Onshore wind: Increasing efficiency and higher outputs

Once again high wind speeds made a significant contribution to the electricity supply in the UK as the Didcot B large gas plant was hit with a fire and a number of the country’s nuclear power plants currently offline.

The previous record of 22% of the electricity supply from wind power set in August of this year was overtaken on Sunday as 24% was supplied by wind for the entire day. This strong showing saw it out perform nuclear power from Friday evening through to Monday morning and led to a number of coal plants being taken offline as they were surplus to requirements.

It also set a new peak record of 7,998 MW over a 30 minute period early Saturday afternoon according to National Grid statistics. Based on average consumer consumption for October this is the equivalent of powering 17 million homes.

The fire at the Didcot B power station, which has a capacity of up to 1,360 MW, led to an instant loss of 700 MW. There are also four nuclear power plants (nine reactors in total) also currently offline due to unintended outages and maintenance which has reduced the generating capacity by 5.3 GW.

RenewableUK’s Director of External Affairs Jennifer Webber said: “This year has seen successive new records for wind generation and this latest evidence shows it’s more than capable of stepping in when traditional sources of generation go offline without warning. As we can expect more of these outages in the future, it’s reassuring to know we have wind filling the energy gap.”

“Wind power is often used as a convenient whipping boy by political opponents and vested interests; all the while, it’s been quietly powering millions of homes across the UK and providing a robust response to its vocal detractors.”

We have previously discussed how energy from wind has achieved cost parity with other generation sources and has proven to be as reliable, if not more so, than these alternative sources. Technology is advancing to increase this level of efficiency in both hardware and software so it can be expected that these records will continue to be broken as renewable energy instillations take onboard these new developments.

One such is the Simulator for Wind Farm Applications (SOWFA), a software tool developed by the US Energy Department’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL). This programme calculates how undulating ground, surface temperatures, whipping blades, and other variables affect the air flow and production levels of onshore wind developments.

Its key innovation is that it replicates a wide range of factors including local weather patterns, the space between turbines and the movement of the air flow. This gives a complete picture of an operational instillation and shows how manipulating each turbine can influence the direction of turbines wakes and detect the effect this has on turbines downwind as well as assisting in the understanding of how local atmospheric conditions affect the wind flow around the development.

This therefore is the first tool the allows developers to monitor and improve the performance of an entire wind farm and as it is an open source community software platform it is available free to developers, manufacturers, and academics plus it has an open support forum where potential issues can be discussed.

One application of SOWFA is the simulation and design of coordinated control of individual turbines in order to maximize plant-wide output. Using these controllers, upstream turbines can yaw their rotors to redirect their wakes away from downstream turbines, substantially improving power capture. Wake losses at wind farms can reduce total power production by 10%.

Where you see one wind turbine you tend to see more as they provide an economy of scale it makes sense to install multiple turbines as one system. However this in itself can cause problems as the wind which turns the turbines can be disrupted causing a wake reducing the power of the wind and therefore affecting any turbine which lies downwind, sometimes up to 800m, of the initial one.

However SOWFA shows turbine manufacturers and developers how a yaw can impart a thrust that curves that wake around the downwind turbine. “Wake, from a power perspective, is lower-energy wind,” said NREL Senior Engineer Paul Fleming, one of the engineers using SOWFA in his research. “If you can move away that deficit of energy, you will have faster winds and more overall production at the wind farm.”

“In the past, wind farms have relied on dissipation to control that energy loss—they just move the turbines farther away from each other,” said NREL Senior Engineer Pat Moriarty, a leader of the SOWFA team. “Now, we can control it in a different way. And there are other ways to achieve more control.”

As these technological advancements increase the efficiency of wind turbines more clean renewable energy is being delivered on a daily basis at a time when more traditional sources are proving not as reliable as once thought. We understand however that wind is not the complete answer and a varied mix of energy sources is way to ensure energy security. Therefore we must embrace the technologies that drive us forward and will ultimately release us from carbon heavy fossil fuel reliance. Initially outlay may be high however onshore wind has proved that with reducing costs and increasing reliability there are genuine alternatives.

 

Renewable Energy – Environmentally and financially beneficial

Last week the Norwegian government announced that they have granted a licence for the world’s longest sub-sea electricity interconnector which is to be built between Norway and the UK.

