Wind Power continues to innovate

A new method to test the durability of wind turbines and assist in predicting their lifespan has been developed by engineers from the University of Sheffield. Wengu Chen a Mechanical Engineering research student developed the technique using ultrasonic waves to determine the amount of load put onto the ball bearings within the turbine’s mechanical systems. This in turn records the stress placed on the turbine and the engineers can calculate its remaining life span.

Elastic deformation leads to the thickness of each ball bearing reducing when it is subject to a load and the adjusted stress level affects the speed of sound. These then affect the time it takes for an ultrasound wave to pass through the ball bearing.

The technique uses a custom made sensor attached inside the bearing to measure the ultrasound and establish the load. It is quite small and reasonably inexpensive making it suitable for all turbines including the smaller ones.

The findings from the new method were published in the “Proceedings of the Royal Society A.”  Director of the Leonardo Centre for Tribology at the University of Sheffield and the paper’s co-author Professor Rob Dwyer-Joyce said “This technique can be used to prevent unexpected bearing failures, which are a common problem in wind turbines. By removing the risk of a loss of production and the need for unplanned maintenance, it can help to reduce the cost of wind energy and make it much more economically competitive.”

The method has been lab tested and validated and is currently being field tested at the Barnesmore wind farm in Donegal. If successful it is expected that the technology and method will be rolled out to all new wind turbines in the near future.

The result of having this new information is that it will be easier to predict the life span and service needs of turbines much more accurately and less expensively than before both contributing to the decreasing of the overall cost of energy generation via wind turbines.

Also in the news this week was the announcement that twenty professionals from both academic and business backgrounds have urged Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon to snub new UK government policy abandoning plans for zero-carbon homes which would help drastically reduce waste and pollution.

Chancellor George Osborne announced last month that the government was altering previous policy that all new homes built from 2016 onwards would have to meet zero-carbon targets. He claimed this was to reduce regulation facing builders however the outcome is likely to be new homes with reduced insulation and higher amounts of energy wasted. The announcement prompted an outcry from UK businesses who argued that the dropping of the commitment would prevent new investment and be “harmful to British industry.”

In the open letter to the First Minister the twenty academics and business men urge her to opt out of the Chancellor’s plan. “Work with us to develop new policies to ensure the wide-ranging impacts of the disastrous decisions now being made at Westminster will not be felt by the people of Scotland,” the letter says.

“Improving the condition and energy efficiency of the Scottish housing stock will be essential in meeting many of our environmental, social and economic objectives towards 2030 and 2050. Removing the current targets, or letting them slip further, will add to our legacy of sub-standard housing that is not fit for a world in which all homes will need to be zero-carbon homes.”

Dr Keith Baker, an engineering and environment researcher at Glasgow Caledonian University who helped found the Initiative for Carbon Accounting, an independent organisation that aims to improve assessments of climate pollution co-ordinated the letter “George Osborne’s attacks on zero-carbon homes and renewable energy have ripped the heart out of Westminster’s progress on meeting its emissions reduction targets. They have signalled to investors in low carbon homes and renewables that the future of these industries under his regime is uncertain.

“Homes will go un-insulated, research and innovation will be hit hard, and skilled jobs will be lost. We cannot allow this to go unchallenged and so are calling upon the Scottish government and the SNP to call the Chancellor to account.”

Signatories to the letter include Neil Sutherland, managing director of the green-home builder MAKAR: Chris Stewart, chairman of the Scottish Ecological Design Association: Ron Mould, from Glasgow Caledonian University: Professor Sue Roaf from Heriot-Watt University; Julio Bros-Williamson, from the Scottish Energy Centre at Edinburgh Napier University; and David Aitken from Lochlie Construction Group.

Norman Kerr, the director of Energy Action Scotland and letter signatory, highlighted that there are 940,000 households living in, or at risk of, fuel poverty in Scotland. “They need warm, dry affordable-to-heat homes, to maintain health, to play a role in tackling climate change, to contribute to the nation’s security of supply, reduce social inequality and improve their day to day lives,” he said.

“The First Minister should reject the Chancellor’s plans. She should bring forward the eradication of fuel poverty and move on climate change against targets they have failed to meet.”

