New poll reveals support for wind energy

Last week the Mail On Sunday newspaper commissioned a new opinion poll to find out public attitudes to wind turbine developments.

The poll was carried out by the polling company Survation. The results revealed that the public continue to view wind turbines in a favourable light. In fact it could possibly be said that public support for wind turbine developments is only increasing in the UK.

All of the people surveyed as part of this poll were asked the following question:  “Which of the following statements is closest to your opinion: (a) I would be happy to have a wind farm built in my local area (b) I would not be happy to have a wind farm built in my local area”? The results revealed that a clear majority support not just the concept of wind energy developments being undertaken somewhere within the country but within the local area of those polled. 70.1% of people asked selected answer (a) demonstrating that nimbyism is very much a minority opinion; supported by only 31.9% of people.

Furthermore the poll revealed that public support for wind turbine developments  exists as the majority opinion across the political spectrum. The people surveyed were asked to state their voting intentions in the upcoming 2015 General Election. 60.8% of those who gave their preference as the Conservative Party stated that they would be happy to have a wind farm built in their local area. 74.6% of people intending to vote for the Labour Party were of the same opinion: as were 81.1% of future Liberal Democrat voters and even 57.8% of future UK Indepence Party (UKIP) voters. The polling information therefore suggests that wind power is not the divisive issue that some elements of the press and some politicians would wish it to be.

The second question in the poll asked those surveyed to choose a preferable form of energy generation development to take place in their local area. Specifically they were asked to choose between a wind farm development or a shale gas fracking plant. Again a  clear majority revealed that renewable wind energy was their choice. 68.1% of those polled stated their support for wind power over shale gas fracking. Only 31.9% of those asked gave their support for the controversial new form of fossil fuel extraction. Again this runs contrary to some elements of the press but is a strong indication of not only strong support amongst the general public for renewable energy but also a rejection of the fossil fuel status quo. As with the first question this opinion was reflected by the majority across the political spectrum.

Industry trade body RenewableUK‘s Director of External Affairs Jennifer Webber greeted the poll results positively:

“We’re pleased that a massive 7 in 10 people would welcome a wind farm near them. It goes to show that the loud opposition we sometimes hear just isn’t representative of general people’s views. This vote of support is consistent across age groups, voting intention and region of the country. In other words for politicians no matter which party you represent, or where in the country you are, if you oppose wind you’re out of touch with your voters.

“There’s a lot of confusion about what green levies represent and that makes it difficult for people to know whether they support them or not. What’s clear is when directly asking whether they favour Government spending money into the future encouraging wind, a majority of people say yes. Currently wind adds less than £20 a year to consumer bills, but we’re not taking this support for granted, and the wind industry is going to work hard over the next few years to reduce costs even further, ensuring that we have a clean, secure, affordable energy source which can provide tens of thousands of jobs in areas of the country which need them most”.

In other news this week, turbine manufacturer Gamesa announced that it has developed a new turbine maintenance and refurbishment program. This new program can potentially extend the operational lifespan of a wind turbine by around ten years. Currently wind turbines have an operational lifespan of around twenty to twenty-five years. Given that many other turbine manufacturers are expected to follow Gamesa in developing such programs it could become common to see wind turbines generating electricity for up to thirty fives before requiring replacement. The development of such programs is particularly timely given that many of the earliest installed turbine models are now nearing the end of their operational lifespan. The use of such maintenance schemes as that announced Gamesa could mean that there would be no drop off in installed wind generation capacity levels.

Turbine maintenance is expected to become a growth market in the future as more and more wind turbines are installed in the United Kingdom, Europe and Worldwide. More wind turbines creates an obvious need for more turbine maintenance. Additionally Gamesa announced that it has signed a memorandum of understanding with the Forth Ports Authority to establish an offshore wind turbine manufacturing plant in Leith. Yet another example of the job creation potential of the wind energy industry.

Gamesa’s Global senior vice-president Fernando Valldeperes announced the development of the program stating:  “Gamesa has been asked by the EC to come up with a standard process for life extensions for the whole of Europe, for which we had the first meeting last month … we’ve also been working with [green energy consultancy] Garrad Hassan to help them with this.”

The polls carried out this week reveal that a majority of the British public, irregardless of their political persuasion,  support the development of more of the UK’s wind resource and would be happy to see such developments  occur in their local area rather than just in some unloved corner of the country. When we see the developments in the technology itself and the job creating potential of the industry it is easy to understand why.