Named NSN, this interconnector will unite the countries’ electricity supply systems providing benefits to both sides of the North Sea including improving both countries’ energy security plus supplying Norwegian renewable energy to power as much as four million UK homes.

As Norway is not a member of the European Union the supply of electricity from hydropower will count towards the UK’s EU target of providing at least 15% of energy to consumers from renewable sources by 2020.

Also a clause in the European directive that allows the UK a further two years beyond 2020 to increase the renewable energy it takes from non-EU countries will be triggered in order to comply with targets and prevent potential financial penalties.

Energy Secretary Ed Davey said: “This is excellent news for both the UK and Norway. This new cable will allow the UK to import huge amounts of clean green hydroelectricity – enough to power up to 4 million homes – to back up our wind and solar power.

“This bolsters our energy security and will help keep consumers’ bills down. It’s a massive win-win for consumers and the climate.”

The project is expected to reach its final investment level by spring 2015 after which construction can begin although at present no timescales for concluding the development have been given.

Five new interconnector projects recently applied to be assessed by Ofgem’s new regulatory regime for interconnector investment including NSN. Further decisions on the others are expected later this year.

Although we are delighted that this projected is going ahead and that the UK will be using more clean renewable energy to power its homes and businesses there is a concern that the UK government may see this as an opportunity to use instead of our own renewable operations rather than as well as. We have a wealth of resources which can be used for renewable energy in the UK so although the clean energy transmitted from Norway is welcome we want the UK to be in a position where we can export our renewable energy surplus to our neighbours.

To achieve this we have to invest more in infrastructure and increase the amount of renewable energy we are generating. With the renewable energy resources we have in the UK we are in an enviable position however if we do not act on it we will be passing on an opportunity, the like of which we may never see again.

Not only does this make environmental sense but also financial. A new study of energy generation by Ecofys and approved by the European Commission has stated that electricity generated from onshore wind is cheaper than energy from gas, coal, and nuclear power stations.

Analysis of the report suggests that onshore wind has an approximate cost of £80 per mega watt (MW). This brings it in below gas at £130 per MW, nuclear at £105 per MW and coal at between £128 per MW and £184 per MW.

Offshore wind’s cost is £147 per MW and solar the highest at £171 per MW.

EWEA deputy chief executive Justin Wilkes said: “This report highlights the true cost of Europe’s dependence on fossil fuels. Renewables are regularly denigrated for being too expensive and a drain on the taxpayer. Not only does the Commission’s report show the alarming cost of coal but it also presents onshore wind as both cheaper and more environmentally-friendly.”

The report also confirms that both onshore and offshore wind technologies have the potential for cost decrease compared with coal, which is unlikely to reduce costs any further.

Wilkes added: “We are heavily subsidising the dirtiest form of electricity generation while proponents use coal’s supposed affordability as a justification for its continued use. The irony is that coal is the most expensive form of energy in the European Union. This report shows that we should use the 2030 climate and energy package as a foundation for increasing the use of wind energy in Europe to improve our competitiveness, security and environment.”

As technology advances to become more reliable and effective it should be no surprise that the cost of onshore wind has now come down to be the cheapest form of energy production in the European Union. However the rate at which it has demonstrates that with continued investment and dedicated people working throughout the region the targets we have set can be achieved within a realistic budget.

Energy will always be a requirement of any society and clean energy production is the best way to sustain an environment fitting of any such society. As the amount energy generated by onshore wind continues to increase and the cost of this energy continues to fall the consumers will reap the benefits of this energy production both environmentally and financially.

 

Renewable Energy in Scotland continues to grow

A 20% increase in electricity generated from wind and a 50% increase in hydro generation, renewable energy’s two most advanced technologies, in 2013 has meant that overall electricity generation from renewable sources in Scotland has risen once again, up 30% on 2012.

These figures estimate that renewable energy generated a record breaking 46.4% of gross electricity consumed in Scotland, significantly up from 2012’s final figure of 39.9%, and indicated that Scotland is firmly on track to meet its 2015 target of 50% of electricity from renewable sources.

Scotland’s Energy Minister Fergus Ewing said: “2014 is on track to be another record year for renewable electricity generation in Scotland, with 30 per cent higher generation in the first half of 2014 compared to the same period last year, demonstrating that renewable generation continues to go from strength to strength in Scotland.

