Forecast is better in Scotland regarding solar energy

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In the endless arguments about methods of renewable energy wind turbines have attracted most of the anger. Solar energy has, if it’s not too mixed a metaphor, managed to stay under the radar.

Many houses now have panels on their roof, dozens of farmers have them on shed roofs and in fields and now Mackies, of ice-cream fame, has completed a £4million installation of 7,000 panels on a field in Aberdeenshire.

That’s capable of converting huge amounts of sunlight to electricity. Solar enthusiasts claim that enough sunlight reaches earth every hour to meet world energy demand for a year if there were enough panels to convert it. So the market is theoretically limitless as well as being less obvious in the landscape than the wind turbines that attract so much venom. The increase and development of both methods, of course, as well as biomass boilers and various other minor forms of renewable energy have been, and are, related to subsidies for installation. Initially, subsidies were set at ludicrously attractive levels, but have now been scaled back, at least in England.

Not so in Scotland, where the government continues to subsidise solar panels. The result is mixed messages. For instance, senior staff at the National Grid claimed recently that solar panel installation costs have fallen rapidly and that even with lower subsidies solar power is the renewable energy method that will become the main source of our electricity.

Almost at the same time, two of Britain’s biggest installers of solar panels have gone into administration with the loss of more than 1,000 jobs because of, they claim, cuts in government subsidy.

So, the only certainty seems to be that the future for panels looks brighter in Scotland than England. As someone in the contradictory position of disliking solar panels on house and shed roofs while thinking that solar energy must be the most sensible renewable energy, I’m as confused as everyone else. The argument about genetic modification (GM) is another never-ending argument.

In contrast to approving solar panels as a good thing, the Scottish Government has banned GM crops and tries, with diminishing success, to ban GM human or animal food.

Professor Anne Glover, former scientific adviser to the European Commission, last week tried again to make the Scottish Government see it is wrong to try to stop scientific progress.

“Nothing has been more rigorously tested,” she said of GM food and crops.

Scotland, relative to its size, has more scientific clout than almost any other country, yet its scientists are being denied the chance to contribute to producing more, entirely safe, food for a growing world population.

Almost a year ago we first heard that auctioneers Harrison and Hetherington, Carlisle, might take over the long-established Borders auction company, John Swan and Sons of St Boswells. Then all went quiet. Now, after months of silence during which Swan’s hundreds of small-scale shareholders have had time to consider the offer, the grapevine suggests that takeover might be confirmed today (Thursday).