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Scotland, The World And Solarpunk

Solarpunk is an increasingly popular grassroots movement that combines aesthetics and political principles around a world that has embraced renewables. Its advocates put forward a vision in which society seeks to build bridges between human nature and the natural world - two notions which are heavily separated by the growingly isolationist and exploitative economic model being shaped by the UK government. Rather than focus on the production of capital, Solarpunk seeks to instead focus on the production of human-centric and nature-centric values.

Solarpunk is not just an embrace of political green principles, but also a promotion of growing technological advancement to build the world of tomorrow. This includes new and updating older technology such as rooftop solar, passive housing, and modern sails, allowing the natural foundations of our planet to flourish alongside human opportunities.

What makes Solarpunk stand out compared to the Green New Deal movement is the emphasis on art, a key component as to why its activism is growing. Whilst political engagement and wider theory are key principles to movements, Solarpunk sets a perfect vision of the sort of culture and beauty a nation can build through natural resources and community. The artistic visions of Solarpunk draws an audience, and that's something many within the Scottish independence movement should take note of. Take this clip of "Dear Alice", which went viral numerous times of multiple social media platforms.

So what has Solarpunk got to do with the Scottish independence movement? First, Scotland's renewable sector is almost an entire decade ahead of the rest of the world. The technology Solarpunk activists seek to embrace is already a close reality to many Scots. This means that much of the blind hope sought by many activists is instead a much more transformative reality. Second, the inspiration that Solarpunk finds is one that independence activists should use to their advantage. Building a community-led economy that embraces diversity and internationalism aligns with the principles of the mainstream independence movement. Let's take a deeper dive at Scotland's renewable potential and what role we can take on the international stage.

Scotland has too Much Power

(Above: The 02 by Orbital Marine Power)

Right now a small section of Scotland is already living in the future, and their problem isn't that they don't have enough power - rather they have too much. This is the exact problem being faced in the Orkney islands.

With a population of 22,000, the islands produce so much energy between their wind, wave and tides, that they are forced to turn off their renewable generators. The power cable connecting to the mainland often finds itself overloaded, and attempting to squeeze electricity beyond capacity can lead to engineering damages. In 2013 the Orkney islands were producing 130% of their electrical needs, and every time generators are turned off this is potential money creation being completely destroyed. This can happen up to 100 times a day.

One alternative to turning off renewable generators is to use this electricity to create hydrogen, though this only consumes a small percentage of the excess power. The electricity is put into fresh water, splitting H20 into hydrogen and oxygen. The hydrogen is captured and compressed within a fuel cell. Some ferries in Orkney can use these cells to power their activities, saving it from running its own engines and drawing power from the main grid.

The Shapinsay Community School use to be heated by imported oil for several decades, burned through three boilers and creating hazardous omissions. Today this same school is heated by 6 hydrogen boilers, using local energy and the only by-product being water. This technology is not even the solution - this is purely experimental as world leading engineers in Orkney continue to develop new technologies to capture and distribute electricity.

There are over 600 turbines in Orkney, with one in twelve households owning their own private ones that, after installation costs, generate a profit year after year. One community owned turbine in Shapinsay generates £5,000 a day, which is used to fund bus services, an out-of-hours ferry, and support affordable housing. Much of the excess energy also supports powering electrical vehicles, which Orcadians use more than the average UK mainland household.

Off the coast of Orkney also sits the Orbital's 02 - the world's most powerful tidal turbine. Its rotors spin in the ocean between the Atlantic and North Sea, and if scaled up it could supply 10% of the UK's entire electricity needs with the same guaranteed output as gas and coal.

Joining the 02 is Microsoft's Project Natick, aiming to build data centres under water. With over 8 million data centres worldwide, processing 2.5 quintillion bytes of data for our online lives, there is growing demand for more energy efficient and environmentally friendly solutions. Microsoft, seeing the research and development potential in Orkney, experimented with data centres on the ocean floor in the North Sea to provide cloud services to coastal communities. Orkney was the perfect place, due to its cool waters and electricity to supply the project being entirely locally generated. The project experimented with 12 racks, 846 servers, and 27.6 petabytes of data storage - the equivalent computing power of hundreds of thousands of high-end computers.

(Above: Workers cleaning down the data centre from Project Natick)

The project outcome was a huge success. Out of the 846 servers, only eight had failed. This showed that Microsoft's underwater data centres in Orkney had a failure rate of one-eighth compared to land-based data centres. This was down to Orkney's cool waters, a lack of human error, and the local energy efficiency of renewables.