“Scottish renewable electricity made up 32 per cent of the UK’s renewable energy generation in 2013 and we continue to be a net exporter of electricity.

“Energy efficiency sits at the top of our energy hierarchy and the progress being made is welcome.

“Harnessing Scotland’s vast energy wealth has multiple benefits – reducing our carbon emissions, creating jobs and investment and improving the energy security of Scotland and the rest of the UK. And of course communities the length and breadth of Scotland are also benefitting from millions of pounds of community benefit funding. We are committed to making Scotland a leading low carbon investment destination, delivering growth from the growing low carbon sector and ensuring communities across Scotland can benefit from the opportunities that the transition to a low carbon economy brings.

“The Scottish Government has made its energy policy a top priority and has achieved great progress, despite being limited in terms of its devolved responsibilities. We look forward to proposals for more powers encompassing the necessary levers to deliver Scottish priorities.”

Also announced were the figures for renewable heat generation in Scotland in 2012. This was 3.0% of the country’s non-electrical heat demand, up from 2.7% in 2011 and indicating that things are heading in the right direction. However despite the progress shown, Scotland’s 2020 renewable heat target remains worryingly out of reach with a government target of 11% by 2020 according to Stephanie Clark, Policy Manager at Scottish Renewables.

“While Scotland has made great strides towards its 100% 2020 renewable electricity target, our objective of generating 11% of heat from renewables remains worryingly out of reach,” she commented.

“Renewable heat has been left behind. Half the energy we use goes on creating warmth, but a sector which has such an important role to play in combating climate change and reducing fuel poverty is not even considered important enough to be included as one of the Scottish Government’s National Indicators of progress.

“Currently we just do not see the capacity coming forward which will allow us to hit the 2020 target and capitalise on the reductions in fuel poverty and carbon emissions which achieving it would bring.”

She added: “Positive moves are being made, but more needs to be done to raise awareness of the benefits of renewable heat and ensure the sector is at the top of the political agenda if we are to succeed in hitting our climate change targets.”

Earlier this year the introduction of the domestic element in the Renewable Heat Incentive provided financial incentives to homeowners to install renewable technologies. Also, the Scottish Government’s Heat Generation Policy statement, due in the first quarter of 2015, is to provide a detailed industry roadmap.

Just over 45% of gross electricity from renewable sources is a wonderful achievement and one which everyone associated with can be very proud of. The overall target of 100% of gross electricity from renewable sources by 2020 is well within our sites and if we continue to build upon what has already been accomplished, we believe that reaching this target will only be a matter of time.

However we agree with Scottish Renewables that more has to be done with regards renewable heat generation. Almost half of our energy needs are for heat so to see generation from renewable sources lagging behind is disappointing, especially when we are doing so well in other areas. The Heat Generation Policy Statement published by the Scottish Government this year does demonstrate how low carbon heat can reach businesses and households plus offers a framework for investment in this field however more must be done soon if we are to be as successful here as we are in renewable electricity generation.

There was further good news for renewable energy in Scotland as a new community wind farm on the Isle of Lewis has been named a breakthrough project after receiving confirmation that Santander Bank will fund £11m of the costs of the development.

Over its lifetime of 25 years the Beinn Ghrideag wind farm is expected to produce over £45m of income from an initial £15m of costs. All the profit from the development will be reinvested into key community projects including the insulation of 350 homes, funding the local hospice, creating full time employment for at least 100 young adults and renovating the nearby villages.

The building, operating, and maintaining of the wind farm will create at least three full time jobs and also will help to sustain up to four further jobs in the local maintenance support unit.

Due for completion in September 2015, the farm was developed by the Point and Sandwick Development Trust (PSDT), with additional funding from the Renewable Energy Investment Fund and BIG Lottery.

Commenting on the project, Energy Minister Fergus Ewing said: “Our ambition is for communities across Scotland to share in the rich economic and social rewards of our country’s outstanding renewable resources. Community and local ownership of renewable energy is a high priority for the Scottish Government and is an intrinsic part of our Renewables Routemap for Scotland.