Small and medium wind sees dramatic growth in 2012

Last week industry trade body RenewableUK published a new report examining the condition of the UK’s small and medium wind industry.

The report, entitled ‘Small and Medium Wind UK Market Report 2013′ which can be found here, revealed that the industry is in a very healthy position.

Indeed the report revealed the fact that 2012 was a record year for the sector. 2012 was a record year in a number of ways. Firstly, the number of new small and medium turbine installations in 2012 represents an all time high for the industry and is a dramatic increase on the level of installations carried out in 2011. Secondly, the export market for small and turbines manufactured in the UK grew dramatically. Thirdly, job creation in the industry continued to accelerate. And fourthly a record amount of electricity was generated and fed into the national grid.

By the end of 2012 over 23,500 small (turbines of a capacity below 100 kilowatts) and medium(turbines of a capacity between 100 and 500 kWs) scale wind turbines were installed across the UK. The vast majority of these developments took place on farm land or rural properties. This is significant for a number of reasons. It demonstrates that small and medium scale wind generation is one of the most accessible forms of renewable energy generation. Small landholders and business operators are able to access the revenue which renewable energy can bring in. This is in opposition to many other forms of renewable energy generation where development costs and the need for large properties (such as those required by large scale wind farms) make development prohibitive for many. Additionally, small and medium wind generation is making a large contribution to the UK’s fragile rural economies. For instance agriculture is coming under increasing pressure on a number of fronts – spiralling  energy costs due to price increases in the international fossil fuel markets, reduced subsidies from the European Union, and poor yields due to bad weather. Small and medium wind developments (such as those undertaken by Intelligent Land Investments (Renewable Energy)) not only open up new and much needed revenue streams but can also serve to reduce energy bills particularly in energy intensive sectors such as dairy farming. This point was emphasised by several in the industry including  Gaia Wind CEO Johnnie Andringa:

“Energy Secretary Greg Barker’s ‘people energy revolution’ will in part, be built on “Local Wind Energy”. With retail electricity prices rocketing, energy generated largely for use on site, in rural homes, farms and businesses, delivers exactly what is being called for. A farm scale turbine is a world away from the wind farm: it can be the difference between a rural business being feasible or not.”

Steve Milner, Managing Director of UK company Earthmill made a similar point:

“More farmers are looking beyond traditional enterprises to survive and the financial benefits of wind turbines for farms are becoming more widely known.

“Over the last quarter, we have seen an increase in demand of over 150% for single-turbine surveys and power evaluations from working farms…It is giving farmers the motivation to look at renewables as an additional source of revenue, especially those in dairy, pig and poultry farming where large amounts of electricity are consumed.”

Exports of small and medium turbines manufactured in the UK have also dramatically increased. Indeed, more (almost 25,000) turbines of this scale were exported from the UK than were installed within the country in 2012. Growth has been so dramatic that the UK’s export market for turbines of this scale almost doubled in size in 2012 alone. Indeed the export is now worth over £100 million to the UK economy.

The growth in the manufacturing and export sector has also increased the industry’s employment levels and is building up the UK’s skill base. The small and medium scale wind sector saw the greatest increase in employment of any part of the UK’s wind and marine energy industries. A four-fold increase in jobs from 2010 to 2012. By the end of 2012 the wind and marine industries directly employed 18, 465 full-time staff. The last survey of this type was carried out in 2010 and reported 10,600 directly employed full time staff. This represents an impressive increase of 70% but the impact of this is offset by the far more dramatic growth of the small and medium wind sectors.

The level of electricity being generated from small and medium scale wind installations also saw extremely encouraging growth. 21% more capacity was installed in 2012 than in 2011. By the end of 2012 102 Megawatts of small and medium scale wind was installed across the UK.  This figure is of course outweighed by the amount of small and medium wind power which is currently progressing through planning departments across the country. Indeed the Glasgow Herald revealed last week that there are currently 500 live planning applications across the UK for small and medium scale turbines on farm land.  2012 saw an increase of 58% in electricity generation from and small and medium scale wind. The recorded generation level for the year represents 106,851 tonnes of carbon dioxide which was not emitted. An impressive figure and one which is predicted to dramatically increase year on year.

