the UK does not.

During Sturgeon's visit to the Nigg Energy Park this week, the first minister called on the UK government to end uncertainty around subsidies for wave and tidal stream projects which is putting the marine sector at risk, the Scottish government said.

"There is no doubt that the eyes of the world are on this project which is why the Scottish government's investment is so crucially important," Sturgeon said. "But it is absolutely vital that the UK government honors its earlier commitment to provide a ring-fenced allocation for marine energy in its renewables support scheme. They must tackle the current uncertainty that exists before they cause irreparable damage to the long-term prospects for the sector."

According to UPI, "The British government last year announced plans to end public subsidies for some parts of the renewable energy sector, defending the move as a way to keep consumer bills low."

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