“Point and Sandwick is exemplary of the huge benefits that local energy ownership can bring, supporting the needs of the community for decades to come, whilst creating and securing jobs, underpinning regeneration and funding energy efficiency improvements for hundreds of local people.”

The Scottish Government’s community energy strategy, which has a target of 500MW of locally owned renewables by 2020, regards this development as an important stage in reaching its objective. Also Community Energy Scotland commissioned a report which found that for each 900KW turbine at the site could generate income for the local community of £10,000 from construction, £20,000 from operation and management and £125,000 from the electricity generated per year.

We are excited about community wind farm projects at ILI Energy and believe that more should be done to offer and promote them throughout the country.  We have spoken before about the benefits that onshore wind developments can bring to the local communities however this is taking it step further and investing a large percentage of the income back into the community. Previously community wind projects have been at most on a medium scale however with large financial institutions like Santander now involved communities like those on the Isle of Lewis can look to benefit to a more substantial level from the resources around them.

Everyone on the planet benefits from clean renewable energy but those that live closest to the developments should benefit more and with projects like Beinn Ghrideag this is now happening to a level higher than ever before.

 

 

 

 

 

Renewable Energy receives a welcome boost

The new UK Renewable Energy fund received a boost when it was announced that the overall subsidy has been increased by £95m to £300m. Much of this is being targeted at the less commercial arm of renewable energy including offshore wind, tidal, and wave power with the aim of advancing technology, increasing the skill base, and in the long term reducing the costs of producing energy by these methods.

More advanced and commercial technologies including onshore wind and solar will compete for £65m of the overall fund although large scale solar instillations will see its level of support reduced greatly.

A new scheme in which the remaining £235m will be auctioned to Renewable Energy development companies will guarantee a minimum price for energy generated by each technology. However due to the high costs in connecting to the mainland grid via sub-sea cables, projects on the Scottish Islands will not be included in the first round of auctions but are expected to be in the future. Subsidies for the cables are currently awaiting state aid from the European Commission.

This additional funding of £95m has been made possible due to the previous system of Renewable Obligations costing less than anticipated.  Energy Secretary Ed Davey speaking at the Liberal Democrat party conference in Glasgow stated   “Average annual investment in renewables has doubled since 2010 – with a record breaking £8bn worth in 2013. By making projects compete for support, we’re making sure that consumers get the best possible deal as well as a secure and clean power sector.”

New policies being introduced include encouraging more businesses to install solar cells on their buildings after a low uptake under the previous system. Also the government want to make it easier for the cells to be moved along with the existing subsidy should any business on this type of tariff move premises.

Although we are delighted with additional funding being added to the overall pot and that new technologies will benefit greatly from it we believe that onshore wind is still the best way to increase the amount of energy generated via renewable sources and therefore reduce our reliance on carbon heavy alternatives. The technology is now cheaper and is proving time and again to be reliable.

We therefore welcome Mr. Davey’s comments when speaking on the subject “Onshore wind has been growing fast under us. It now generates around 5% of our electricity, and it’s still growing. It’s vital for climate change but also to keep energy bills down, as onshore wind is now the cheapest large scale green energy option.”

This comes at a time when wind energy broke another record in the UK. Earlier this month wind power supplied more electricity to the UK grid than nuclear. Strong gusts supplied more than 6GWs of electricity and a dip in energy from nuclear meant that wind power was the most important source of energy in the UK.

Also recently the flow of electricity from France to the UK changed direction as a surplus on this side of the channel meant we could export energy to mainland Europe. Normally the UK imports electricity from France but our recent increases in generation meant we were in a position to export rather than import. As the demand for energy, and particular renewable energy, continues to grow it is very pleasing to see us in a position where we can offload our surplus and give our economy a welcome boost.

However this provides a new challenge for our aging grid network. The interconnector that joins the UK with mainland Europe was almost at full capacity as it exported energy to France. In the UK we can expect more strong gusts; it’s in our nature, so we must ensure we are capable of supplying our entire surplus to an energy hungry Europe. For this to happen, further investment is essential.

In the UK we have the luxury of plentiful renewable energy resources therefore we must continue to improve and upgrade our systems as well as encourage new developments to ensure we fulfil our potential. The costs associated with this will look insignificant next to the rewards it will bring however we must act now as if we stand still we will be left behind by those more proactive in renewable energy generation.