World’s first wave energy farm to be constructed in Scotland

Last week, at the AllEnergy Conference it was announced that the Scottish Government had granted consent for a 40MW wave farm to be constructed off of the North-West coast of the Isle of Lewis. This will be one of the first developments of this type and scale seen anywhere in the world.

It is intended that the wave farm will be connected to an onshore hydroelectric power plant on Lewis which was granted planning consent by the Western Isles Council last year. It is intended that the Oyster wave power machines will be installed over the course of the next few years once the necessary upgrades to the area’s grid infrastructure are completed.

Between 40 and 50 of the Oyster machines will be deployed at depths between 10 and 15 metres of water and will have enough capacity to power around 30,000 homes. Fergus Ewing announced the Scottish Government’s decision with enthusiasm:

“I am delighted to announce that Scottish Ministers have granted a Licence to Aquamarine Power to develop the largest commercial wave array in the world…

“The development of up to 50 Oyster wave devices off of the North-West coast of Lewis, when  operational,  will have the power to produce 40 MW of renewable electricity.

“This is another significant milestone for Scotland’s wave sector. With 10 per cent of Europe’s wave power potential and 25 per cent of it’s offshore wave and tidal power, the opportunities for Scotland are enormous.”

Reactions to the Scottish Government’s decision were almost universally positive. Niall Ferguson, Chief Executive of Scottish Renewables made the following statement:

“This is a fantastic milestone for the Scottish renewables industry and this project will make a significant contribution to our energy mix once it begins generating.

“It’s further proof that we have become home to a world leading marine energy industry that is delivering jobs and investment to communities across Scotland.

“However, we can’t forget that this is the kind of prize that could be lost unless costs for projects on the islands are set at a competitive level.”

RenewableUK‘s Chief Executive Maria McCaffrey observed:

“This is a big step forward for the marine energy sector in the UK and especially in the Scottish Islands, which have a first-rate marine energy resource. Just last week we were told by a Government report that more needed to be done to reap the benefits that could be generated by marine energy projects in the Scottish Islands. Today’s announcement shows the interest industry has in the area, and we hope Government and industry can work together to overcome challenges and take forward renewables in the Islands.”

David Krohn, RenewableUK’s Wave and Tidal Development Manager commented:

“The Scottish Government’s announcement provides a substantial boost for the wave energy sector, in which the UK leads the world. This […] will help to accelerate growth and generate further private investment in a technology which has enormous potential, as 50% of the total European wave energy resource is in UK and Irish waters. By kickstarting a further expansion of the wave sector, we can ensure that costs come down as quickly as possible, so that we can capitalise on our global pre-eminence.”

Lang Banks, Director of WWF Scotland stated:

“This announcement is a fantastic boost to Scotland’s marine renewables sector and will put Lewis firmly on the world map when it comes to wave energy. However, if Scotland is to rule the waves when it comes to marine renewables then it’s vital we quickly resolve the issues of grid connection and transmission costs to the Scottish islands.

“Alongside energy saving measures, wave power and other renewables have a critical role to play in helping Scotland reduce climate emissions, create jobs and generate export opportunities. With careful planning we can harness the waves and tides while safeguarding the nations’s tremendous marine environment.”

The granting of planning consent for the wave farm is good news for the Scottish renewables industry. It demonstrates synergy between government and industry and the potential of generating further electricity from Scotland’s water resources.. Scottish Renewables have the power to create jobs across the country and we at Intelligent Land Investments (Renewable Energy) are proud to be contributing to this with recently received     planning consent for the first of our own hydro-power developments.

Scottish Windfarm Bird Steering Group launches tomorrow

This week sees the launch of the Scottish Windfarm Bird Steering Group. This is a joint partnership between the Scottish Government, Scottish Natural Heritage, RSPB Scotland and four of the countries major developers of large scale windfarms: Vattenfall, RES, SSE and ScottishPower Renewables. All four of these groups will be contributing funding to the Steering Group which will be studying interactions between windfarms and bird populations.

The Scottish Windfarm Bird Steering Group will be conducting research for the next four years. For the first time data from several operational windfarms will be collated centrally for the first time. This will allow researchers to carry out in-depth study of issues such as population displacement, cumulative impact and collision risk as well as conduct a review of Scotland’s existing and extensive habitat management schemes.

