GLASGOW, Scotland, June 6 (UPI) -- Scotland, which has committed to generating all of its electricity demand from renewable resources, is "aiming high" on wind power, its energy minister says.
Energy Minister Fergus Ewing said last week that he's determined to make Scotland "the green energy powerhouse of Europe" through a strong commitment to offshore wind energy resources and other measures that he predicted will attract billions of dollars in global investments and produce the next wave of corporate energy giants.
Speaking before opening a debate on renewables in the Scottish Parliament, Ewing laid out a bold vision for the country that foresees it spawning next "the John D. Rockefellers" of the green energy business, which he predicted will "become massive businesses employing millions throughout the globe."
"Aim high -- or be left behind," he said.
The speech came in the run-up to the release of the government's Scottish Renewables Roadmap, which is meant to "set out a clear route to achieve our renewable targets," which cover electricity, heating and transportation.
Among the government's goal is to satisfy at least 11 percent of its heat demand from renewable sources, including biomass, heat pumps and solar thermal, and 100 percent of its electricity consumption from renewables by 2020.
The government is also seeking a doubling of its electricity generation through traditional thermal (natural gas and coal) power plants equipped with carbon capture and storage features.
The upgrades will require substantial investments in grid upgrades as well as electricity storage devices to smooth out the fluctuations in production from wind resources and to manage the country's import-export flow of electricity.
Ewing, citing the progress in renewable energy, said hydropower combined with onshore wind makes up almost one-third of Scotland's electricity demand, with 42 renewables projects coming on line in the last four years.
Indeed, Ewing said, hydro and onshore wind power are where "the greatest short- to medium-term opportunities lie for communities to generate revenue from renewables."
But it's Scotland's offshore energy production potential that has most captured the country's imagination, having "a huge part to play in our sustainable, low-carbon and industrial future."
Noting that 11 projects have already been awarded in the Pentland Firth and Orkney waters, Ewing said the government has identified a further 25 sites for exploration in the medium term.
"The potential from existing leasing rounds alone amounts to almost 10 gigawatts of capacity in Scottish waters," he said, adding that the offshore wind industry could eventually "support almost 50,000 direct and indirect jobs in Scotland by 2020, generating over ($11.5 billion) for our economy."
Investors are already putting cash into the sector, he noted. Companies such as Doosan Corp. of South Korea, the Spanish wind turbine maker Gamesa and Japan's Mitsubishi Corp. have announced plans to locate in Scotland and develop their offshore wind interests in the country.
Ewing's comments came in the same week that Scottish and Southern Energy's Clyde wind farm in South Lanarkshire began producing electricity and exporting it to the national grid.
The new wind farm is Europe's biggest. At 152 turbines has the potential to power 279,000 homes, the BBC reported.
SSE says the $820 million project garnered more than $329 million worth of contracts for Scottish companies.