The Changing Renewables Map

In the south of Scotland, just off the B709 near to the border of Dumfries & Galloway and Borders lies the small village of Eskdalemuir best known for the Eskdalemuir Observatory. Chosen for its remote location and built in 1904 the observatory took over from the Kew Observatory after the advent of electrification in London led to interference with instruments at Kew.

The Eskdalemuir Observatory currently monitors climatological data, solar radiation, atmospheric pollution, geomagnetic fields, and seismological data. There is also a second seismic array approximately 3 km north providing the UK part of the international monitoring system of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, which allows covert nuclear tests to be detected via their seismic signatures.

This facility therefore performs an incredibly important function and since the inception of wind farms, due to the nature of how it takes it readings, there has been a 50km Statutory Consultation Zone around the Observatory and a 10km absolute no wind farm zone to negate the chance of the vibrations from any turbine interfering with the instruments and therefore rendering the readings taken, unreliable.

Recently however the Ministry of Defence has withdrawn objections to hundreds of megawatts of proposed wind farms around the facility. The long-standing hurdles were dropped as part of interim guidance published this week by the Scottish government.

The result of this is around 500MW of projects in Scotland and northern England could move towards construction over the next few years. Many others will also benefit in the longer term.

The new policy from Holyrood is based on a Xi Engineering review of the science behind vibrational impacts from installed turbines which interfere with readings from the monitoring station. Under a revision to the formula used by the MoD for many years, all projects in planning before December last year are now free to move towards final determination.

Additional space in the so-called Eskdalemuir noise budget is also available for new projects. However details of how much headroom exists must await a “fully functional IT solution being developed” to implement the new science. A first-come, first-served approach will remain thereafter.

The MoD will as part of the revised guidance extend the absolute wind farm no-go zone around Eskdalemuir from 10km to 15km. This will not impact any currently planned projects.

Even within the Statutory Consultation Zone of 50km successful planning for a wind farm was very difficult and rare. This is despite the local area being a prime example of suitable land for wind farm development with good wind speeds and relative remoteness from residential properties.

As technology continues to advance it is heartening to see it used productively in areas which can benefit us all. Due to the hard work from those at Xi Engineering Scotland now has a changed Renewables Map, altered for the better with the potential for many more megawatts of clean renewable energy.

Both Scotland’s economy and population will benefit from this technological advancement and that is a good thing.

Scotland’s Renewable Energy Blueprint

This week Scottish Energy Minister Fergus Ewing approved a 22-turbine wind farm in Dumfries and Galloway. The Ewe Hill Project, near Lockerbie, for Scottish Power Renewables has been given the go ahead after making its way through the full planning process.

Mr. Ewing commented that the development would create a significant number of jobs and when operational will be able to generate power for up to 24,000 homes. Also he stated that the scheme could deliver the equivalent of 80 short-term construction jobs.

“It’s encouraging to see that a solution has been found to deal with the aviation radar issues which have held the proposal up,” he said.

“Projects like this provide considerable benefits to the local community, and play an important part in helping Scotland reach its target of 100% of electricity demand generated from renewables.”

This new development will give a boost to the Scottish Government’s pledge to have 50% of the country’s electricity produced from renewable sources by 2015.  This target is in addition to the overall one of having 100% of electricity produced from renewable sources by 2020.

Scotland is officially the windiest country in Europe with up to 20% of Europe’s wind energy flowing through our land. Also, as shown above, we have a government committed to ambitious targets for energy from renewable sources.

So taking that into account all applications for renewable energy developments in Scotland must sail through planning with a positive outcome for all, right? The detractors would certainly have us believe so.

At the same announcement as Ewe Hill, Fergus Ewing was not so positive about another prospective development, this time in the Borders near Rowantree, stating that it could not proceed.

“The Scottish government wants to see the right developments in the right places, and Scottish planning policy is clear that the design and location of renewables projects should reflect the scale and character of the landscape, as well as being considered environmentally acceptable,” he said.

“That is why I have refused permission for the proposed wind farm at Rowantree, which would have brought unacceptable environmental impacts to people living in the area.”

There are guidelines set and all planning applications must meet them all in order to progress to a positive outcome. At ILI (Renewable Energy) we started off with over 600 sites and put them through a rigorous screening process taking into account the potential impacts a turbine would have on the immediate area.