RenewableUK’s report also outlined some potential growth scenarios for the sector in the next few years. Indeed the report noted that the medium wind sector is predicted to grow dramatically in the years 2013 and 2014 even under the ‘least optimistic assumptions’. 2013 is expected to bring a four-fold growth the medium wind sectors installed capacity. The market for small and medium scale wind is expected to increase by 48.78% in 2013 and by the end of the year a cumulative capacity of 171.33MW is expected to have been installed across the country.

RenewableUK’s Chief Executive, Maria McCaffrey made the following statement upon the publication of the report:

“With about 20% of our population living in rural areas, it’s vital that we find ways of powering the rural economy, and wind is doing exactly that. This technology brings over £100 million into the rural economy and in the past couple of years we have seen the market almost double in size.”

We at Intelligent Land Investments (Renewable Energy) are doing everything in our power to realise the hopes of our landowners and help the UK to achieve the level of growth that the small and medium wind industry is capable of.

$75 billion to be invested in global hydropower by 2020

A new report published this week  predicts that the global hydropower market will continue to expand over the next seven years through to 2020. By this time global hydropower capacity is predicted to exceed 1,400 Gigawatts.

The report was produced and published by the analytical firm Globaldata. Global cumulative hydropower stood at 1,065 GW in 2012. By 2020 this is expected to increase up to 1,407 GW. Of this 1,407 GW 1,052 GW will be produced by large scale hydropower installations, 215 GW will be supplied by pumped storage power and 140 GW will be generated from small scale hydropower developments (such as those being developed by ourselves at Intelligent Land Investments (Renewable Energy)). Globaldata’s prediction of 1,407 GW of installed capacity by 2020 represents an annual compound growth rate of 3.5% for the hydropower industry.

The level of growth predicted by Globaldata represents an investment into hydropower of $75 billion over the next seven years. The majority of this growth is expected to occur in the Asian-Pacific region – much of which will occur in China. China has the fastest growing energy demand in the world – it is this fact combined with the Chinese Government’s desire to move away from it’s dependency on fossil fuels and curb the increasingly high levels of pollution which are occurring in the country which will see the development of many large scale hydropower schemes within the country.

China is expected, by Globaldata, to have developed 147.3 GW of hydropower capacity by 2020. Other countries in the region are also expected to pursue further hydropower developments as well. For instance; India will develop an additional 23.2 GW of hydropower capacity between 2012 and 2020, Indonesia will develop a further 9.4 GW of capacity  in the same period.

It is an accepted fact that the vast majority of new hydropower developments will be pursued in the Asian-Pacific region. The reason for this is that other regions such as North America and Europe represent far more mature markets for the technology. A country only  has a finite amount of hydropower capacity to develop. A large scale hydropower development represents a huge amount of environmental and ecological upheaval. When potential development sites which fall within national parks or areas of specific scientific interest are discounted it can often be the case that a country is already approaching the limits of its hydropower capacity. This is the case in the UK where the vast majority of available sites suitable for large scale hydropower generation were developed in the immediate period following the end of the second world war (such as in the Scottish Highlands). The level of installed hydropower capacity from such sites has remained stable for decades.

However that is not to say that there is no room for growth for hydropowr in the West. The Globaldata report outlines an expectation for there to be 271 GW of installed hydropower capacity in North America by 2020 and for 197 GW of capacity in Europe by the same year. For the regions which represent the mature end of the hydropower market this represents more than encouraging growth.

Commenting on the publication of the report, Globaldata analyst Swati Singh commented:

“Although fossil fuels dominate electricity generation across the world, more than 60 countries use hydropower to meet more than half of their electricity needs. The technology is the most popular non-polluting source of electricity generation for various reasons, including its ability to respond to changing electricity demand, water management and flood control.”

In other news the UK renewable energy company Ecotricity announced this week that is now publishing real time data demonstrating the amount of electricity being generated and fed into the national grid by the 55 wind turbines which it has installed across the country.

Data is uploaded to this website every 30 seconds directly from the meters which connect each of the 55 turbines to the national grid. Figures are also supplied for total monthly output, CO2 emission displacement, and how many of the 55 turbines are currently supplying electricity to the national grid. At the time of writing this blog currently 50 of the 55 are feeding power into the grid

Previously the company was supplying live data on UK-wide grid generation but it was felt that the new data would help to dispel many of the myths which surround wind turbines. Ecotricty’s founder Dale Vince remarked; “This is all about being a modern, open energy company in the digital age. Providing real-time generation figures is important but equally you also need to look at the output over time.”

