Wednesday, August 12, 2009
£10 million will be awarded to the team that can demonstrate in Scottish waters a commercially viable wave or tidal energy technology that achieves a minimum electrical output of 100GWh over a continuous 2 year period using only the power of the sea and is judged to be the best overall technology after consideration of cost, environmental sustainability and safety.That certainly looks like a definition of an X-Prize, even though there is a not unreasonable matter of judging.
Now I believe & have said before, that a subsea turbine is not the most important thing we should be encouraging. That would be an orbital shuttle or the improved battery that John McCain proposed or several of the things Newt Gingrich suggested. On the other hand it is a substantial step towards funding things this way, rather than through government grants which amount to a blank cheque with no failure conditions.
Alex Salmond at least gets the theory though he is also politician enough to lay it on with a trowel:
Mr Salmond announced the details at a reception in Edinburgh Castle for
scientists, environmentalists and potential entrants.’The Scottish Government’s
10 million Saltire Prize is one of the biggest international prizes in history,’ said Mr Salmond. ’It is Scotland’s energy challenge to the world, a challenge to the
brightest and best minds worldwide to unleash their talents and push the frontiers
of innovation in green marine energy.’
However I am a little cautious over this bit "Entries for the Saltire Prize open next summer, and the closing date will be in June 2013, with the winner chosen two years later."
Firstly I am by no means sure that a truly "commercial" sea turbine is possible - this should not be a problem because if it isn't then we should not expect the prize to be won. However the date for a winner to be chosen suggests that somebody may be chosen come what may rather than handing it over to the first person to crank out 100Gwh for 2 years. That would rather negate the point.
Tavish Scott of the LibDems did go out of his way to make it clear that he didn't understand the difference between a prize & complained that it wasn't a real prize because it hadn't yet been handed over to everybody who turns up at the starting line. By comparison the SNP certainly rate at least 7 out of 10 & will be higher if they don't fumble the actual award. Though I have said some of this before I am pleased to see the actual wording of the prize & it is more reassuring. After all no government elsewhere, as far as I know, has endorsed any sort of X-Prize.
The Saltire site does have an embarrassing list of the endorsements they find politically useful - all from various sorts of eco-nut - but I suppose that is politics, better to have such people inside the tent pissing out than vice versa.