Today the United Kingdom Government announced that deals have been agreed to provide financial support for eight major renewable energy projects which will provide enough renewable energy capacity to power millions of homes.
Of the eight renewable energy projects five are offshore wind farms, the remaining 3 are biomass developments. All eight are to be supported by the Government’s Contracts for Difference support scheme. Through this scheme the government has agreed to pay a fixed rate for the power generated by these eight renewable energy developments for a period of fifteen years. The price will be determined by the date on which the developments begin to feed electricity into the grid. The sooner these developments come online the higher the price they receive will be.
The 8 projects combined could add up 4.5GW (gigawatts) of renewable electricity generation capacity to the National Grid. 4.5GW of power represents 4% of the UK’s current electricity capacity or enough electricity to power over three million homes across the UK. According to Government figures the eight projects will provide up to £12 billion of private investment in the UK economy by 2020 and support up to 8,500 jobs. Additionally, once completed, the 8 developments could produce 14% of the renewable energy the UK requires to meet it’s 2020 renewable energy generation targets. The increase in renewable capacity and reduction in the need for fossil fuels is also expected to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 10 million tonnes a year.
The eight developments are spread across the UK. The largest project approved in terms of capacity is the new 1.2GW Hornsea wind farm which will be located off the Yorkshire coast. Two other entirely new wind farms will also receive funding; the 664MW (megawatt) Beatrice wind farm which will be sited off the Moray coast and the 402MW Dudgeon wind farm which will be sited off the north Norfolk coast. Two extensions for existing offshore wind farms were also approved for funding; a 258MW extension to the Burbo Bank wind farm off the coast of Merseyside and a 660MW extension to the Walney wind farm in the Irish Sea. The three biomass projects are also located across the country. Lynemouth power station in Northumberland and Drax power station in Yorkshire are to be converted for biomass use. And finally a brand new 229MW dedicated biomass power station will be constructed in Teeside.
Industry trade body Scottish Renewables released a statment following the announcement that the proposed Beatrice wind farm (located in Scottish waters) had been successful in it’s application:
“It is greatly encouraging to see a Scottish offshore wind project selected for an early investment contract by the Department of Energy and Climate Change.
“Having received planning consent from the Scottish Government in March, to now get an early Contract for Difference gives the Beatrice project the certainty of support we’ve been calling for from the UK Government.
“With our huge offshore wind resource, it is not unrealistic to expect to see a number of Scottish offshore wind projects receive planning consent and secure financial support by the end of the year.
“This decision will help kick-start the offshore wind sector in Scotland, which has the potential to provide thousands of jobs and billions of pounds of inward investment to our country, while also making a significant contribution to Scotland’s ambitious 2020 renewable energy targets.”
The eight projects were selected from an original shortlist of 57 applications. A smaller shortlist of 10 was published in December. These ten sites had been chosen on the criteria of cost effectiveness. Further Contracts for Difference are to be made available in the autumn of this year. The UK Government is committed to meeting over 30% of UK electricity demand from renewable sources by 2020.
Announcing the successful projects UK Energy Secretary Ed Davey made the following statement:
“These contracts for major renewable electricity projects mark a new stage in Britain’s green energy investment boom.
“By themselves they will bring green jobs and growth across the UK, but they are a significant part of our efforts to give Britain cleaner and more secure energy.
“These are the first investments from our reforms to build the world’s first low carbon electricity market – reforms which will see competition and markets attract tens of billions of pounds of vital energy investment whilst reducing the costs of clean energy to consumers.
“Record levels of energy investment are at the forefront of the Government’s infrastructure programme and are filling the massive gap we inherited. It’s practical reforms like these that will keep the lights on and tackle climate change, by giving investors more certainty.”
It should be remembered that it is not through offshore wind and biomass alone that Scottish and UK renewable energy targets will be met. All forms of renewable energy generation will have to play their part. Particularly onshore wind; due to it’s nature one of the cheapest and most mature renewable energy technologies. We at Intelligent Land Investments (Renewable Energy) are looking forward to contributing further to meeting the countries binding renewable energy generation targets.
In other news this week it was announced that Scotland could soon be home to new form of floating wind turbine. The BAT (Buoyant Airborne Turbine) has been in development for several years through a collaboration between entrepreneurs and US military personnel.
The BATs (which some have said resemble UFOs in appearance) are filled with helium and are then tethered to the ground. The technology is intended to operate at increased heights in comparison to more traditional wind turbines allowing power to be generated from higher wind speeds. The tether has the dual function of allowing higher wind speeds to be used and to reduce costs.
Currently 4 prototypes have been developed. The first commercial model is expected to be tested in Alaska in 2015 by American green energy firm Altaeros Energies. This model is expected to produce 30kW from a height of 1,000 feet. Successful testing of this model will then be followed by further testing of higher capacity designs at increased heights. Scotland has been mooted as a suitable location for further testing due to the high wind speeds as well as the large number of isolated rural communities located in the country. The BATs are intended to be used in isolated areas where energy has to be transported in; as is the case on several of the Scottish Isles.
Altaeros business development manager Ryan Holy said: “The real value is that we are generating more electricity because we are capturing stronger, more consistent resource, and that means that the price is going to be lower because the annual kWh produced will be a lot higher.
“In addition to that, the customer doesn’t have to deal with a lot of the logistical headaches of installing a concrete path or a tower, which can take some time and might be dependent on seasons.
“We are looking at remote and rural locations first, and any region that is suffering from high electricity costs, as our product can give that customer more energy independence and lower their price, so it could be some parts of Scotland, or any islands that have to ship their fuel in.”
The development of the BAT demonstrates that despite onshore wind being one of the most mature renewable energy technologies there is still vast room for improvement, innovation and cost reduction.