From this we took just over 250 and prepared and submitted planning applications for medium wind renewable energy projects. To date we have had 72 successful applications, more than any other organisation in Scotland for this size of development.

At ILI (Renewable Energy) we know that all sites are taken on their merits and will only succeed in planning if they meet the right criteria and does not have an overly negative effect on its surrounding environment.

This includes the visual impact the turbine development will have on the surrounding area, the environmental impact it may have on wildlife including local animal and plant populations, and the amount of noise it will produce and who it will affect.

We want to see Scotland achieve its target of producing 100% of electricity from renewable sources by 2020 and are happy to be involved in it however we understand each successful planning application is an accomplishment, not a certainty. We are good at what we do and also proud to be part of a country which values renewable energy and harnesses its resources however not to the detriment of its environment.

 

Wind farm Good Practice Guide to protect birds

At ILI Renewable Energy we have had many issues to overcome as part of the planning process for our medium wind developments. These can range from environmental issues to noise restrictions, turbine shadow flicker to visual impact.

One which we come across often is the impact the development will have upon the local bird population so we welcome the news, presented yesterday in Perth that the Scottish wind farm industry is to launch a Guide to protect birds. The Guide will also assist in the plans for future wind farm developments ensuring that best practice is used in both construction and operation on all size of projects.

£50,000 has already been spent on a series of studies by the Scottish Windfarm Bird Steering Group made up of representatives from the Scottish Government, Scottish National Heritage, The RSPB Scotland, and Scottish Renewables. The partnership will now develop a Good Practice Guide to the management of bird populations and the habitats on which they depend. The Guide will also include the results of the surveys so far.

The threat of bird strikes has been an ongoing difficulty for wind developments and environmental minister Paul Wheelhouse has welcomed the project. “This is an important step forward, demonstrating that the renewables industry and conservation groups are working together to help the conservation of bird populations across Scotland.

“It is particularly encouraging to see the focus from the group to base the guide on real evidence rather than on speculation. By working closely with the industry I am sure they will produce a practical guide for the future.”

The research studies that are currently being carried out jointly by Stirling and Newcastle Universities examine the long-term effects of wind farm developments on birds, habitat management and the methods and techniques used in monitoring and surveying birds.

Speaking prior to the conference Professor Colin Galbraith, Chairman of the SWBSG, stressed the need to work with industry in order to produce guidance that can be put into practice at sites across Scotland.

“The renewables industry is acutely aware of the need to protect the environment and this guide will provide it with additional tools to do this.

“By involving industry and conservation groups in its production, the guide will build on existing monitoring of bird populations and data-sharing initiatives, as well as providing a unique overview and insight into the techniques used to manage habitats for birds around wind farms.”

Representatives from other groups involved in the implementation of the Guide spoke on the eve of the conference about the aims of the project and how they see it benefitting both the wildlife and the industry.

Senior Policy Manager at Scottish Renewables, Joss Blamire commented “The SWBSG is a good example of industry and government working pro-actively together to develop ground-breaking research.

“The work of the group will feed into the Good Practice Guide and help industry formulate plans for responsible wind farm developments in Scotland, continuing their role in creating jobs and economic growth while simultaneously benefiting our natural environment.”

Aedan Smith, RSPB Scotland Head of Planning and Development said “The Scottish Windfarm Bird Steering Group’s proposal to develop a good practice guide is a welcome step forward in ensuring the long-term sustainability of the renewable energy industry in Scotland. It marks good progress for SWBSG, and we look forward to further outputs and continuing to assist the group in its work.”

Scottish Natural Heritage chair Ian Ross said “We are pleased to work with the SWBSG and setting out good practice in this way is extremely useful in helping to have the right development in the right place. It gives the renewables industry as much certainty as possible by providing practical examples of how we can balance environmental, economic and social interests. We are committed to this action in tackling climate change and meeting the future energy needs of Scotland.”

The conference, held at the Battleby Conference Centre near Perth, was presented with some of the recent research undertaken to support the SWBSG, and included workshop sessions where representatives from a variety of conservation groups and from industry discussed current priorities for action. Further funding has been earmarked for the project.

ILI Renewable Energy look forward to the publication of the Good Practice Guide to see what steps can be implemented in order to establish sites which produce clean renewable energy while at the same time protect its surrounding environment and bird population.