Professor Colin Galbraith who will be the independent chair of the steering group will announce it’s launch tommorow at the AllEnergy conference in Aberdeen. He made the following statement:

“This new research programme is vital to help us understand the interactions between windfarms and birds across Scotland. It is particularly important, and significant, that the industry is working with the Scottish Government, SNH and RSPB to deliver this important initiative over the coming four years, which will help develop a clearer understanding of how to maintain bird populations alongside windfarms.”

Fergus Ewing, Scottish Government Minister for Energy, Enterprise and Tourism commented:

“The Scottish Government is  supporting this important initiative with a view to improving understanding of the relationship between bird populations and wind farms, and it is very positive that the group is already acting as a platform for dialogue and cooperation between the wind industry, conservation groups and Government.

“By reducing uncertainty around such an important environmental issue, the group’s work is supporting a good practise agenda, and our drive for well informed decision making.”

Aedan Smith, Head of Planning and Development for RSPB Scotland stated:

“We warmly welcome the practical support shown by these four companies to the work of the Scottish Windfarm Bird Steering Group. We hope that cooperation in this area between industry, SNH, Scottish Government and ourselves will get best value from data already collected, with the ultimate aim of a quicker, safer  decision-making process for birds, base don the best available evidence.”

Joss Blamire, Senior Policy Manager at trade body Scottish Renewables observed:

“Over the last few years, the renewables industry has contributed more to research on birds than any other industry. This commitment to bird conservation has been reinforced by this further contribution from these renewable energy companies.

“Having a central hub for this data means the industry is joining the dots to give researchers a fuller picture of exactly how birds interact with wind turbines.

The Scottish Windfarm Bird Steering Group is another good example of where industry, conservation groups and government can come together to share expertise and information that will lead to an improved understanding of how we build windfarms that will coexist with our natural environment and wildlife without negatively impacting on them.”

The establishment of the Scottish Windfarm Bird Steering Group is good news for the onshore wind industry for two reasons. Firstly, the long-term nature of the study is indicative of the Scottish Government’s commitment to onshore wind. Secondly, anti-wind turbine groups have long used overinflated claims about the impact of wind turbines on bird  populations in attempts to discredit developments and dampen support for the industry.  Meeting such claims with hard facts and evidence is the best way to address these issues.

 

British Public Support for Renewables Increasing

A series of surveys published over the course of this week has revealed that the UK public’s support of renewable energy has increased despite the concerted efforts of some elements of the media.

Firstly the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) published the latest in its series of Public Attitudes Tracking Surveys, these have been produced since March 2012 and this is the fifth edition. The survey polled over 2000 members of the public and revealed that support for renewable energy is the highest it has been since the surveys were first assembled – 82% of those polled are in favour of renewable energy, an increase of 3% since January 2013. Onshore wind, which has been the primary focus of several negative newspaper campaigns, also saw an increase of support. 64% of those polled in January 2013 were in favour of more onshore wind developments; in March 2013 68% of those polled were in favour. Furthermore the polled level of opposition to further onshore wind developments saw a decrease of 2%, from 13% of those polled in January 2013 to 11% of those polled in March 2013.

A spokesman for DECC was quoted as remarking:

“It suggests the media is really out of kilter with what’s happening in the country.

“Today’s figures are indicative of the long term support for renewables among the British public. This support comes from people’s experience on the ground as developers engage with communities and projects are delivered across the UK.”

Secondly, a poll produced by ComRes for RenewableUK has revealed the influence a politicians stance on wind power has on voters. 76% of those polled were either in favour of or neutral to wind power. 34% indicated that they would be more likely to support a pro-wind politician.

The poll also asked questions about the 2015 General Election. 31% revealed they would be less likely to support a political party due to an anti-wind power stance compared to only 27% who would be more likely to support such a political party. Female voters were revealed to be particularly supportive of wind power with nearly one in three stating they would be less willing to vote for a party which intended to remove support for onshore wind.

Maria McCaffrey, Chief Executive at RenewableUK commented:

“The countdown to the next national election is on, and these results show that those politicians who attack wind farms risk alienating important parts of the electorate – the very people who could decide the next election. We continually see high approval ratings for wind energy, and it’s clear that as voters go to the ballot box they keep that favourability towards wind. For the energy sector to secure the investment needed and to create tens of thousands of jobs over the next decade it’s vital that we see strong political leadership. Today’s results should encourage politicians to do just that.”

The results of these surveys suggest that despite the best efforts of some elements of the media they are failing to influence public opinion. Public support for renewable energy and specifically wind energy is increasing.