By allowing people to see for themselves exactly how much wind energy is being produced at any one time, the public will be able to see for themselves the significant contribution which wind power is already making to their energy needs.

 

Scottish renewable energy offsets C02 emissions from transport

The significant strides that the Scottish renewable energy industry is making towards addressing climate change were revealed last week in the Scottish Parliament.

Scottish Government Energy Minister Michael Fallon was asked how successful Scotland’s renewable energy developments had been in displacing carbon dioxide emissions in 2012.

His answer revealed that Scotland has managed to displace approximately 10.3 million tonnes of carbon dioxide in 2012. This represents an increase of 24% from the year 2011.  Renewable energy industry body Scottish Renewables would later announce that this level of displacement accounts for just under the total level of carbon dioxide emissions produced from Scotland’s rail and road transport networks. Given that the emission levels from these two networks has remained much unchanged between 2011 and 2012 we can then see that the 24% increase in carbon dioxide displacement can be nearly entirely attributed to the expansion of Scotland’s renewable energy generation capacity. Furthermore, given that the majority of new capacity stems from wind energy we can see that it is Scotland’s wind industry (companies such as ourselves at Intelligent Land Investments (Renewable Energy) which is driving the displacement of carbon dioxide.

Mr Fallon also provided figures for carbon dioxide displacement in England, Wales and the UK as a whole. England displaced 16 million tonnes of carbon dioxide in 2012, Wales 1.6 million tonnes ans as whole the UK displaced around 29 million tonnes. 29 million tonnes of carbon dioxide represents an increase of nearly 38% over 2011. As discussed in last weeks blog nearly all of the UK’s biomass generation is in England. Despite this Scotland accounted for more than a third of the UK’s entire carbon dioxide displacement.

The news was greeted enthusiastically by the renewable energy industry and other interested groups. Scottish Renewables Chief Executive Niall Stuart commented:

“Last week’s climate change report reinforced the need for concerted action to reduce carbon emissions if we are even to limit the impact of global warming, and these figures show that investment in renewables is already delivering results.

“Ten million tonnes is the equivalent of removing 99.1 per cent of carbon emissions generated from every car, bus, lorry and train journey in Scotland.”

“Renewables now generate the equivalent of 40 per cent of the demand for power from every home and business in the country, support thousands of jobs across Scotland and are making a massive dent in carbon emissions.

“The sector is delivering exactly what government wants – jobs, investment and lower carbon emissions from our economy.”

WWF Scotland‘s Director Lang Banks also stated:

“These figures clearly show that renewable energy is making a massive contribution to reducing Scotland’s climate change emissions. This contribution will only continue to grow as we move ever closer to securing all of our electricity from pollution-free sources.

“They certainly nail the lie by those who claim renewables, such as wind power, don’t make a difference. Renewables certainly do make a difference: cutting emissions as well as creating jobs.”

Also, this week a survey conducted by PwC (Pricewaterhouse Coopers) was published, revealing that 94% of energy companies are expecting ‘complete transformation of, or important changes to’ the power utility business model by 2030 as a result of growth in renewable energy and increases in distributed energy generation.

Distributed energy generation marks the move away from power coming solely from large scale power plants or even indeed large scale renewable energy developments. Small and medium scale renewable energy developments (such as those handled by ILI (Renewable Energy)) are becoming increasingly common up and down the country. Whilst the majority of these are providing power into the national grid others are generating power to be used locally; whether by communities or at on-site business developments. Such developments are expected to be become increasingly common in the next few years due to the existence of incentives such as the feed-in-tariff and falling technology and development costs.. PwC’s survey has already identified such developments as eating into the revenues of traditional power generation.

However, it should be noted that 82% of those surveyed view the increased use of distributed power generation to be an ‘opportunity’. Only 18% of those surveyed viewed it as a ‘threat’ to their business. It was also felt that energy-efficiency and smart grid technology could potentially have a similarly transformative effect upon the industry in the future provided barriers on the financial and technological side could be overcome.