The Orkney islands are a decade ahead of the rest of the planet in regards to electricity generation and technology, but they are not the only area of Scotland seeing glimpses of the future. Right now research is taking place in the Highlands and Islands into the transport sustainability of the Airlander 10.

(Above: The Airlander 10 airship model)

The Airlander 10 is an airship developed by Hybrid Air Vehicles, with the potential to carry 100 passengers or 10 tonnes of freight. These are not the airships of the 19th century, as modern airship designs would see a 90% carbon reduction in emissions compared to mainstream planes in current use. Having successfully completed six test flights, the Airlander 10 has the potential to increase connectivity to remote parts of Scotland and further support local economies with more affordable transport.

Scots North of the country are effectively living in a future the world needs to build to tackle the climate crisis. Yet the shift and on-going research into renewables did not disrupt the economy, nor cause social outrage as predicated by critics. The future we seek to build is completely normal for Highlanders and Islanders with little visible change. Yet the benefits we see now are just the start - the best is yet to come with the incredible potential an independent Scotland can use.

Renewables Are Key To Supporting Ukraine's Struggle

(Above: Ukrainians celebrate their liberation from Russian forces in Kherson)

With a good understanding of Scotland's renewable potential, it is also key in supporting Ukrainian's fighting for their independence against the oppressive Putin regime. The main money supply for Russia is in oil and gas, with Europe being far too dependant on it over the last few decades. Due to the energy subsidies by national governments, this has often driven up the price of oil and thus increased the pockets of Putin to expand his military might. By shifting away from oil and gas, we can cut our own energy costs with a resilience energy model and cut off Putin's main source of income.

The International Energy Agency has already proposed a 10-point plan to reduce demand of oil barrels by 2.7 million a day. The plan includes steps such as reducing speeds on motorways by 10km/h, cheaper or universally free public transport for citizens, increasing cycling and walking opportunities, ride-sharing networking, working from home at least three days a week, car-free Sunday's in large cities, and shifting to electrical vehicle use. This plan is largely focussed on the short-term, and would allow our elected politicians time to develop institutions to further support or improve upon renewable policy. On top of this, it would also reduce the annual 3,000 deaths a year in Europe related to hazardous emissions.

Whilst Scotland's political and policy landscape is moving towards a Green New Deal/Solarpunk future, the rest of the UK's landscape seems unwilling to embrace this same vision. Even Labour Party leader Keir Starmer has continuously pushed back against GND policies, instead opting to continue austerity over the next decade. If Scotland is to implement progressive green policies, political independence from the rest of the UK is vital to shift away from political orthodoxy.

Scotland Can Help Developing States Without Caveats

(Above: Design for a sovereign African currency, from MES Africa)

The solar cooker an increasingly popular alternative to gas ovens in warm countries - being a low tech and easy to use setup that uses an array of large mirrors to heat a cooking surface. It directly uses the sun's radiation to cook meals in a matter of minutes, though for countries such as Scotland we would more likely need to use other alternatives such as biogas digesters (converting food scraps to useable gas) or electric stoves.

Solar cookers would be key to supporting families in warner developing countries in the African continent, but too often have wealthy white entrepreneurs attempted to make a quick profit rather than develop long-term solutions. Rather than leave developing countries to colonial paternalism, an independent Scotland should build these tools to liberate vulnerable communities across the world. In one of our previous articles on trade we also brought up supporting warmer developing nations with hydroponics, to expand agriculture opportunities for states that lack food sovereignty. Combined with other strategies such as permablitzing, using neglected spaces to build recreational spaces and gardens, an independent Scotland can offer the tools necessary to build a sustainable and liberating lifestyle.

Utilising neglected spaces to better utilise resources for various forms of crafting and sustainable production can be adapted through a Job Guarantee, which Modern Money Scotland advisor Professor Fadhel Kaboub discusses in length below.

You can also find out more in "Economic and Monetary Sovereignty in the 21st Century Africa" edited by Maha Ben Gadha, Fadhel Kaboub, Kai Koddenbrock, Ines Mahmoud, and Ndongo Samba Sylla.

A Vision For Scotland

Scotland is living in turbulent times, stuck within a political orthodoxy that fuels climate catastrophe, economic vandalism, and social insecurity. With thousands of public sector workers striking to our left, and thousands of young people marching for climate justice to our right, it's clear Scots are crying out for an alternative. That alternative must be radical, people-oriented, and environmentally sustainable. Solarpunk offers that vision. Greenwashing by corporations focussed on margins or lazy emissions targets set by politicians will not be enough. For that vision to become a reality, it will be up to activists to take that vision to the doorstep, to the staff rooms, to the family tables, and beyond.

And with that vision also comes a clear message - Scotland is ready.


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