Marco Biagi, a local government minister stated that the Scottish Government introduced “more demanding” energy standards that will come into force in October this year. “We remain committed to all new buildings being nearly zero-energy from 2019.”

“Future reviews will investigate if further reductions in carbon dioxide emissions, advocated in the 2013 Sullivan Report Update, will deliver new buildings which meet the EU Directive and the potential to deliver a net-zero carbon standard for new development.”

There is need for new houses throughout the UK and with the overall housing market on the rise the opportunity for house builders to design and build zero carbon houses is right here, right now. However despite the majority of house builders being in favour of the policy to build all houses to zero-carbon spec by 2016 this has been removed by the government.

ILI Renewable Energy we believe in good ideas and strong policy designed to make our environment cleaner and safer. Zero-carbon homes are a positive step in achieving this. Our hope is that house builders that had already pledged towards building zero-carbons homes continue to do so despite the change in government policy.

 

Onshore Wind and Solar remain popular with UK public

Public support for onshore wind and solar remains strong in the UK according to a new survey published this week. The independent survey commissioned by Good Energy confirmed solar as the country’s most popular form of renewable energy with 76% of those asked stating they support it with 59% backing onshore wind. Only 4% opposed solar and 8% onshore wind.

These new figures follow the most recent government poll, the Department of Energy and Climate Change’s (DECC) public attitudes tracker, which included in its results was 28% of the public actively opposing fracking with only 3% strongly in favour.

This latest edition of the DECC survey however did not include questions relating to renewable energy sources such as solar and onshore wind, both of which have had their subsides cut recently, despite the questions having been included in all previous DECC polls since they began in 2012.

The Good Energy survey did include the questions missed out in the DECC poll and showed a similar level of support for both technologies as per the recent government surveys.

Speaking of the results from the survey Head of Innovation at Good Energy Will Vooght said: “Renewables have been performing brilliantly recently – providing 22.2% of the UK’s electricity in the first three months of the year. Solar alone provided 15% of our electricity needs on one day last month.

“These stats indicate that opposition to renewables remains consistently low, showing it’s a vocal minority dictating policy – flying in the face of public support.

“The old adage goes ‘if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it’. The government seem to have realised they can’t manage public opinion so instead they just won’t measure it.”

Alasdair Cameron, renewables campaigner at Friends of the Earth said: “Renewable energy like wind and solar power is incredibly popular, and it is frankly astonishing that the Government continues to make it harder for people to use it.

“Failing to back renewables now is like attacking mobile phones in the early 1990s – renewables are already far cheaper than nuclear and closing in on gas from new power stations.

“David Cameron is going to have to work really hard in the run up to the climate talks in Paris if he is to convince the world he’s not trying to take the UK back to the dark ages.”

Solar Trade Association spokesperson Sonia Dunlop also commented on the findings: “DECC’s surveys have consistently shown that solar power is the UK’s favourite way of generating electricity. This new survey confirms this.

“We would like to see the Government take solar’s public popularity into account when making key policy decisions on support for this sunshine technology over the next few months.”

Also released recently was the latest data on wind and solar power from WeatherEnergy covering July. Weather wise July was not a good month for Scotland however this proved fruitful for renewable energy generation with wind power providing more than a third of the country’s electricity.

Wind power produced over 660,000 MWh of electricity, enough to cover the average demands of 72% of Scottish homes, the equivalent of 1.75 million households. That’s an increase of 58% on July 2014’s figures according to WWF Scotland.

The amount of electricity used throughout the entire country by residential, business, and industrial consumers topped 1,800,000 MWh for July with 36% of that coming directly from wind power. According to WWF on eight days of the month wind generated enough electricity to supply every home in Scotland.

Lang Banks, WWF Scotland’s director said: “It may have been among one of the wettest and windiest months in decades, but July also turned out to be a belter of a month for wind power in Scotland.

“Thanks to a combination of increased capacity and much windier weather, output from turbines was up more than half compared to the same period last year – supplying power equivalent to the electrical needs of 1.75 million homes.”

