COUSINS Donald MacRae and Ronald MacDonald have eminent credentials. So it
is puzzling how their think-tank HiAlba could produce such a weak paper as
Hydrogen Scotland: A Route to Export Powerhouse (“The key to bottled health
and wind? Bottled sunshine and wind”, The Herald, March 26, and Letters,
March 28 & 29 and April 2).
I am neither economist nor scientist, but I know how to assess evidence
sources and I know my way around numbers. I know to be wary of any document
that is undated, as are both the papers on HiAlba’s website. It is a small
point but one that often separates the robust from the flimsy.
The evidence sources in Hydrogen Scotland are a mixter-maxter of the
robust, the weak and the speculative presented with a very positive spin.
The creation of Wave Energy Scotland in 2014, for example, is presented as
a forward-looking act, when it was an attempt to salvage something (not
least political face) from decades of failure to develop wave energy as a
viable energy source. This was thought interesting enough to embolden the
text, yet the supporting reference is a report on a project to digitise
images of Scottish minerals, not an assessment of their quantity or
extraction potential. Solar panels are quoted as losing 10-25 per cent of
their generation potential on cloudy days. I wish I had those panels: our
experience is of much higher “loss” than that, with days in winter when
nothing is generated at all and random days with very low generation even
in summer. When “supporting” material of which I know something is dubious,
I become wary of the quality of the material about which I lack personal
This may be to do the paper a disservice. It is intended, I think, to act
as a think-piece – a stimulus to jolt our thinking out of the tramlines. As
one who worked with numbers, I perhaps lack the imagination to make such a
leap. Yet no matter how high a flight of fancy soars, if the numbers don’t
work, it will crash.
The challenge we are presented with in Scotland is changing heating and
transport from fossil fuels to lower carbon energy. If ammonia/hydrogen is
the storage solution to counter the uncontrollable variation in renewable
sources then one might expect Hydrogen Scotland to include some numbers to
demonstrate its potential to meet the challenge and the level of renewable
capacity needed. It does not. Instead it takes a South Korean plan to
replace 26,000 natural gas buses with hydrogen buses and calculates that
this would need 8.7GW of generation capacity which, with added capacity for
local supply and manufacturing industries, is proposed as 25 Highland
locations with 500MW capacity each. To give an idea of scale, this is
nearly the size of the Whitelee wind farm (540MW) and a little smaller than
the Beatrice offshore wind farm (590MW). In total, it is equivalent to all
the wind farms currently in operation in Scotland. Does that help us
replace gas with renewables? No. It will “scarcely make a dent in this
[British] demand” as the paper itself admits.
Hydrogen Scotland is the first in a series of proposed papers. Let us hope
that future papers are based only on robust evidence and hard-nosed about
(Dr) Dave Gordon,
60 Bonhard Road, Scone, Perthshire.
I AM astonished that as well-informed a correspondent as Alasdair Galloway
(Letters, April 2) should make the mistake of stating that water “changes
to its two constituent gases” at 100 degrees centigrade. The chemical bond
between hydrogen and oxygen is not broken by temperature: the compound H2O
is a solid (ice) at temperatures below zero degrees centigrade, a gas
(steam) at temperatures above 100 degrees, and a liquid (water) at
temperatures in between.
That, of course, was not the main point of Mr Galloway’s letter, with which
I have no disagreement whatever.
4 Rosehill Terrace, Aberdeen.