PwC’s UK power and utility leader, Steve Jennings urged businesses within the power industry to seize the opportunities such changes present:

“Power utility companies will need to respond to these changes to not be eclipsed by technological and market change, while strategies that identify the best revenue opportunities in changed and, potentially transformed future market landscape, will be key to survival,”

These two pieces of news reveal the transformative effect renewable energy is having not only upon the power industry but this country as a whole. Great strides are being taken, by coompanies such as ourselves, to reduce carbon emissions, increase energy security and insulate the UK energy system from the volatile international fossil fuel markets.

 

UK renewable generation soars

Last week the Department of Energy and Climate Change published the latest statistics on renewable energy generation in England, Scotland and Wales.

The statistics are available here. They demonstrate dramatic growth in renewable energy generation across all renewable generation technologies and regions of the UK.

These statistics are published quarterly and the latest figures account for the second quarter of 2013. 12.8 TWh (terawatt hours) of renewable electricity was generated over the three month period. As such renewable energy generation was responsible for 15.5% of the total electricity generation in the UK in this time period. This represents a dramstic increase from the same period of 2012 in which renewables contributed 9.7% of total electricity generation. This is proof positive of the dramatic strides that the renewable energy industry is taking in the UK.

The statistical analysis broke the increased renewable generation capacity by technology type. This revealed that wind has seen the most dramatic growth of any form of renewable generation technology with an increase in generation of 62% compared to the same quarter in 2012. Further reading also reveals that onshore wind generation increased by 70%  between the two quarters. This is the biggest increase in generation for any technology type and demonstrates not only the strides being taken by the onshore wind industry but also the suitability of the UK itself for further onshore wind generation.

Additionally, solar, wave and tidal generation saw an increase of 22% whilst hydro power saw a 29% increase in generation. It should perhaps be noted that in the case of hydro power this leap may represent a difference in weather between the two years as much as it does an increase in capacity.

DECC’s analysis also broke down the number of renewable generation sites in England, Scotland,  Wales and Northern Ireland respectively. At the end of the second quarter of 2013 England had 3,752 non-PV (photovoltaic i.e non-solar sites),Scotland had 2,648 non-PV sites, Wales had 493 non-PV sites and Northern Ireland had 203 non-PV sites. The difference between the countries was far more marked in the figures for Photovoltaic sites: England had 311,192, Scotland had 24,360, Wales had 27,173 and Northern Ireland 531. In terms of solar sites much of the difference can be explained by the more clement climate to be found in England, particularly in the South, making solar panels more  attractive to developers and consumers.

The figures also reveal that as of the end of the second quarter of 2013 England had 29% more renewable electrcity capacity than Scotland. However DECC’s own analysis attributes this to the fact that the vast majority (88%) of the UK’s total biomass capacity is to be found in England. This concentration of biomass capacity can be explained by the conversion of the Tilbury B to dedicated biomass in 2011.

The total renewable energy capacity of the United Kingdom as of the start of June 2013 stood at 19.5GW. This represents an increase of 38% compared to June 2012 indicating that the growth of the renewable energy industry  continues apace. Furthermore 48% of the total amount of renewable energy generated in the second quarter of 2013 came from wind power. An indication that the wind industry and companies such as ourselves are working hard to ensure that the UK meets its renewable energy targets.

The Deputy Chief Executive of RenewableUK, Maf Smith welcomed the news with the following comment:

“This confirms what we have been seeing for some time, which is renewables steadily becoming more important in meeting our electricity needs, and wind being responsible for the lion’s share of the progress. That this period coincided with one of the coldest Springs on record means that wind was providing this power at a crucial time.

“The fact that we have seen the record for renewables generation broken twice in the space of a few months shows for itself the progress being made in the race to decarbonise our economy and secure our future electricity supply.”

In further good news this week saw Scotland’s biomass capacity increase! Sky cut the ribbon on four new biomass boilers at its customer contact centre in Livingston. This is the latest renewable energy generation scheme to be completed by Sky following the installation of a wind turbine at the company’s headquarters in Heathrow. The company has publicly committed to reducing its carbon emissions by 25% and improving its energy efficiency by 20%.

The new biomass boilers are expected to provide enough heat and hot water for the sites 2500 staff. Fuel is to be sourced from local forestry offcuts ensuring that carbon emissions as a result of transporting fuel to the site are kept to a minimum. The boilers are expected to reduce the Livingston sites carbon output by approximately 500 tonnes per year.

The publication of these DECC statistics reveals that the UK’s renewable energy industry is continuing to grow; creating jobs and increasing energy security all across the country.