In spite of the poor weather solar PV panels captured enough energy to generate 94% of the average electricity need in Aberdeen, compared with 87% in Inverness, 85% in Edinburgh and 79% in Glasgow. In addition for households that use solar power to heat their water, the sunshine generated 92% of an average home’s hot water needs in Aberdeen, compared with 87% in Inverness, 85% in Edinburgh and 74% in Glasgow.

Mr. Banks added: “Despite the clouds and overcast skies, for tens of thousands of homes that have installed solar panels to generate electricity or heat water, around four-fifths of their electricity or hot water needs could have been met by the sun. This all helped Scotland to further reduce its reliance on polluting fossil fuels during July.”

Also announced recently was that the USA will implement more greenhouse gas cuts with the implicit aim of reducing the country’s carbon dioxide emission by 32% of its 2005 levels by 2030.

“Improving energy efficiency and embracing renewables is what is what is going to take the world one step closer to addressing the challenge of global climate change. “It’s therefore great to see President Obama follow Scotland’s lead and throw his weight behind more renewables in the US. It sends a very powerful message globally that more politicians need to get right behind green energy” Mr. Banks added.

Also speaking of the WeatherEnergy figures Mike Mackenzie SNP MSP said: “These outstanding figures are a welcome demonstration of the growing strength of Scotland’s renewables, with a 58 per cent boost on the previous year’s figure showing the incredible strides Scotland is making in producing clean, sustainable energy – and confirming the vital role green energy can play in meeting energy needs.”

Scotland is rich in renewable energy resources and the public is favour of using them. Unfortunately the future of the onshore wind and solar industries – the most advanced and least expensive of the renewable energy technologies – lies in the hands of the UK central government and they have demonstrated over recent weeks a blatant disregard towards them. What seems obvious to the majority of the UK public – a long term need for clean sustainable and affordable energy – is lost in a minefield of political posturing by those currently in government.

We cannot say what the ultimate reasons for their stance is however with the removal of the questions regarding onshore wind and solar from the DECC poll and the responses to the same questions in the Good Energy survey we know that is not because of lack of public support as our government tried to claim last month.

 

Renewable Energy: Home and abroad

Last week the Department of Energy and Climate Change published its yearly Digest of UK Energy Statistics for 2014. Within it the statistics show that electricity generated from renewable sources increased by 21% in 2014 compared with 2013 and supplied the grid with 19% of the total electricity generated in the UK, an increase of over 4% on the previous year.

In the digest onshore wind is described as “the leading individual technology for the generation of electricity from renewable sources during 2014.” 29% of all renewable electricity supplied to the grid came from onshore wind in 2014 with offshore wind contributing 21%, meaning in total half of all renewable electricity generated in the UK in 2014 came from wind.

In turn this means that 9% of the UK’s total electricity generation in 2014 came from onshore and offshore wind combined, saving the equivalent of 13m tonnes of carbon emissions for the year.

Overall in 2014 onshore wind generation increased by 10% and offshore by 17%. Also the overall installed renewable energy capacity increase by 24% to 24.6GW. A 13% increase in onshore capacity and 22% increase in offshore contributed to this increase.

In total wind provided enough electricity to supply more than 7.5 million homes in the UK throughout the entire year. 7% of the UK’s total energy supply (electricity, heat and fuel for transport) came from renewables – up from 5.6% in 2013. The UK needs to meet a legally binding target of 15% of all energy from renewables by 2020.

For the entire year output from renewables was up by 9.3%, while nuclear and coal output were down 10% and 8.6% respectively

Speaking of the release of the Digest and the figures for 2014 Dr. Gordon Edge, Director of Policy at RenewableUK said “Onshore and offshore wind is delivering the lion’s share of the clean electricity we need to keep the UK powered up. But, when it comes to onshore wind, the Government is lining up this lion to be shot.

“Two-thirds of the public don’t want the onshore wind industry to be killed off –and they’ve said so in every Government opinion poll over the last three years. A clear majority are expressing their support for our most cost-effective technology which can generate significant quantities of clean electricity. The case for supporting wind, onshore and offshore, is backed up by today’s excellent generation statistics as evidence of good progress.

“In the face of this evidence, many will ask why the renewable energy sector has been bombarded by a series of punitive Government announcements ever since it took office, including scattergun retrospective changes which will force currently viable energy projects into the red.

