Blog: Using Solar PV on our Journey
towards Net Zero
Roddy Speirs

26 September 2019

As a Low Carbon Project Manager in Scottish Water Horizons I’m no stranger to the challenges ahead in the face of global warming.

It’s impossible not to be aware of climate change these days. With such a large focus in the media and with millions of people striking, protesting and making themselves heard, we can no longer ignore the issues that climate change poses.

In April of this year, the Scottish Government declared a climate emergency, followed up by their ambitious plan to become carbon neutral by 2045. Scottish Water responded to this target by committing to net zero by 2040, a full five years earlier.

My role is to look at ways we can help make this happen. I look at developing low carbon energy projects on Scottish Water’s many assets, exploring ways we can generate green energy whilst saving money on energy costs, and in turn help keep household charges low.

1,720 ground-mounted solar PV panels at Erskine Waste Water Treatment Works

Although I’ve been working in low carbon energy for 15 years, my career in the power industry spans back further than that. I started out in oil and gas – a fast-paced and exciting industry – but I gradually learnt the impact that these types of energy production were having on the planet.  Led by my conscience, I decided to make the leap (and take the pay cut!) to the renewables sector.

During my time working in renewables I’ve seen a huge change in the technology used to generate green power. Although some methods such as hydro have been around for years, some of the technology was in its infancy when I joined the industry.

Originally people thought that solar photovoltaic (PV) panels would only work in the South of England, where sunshine is much more abundant. But with technological advances and the support for renewables, PV technology has come on leaps and bounds over the last few years.

“What I’ve found most encouraging over the last 15 years is the huge change in public attitude towards climate change and as a result, renewable technology.”

Roddy Speirs
Low Carbon Project Manager

Against the belief that it only generates energy in the sunshine, PV panels can generate up to 25% of their capacity in cloudy weather.  Solar energy is the most abundant source of energy we have, with enough solar energy hitting the earth every hour to power the whole planet for a year.

So even though we’re not exactly known for our sunny climate here in Scotland, solar PV is still a really effective, low carbon way for us to generate energy.  We’ve already installed solar panels on 42 Scottish Water assets, offsetting around 6.3 GWh of our energy requirements – that’s enough to power over two thousand homes every year.

We’re looking to increase this number over the next year with a further four projects already approved for construction and more projects being investigated at treatment works in Cupar, Loch Calder, and Fraserburgh plus, we’re always on the lookout for new opportunities!

Part of my role in Scottish Water Horizons is to look at the future of renewable technology and how we can continue to reduce our carbon footprint. One such technology is floating solar panels which produce hydrogen to be used as fuel, whilst another looks at storing the energy generated by existing projects to maximise our green power.

What I’ve found most encouraging over the last 15 years is the huge change in public attitude towards climate change and as a result, renewable technology; people are realising the significant impact that global warming will have on our precious resources.

That said, how many of us have thought that a few extra warm summer days in Scotland would be a good thing? Unfortunately that’s not really how it works. What it means for us is more unpredictable and extreme flooding and droughts, rising sea levels and a huge change in the way that we do things now. With this in mind, my team and I are actively looking to the future and ways that we can continue to help our planet, and we encourage anyone who has ideas about the potential for new renewable projects to get in touch!

Yesterday I attended the Scottish Renewables annual Solar Conference to hear from industry leaders about the future of solar energy. I’m enjoyed hearing more about the latest innovations in solar technology, how we can maximise battery storage from solar generation and how we can all rise to meet the challenges of achieving net zero carbon emissions in line with the Scottish Government’s targets.

It is a very busy time in the Low Carbon Team in Horizons, and Scottish Water’s pledge to be a net zero carbon emitter by 2040 has only made it busier.  But I am proud to work for a company that is leading the way in reducing its carbon footprint and proud to work with so many people who not only realise that something has to be done, but are actively out there taking action.

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