As the world enjoys month after month of the hottest weather ever recorded, more and more countries (like Portugal and Costa Rica) are proving that renewables can provide enough electricity to exceed their entire power needs. Scotland is the latest to join the club: Its wind turbines recently supplied its entire energy needs for one day.
On Sunday, August 14, Scotland’s wind turbines pumped 39,545 megawatt-hours (MWh) of electricity into the grid, while the country’s entire consumption was 37,202 MWh. That includes homes, factories, businesses, everything.
Now, this was a Sunday, and the weather conditions were especially good—for wind power anyway. While 60 mph winds buffeted Scotland’s cities, wind speeds reached a blowy 115 mph on high ground, spinning turbines into a frenzy that produced 106% of Scotland’s requirements. That’s a perfect storm for energy generation, but even running at more normal levels, renewables now account for more than half of Scotland’s power.
The slow-but-sure growth of renewables in Europe, especially wind power, has reached headline-grabbing efficacy in the last year or two. Portugal ran for four days straight on sun, wind, and water power alone in May. Germany, which gets about a third of its energy from renewables, made so much this spring that it had to pay its customers to use it. And Denmark, a country that’s serious about wind power, often sells its excess electricity to neighboring nations, a common practice in Europe.
Even considering the circumstances—a particularly blustery Sunday—Scotland’s achievement proves that renewables are a practical alternative to burning fossil fuels. And Scotland is also doing well with private solar. In May this year, homes fitted with solar panels were able to power themselves 100%, providing all their electricity and hot water needs. Private solar installations also lower demand on the grid, which makes 100% wind power an even closer goal. And if Scotland can manage to power its homes with sunlight, then imagine the potential for somewhere that actually gets good weather.
At last, 100% renewable energy is in sight, and while it may be too late, it doesn't look like it’ll be too little.
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