“We can only hope that today’s statistics will help to focus minds and make the Government think again, so that they can come up with a balanced energy policy that includes encouraging investment in renewables rather than driving business away from the UK.”

Also published last week was the final results from the Malawi Renewable Energy Acceleration Programme (MREAP). MREAP is the single biggest Scottish Government international development programme to date with an investment of £2.3m. The project has been managed by the University of Strathclyde with the aim of providing improved electricity access to 80,000 of the country’s rural population.

Only 9% of the country’s population currently have access to the national grid making it one of the least electrified sub-Saharan countries on the continent. In rural areas this falls to less than 1%.

In regions throughout the country MREAP has improved the facilities available in schools, health clinics and households through access to sustainable energy.

The Scottish Government was asked by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon to support his Sustainable Energy for All initiative which puts energy access at the centre of international development in 2012.

Humza Yousaf Minister for Europe and International Development said: “Across the developing world, a lack of access to cheap, reliable and clean energy is holding back progress. Nearly one in five people on this planet do not have access to stable modern electricity. In today’s world, this is unacceptable and a major barrier to introducing basic services in order alleviate poverty and reduce global inequality. This is something that the UN has recognised with its Sustainable Energy for All initiative, which we are proud to be a part of.

“MREAP has been tackling this problem head on by providing sustainable electricity to nearly 80,000 people. By working directly with communities to create their own solutions the programme has a strong foundation for the future and we are pleased to support further energy projects that will build on the work of MREAP. Learning from this flagship programme is publicly available to help inform the future of renewable energy in developing nations and to improve the quality of life for some of the world’s poorest people.

“The success of MREAP is a testament to the importance of the special relationship between Scotland and Malawi. A project of the scale of MREAP not only benefits people in Malawi – who now have access to life changing modern energy solutions – it also opens doors for invaluable business and education opportunities for Scotland in the future.”

More than forty five renewable energy instillations have been introduced to communities throughout Malawi with funding coming from MREAP. These include efficient cook stoves, solar pumps and solar panels for electricity, through to solar lanterns and biogas digesters. Also MREAP encouraged new energy leadership by introducing a two year postgraduate degree in renewable energy as well as an entrepreneurship fund and a detailed analysis of the potential for large scale wind energy in the country.

Co-director of the Institute for Energy and Environment at the University of Strathclyde Professor Graeme Burt: “The direct benefits that MREAP has brought to communities in Malawi by increasing access to renewable energy technologies is a real achievement that the University of Strathclyde takes pride in.

“Malawi now has a strong evidence base on which effective scaled-up programmes can be built, impacting the lives of many more families in rural Malawi through community-based solar PV or large commercial scale wind energy. And this gives evidence to the effective collaboration established between academics, government departments, NGOs, charities, and private consultancies from both Malawi and Scotland.”

Principal Officer of the Scotland Malawi Partnership David Hope-Jones said: “Whether in Scotland or Malawi, access to sustainable energy means equipped hospitals, functioning schools and thriving communities.

“The great impact of the work of MREAP and their partners in Malawi demonstrates the continuing strength and relevance of the historical ties between our two nations.

“Today, after over 150 years of partnership, 94,000 Scots and 198,000 Malawians are still working together in solidarity to address contemporary challenges and looking towards the future.”

The Scottish Government and project partners are sharing the findings from MREAP to encourage future energy projects in developing nations. All sixteen reports relating to the project now available on the University’s website as well as information of two further renewable energy projects confirmed in January as part of the 2015 Malawi Development Programme.

The MREAP is an excellent project and showcases Scotland’s renewable energy expertise. While the electricity situation in Malawi may be one of the worse, throughout the developing world many millions of people are without a regular supply of electricity. The traditional raw materials for generating electricity such as coal and gas are often too expensive as is the cost of upgrading the existing networks in these countries.

Renewable energy therefore offers a cost effective reliable alternative. It is our hope that projects like MREAP encourages other Governments, educational facilities, and developers to join forces and help bring clean sustainable energy in the form of electricity to millions of people who due to geographical and economic restraints would otherwise go without.