Energy Storage in Scotland

Earlier this week, Hannah Smith, policy manager at industry body Scottish Renewables released a statement regarding energy storage and its increasing place within our energy mix.

Renewable energy technologies like solar, wind and hydro are Scotland’s largest source of electricity.

They provide more of our power than coal, gas and nuclear, and displace the equivalent of the emissions from every car, van, bus and train in our country every year but they could do so much more.

Demand for energy has always fluctuated throughout the day, month and year, and meeting those demands while using clean energy technologies to help tackle climate change means asking more and more of an energy system with its roots in the 1930s.

To add additional complexity, our energy system is changing. We generate and consume energy differently. There are more players involved in our energy markets. Technology is making things smarter. The challenge, then, is to create a more ‘flexible’ energy system, a shift which could be worth as much as £1.4 – 2.4bn per year by 2030.

Energy storage is just one source of flexibility that can help us. It involves using technologies to capture electricity or heat, when it’s generated, and release it when it’s needed. Neither storage nor renewables are perfect on their own, but both can work together to produce a result far more powerful than the sum of their parts.

Imagine a scenario where solar power can be used at night, and where energy captured on a windy but mild day can heat our homes when the weather is calm and cold. At a local level, household batteries like Tesla’s Powerwall can provide energy solutions for homes and businesses – for example storing daytime energy from solar panels to be used during dark winter evenings, when demand is highest, saving money on electricity which has to be bought in from the grid. Not only does this mean renewables are used to their full potential; it also gives consumers better control and flexibility over how they manage their energy.

Large-scale battery storage could quickly become business-as-usual on our electricity grid, while more established technology, like hydro pumped storage, is eyeing a new future. The Scottish Government’s Energy Strategy, currently being drafted, is likely to recognise the importance of energy storage and while Holyrood ponders the future, so does Westminster.

Energy regulator Ofgem and the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy opened a consultation on a ‘Smart, Flexible Energy System’ this month, and will now take time to look at how energy generation and storage will interact with developments like smart meters and electric vehicles.

The document contains almost 300 references to energy storage, and seeks to make sure policy and regulation make sure we get the most out of these technologies. They include issues like connecting the technology to the network, charging owners for its use and how planning regulations will affect its spread (currently, the UK Government and devolved administrations “agree that a storage facility is a form of electricity generating station”, but that could change).

Scottish Renewables’ own analysis has highlighted areas which must be reformed if we are to make the most of the storage revolution. A Scottish Renewables paper produced by consultancy Everoze in July highlighted more barriers to storage’s roll-out – and crucially suggested some fixes which could see them overcome.

The report makes a series of far-reaching recommendations to level the playing field for rapidly-developing energy storage technologies – some of which are locked out of current market arrangements and it tackles the primary risk holding back the roll-out of energy storage: securing a bankable revenue stream.

Recommendations include:

Ensuring contracts from National Grid for support services such as frequency response and fast reserve are provided over a longer period – which could encourage banks to get involved;

Unlocking new revenue opportunities within the distribution network, and;

Exploring the introduction of a ‘cap and floor’ mechanism for storage assets with long lifetimes including pumped storage hydropower.

Like much else in the energy system, the regulations which will allow energy storage to thrive must attempt to keep pace with the rapid advance of technology but while storage faces challenges, much is being done to ensure that it can play a fundamental role in our future energy system.

Renewable energy detractors have long cited intermittency as a serious problem when it comes to generation and supply and despite it not being nearly as bad as some make out it is still an issue which needs to be remedied.

Therefore suitable energy storage solutions are highly sought in high capacity renewable energy areas such as Scotland. As Hannah points out putting both renewable energy generation and energy storage together a result far more powerful than the sum of their parts can be achieved.

Over the past seven years ILI Energy has installed over 10Mw of renewable capacity, a figure we are immensely proud of and one which we plan to build upon. However with new generation installations slowing we are one of the industry members that are now involved in storage.

We are currently in the process of compiling planning applications for a number of sites throughout Scotland which if successful will help lessen energy wastage, reduce consumer bills and create a constant stream of clean renewable energy for everyone’s benefit.

Tidal Energy Advances in Scotland

Atlantis Resources, the developer of the world’s first tidal energy farm has confirmed this week that the first turbine of the MeyGen project in the Pentland Firth has been installed and has begun producing renewable energy. It was also announced that a further three turbines are expected to be installed by the end of the year.

The project which was launched in September of this year and was hailed at the time as significant moment for the renewables industry hopes to achieve the goal of 269 turbines producing a maximum of 398MW which will be enough to power 175,000 homes.

Tim Cornelius, chief executive of Edinburgh-based Atlantis, which has received £23 million in Scottish Government funding for the project said: “This is the moment we have been working towards since we first identified the MeyGen site back in 2007 and I am immensely proud of and grateful for the remarkable team of people who have contributed to this milestone.

“The success of this first phase is a foundation for the tidal industry to build upon to ensure we develop a new energy sector which can deliver clean, predictable and affordable power from the UK’s own abundant resources.”

Speaking of the announcement WWF Scotland director Lang Banks said: “News of the first electricity to come from what will hopefully become one of the world’s largest tidal power schemes is a really exciting moment. Well done to all those involved.

“Coming only a few months after turbines off Shetland generated their first power, it’s a sign that Scotland is really starting to make progress in harnessing the power of our seas.

“Along with action to improve energy efficiency, marine renewables have the potential to play a role in powering our homes and businesses in the future.”

Jenny Hogan, director of policy at Scottish Renewables, said: “The Pentland Firth is one of the most promising tidal energy sites in the world and it’s testament to Atlantis’ determination that it’s now being tapped into.

“Tidal energy has huge global potential and projects like this show Scotland is leading the way in the sector’s development.

“With the latest auction round for power contracts recently announced by the UK Government, it’s crucial that developers like MeyGen see a long-term path to realising this potential.”

Also in Scotland plans were revealed this week to turn the defunct Westfield open cast coal mine into a vast solar farm with panels sited on both land and floating on the water filled former quarry.

It is intended that it will form part of vast new business park development which could also see the re-opening of an old railway line to service the area.

Local councillor Alex Campbell said that the proposals would be extremely beneficial to the local economy should they go ahead.

“If it creates these jobs then it will be fantastic for the site and for the whole area. This is an area of high deprivation and if Hargreaves can turn the site around then it would be a huge boost for the area, creating local jobs and improving the local economy.

“It could be really exciting times. It’s a really positive project.”

Owners Hargreaves Services have submitted a master plan of the site which includes proposals for manufacturing and industrial units, along with business and leisure opportunities. Food production and the recycling industries are two areas being targeted, with the planning application having followed a public consultation by Hargreaves, which purchased the site in 2012.

Hargreaves estimates that around 1,075 construction jobs will be created over a ten-year period, with the completed development capable of supporting an estimated 1,500 full-time equivalent jobs.

As part of its planning application, Hargreaves states: “The proposed development would provide a significant source of renewable energy, be capable of providing energy and heat for a range of commercial developments, create local job opportunities, and provide for significant ongoing environmental enhancement and management of the undeveloped parts of the site, including enhanced public access provision.

“Overall, the proposed development would make a notable contribution to the positive and sustainable growth of Fife.”

Over the coming years we expect that all new business developments will come with their own renewable energy generation installation. Since the energy will be consumed on site there is no need for a subsidy and the long term savings they can offer will be very attractive to businesses looking for new premises. In addition the carbon offset and positive public message they convey will be very appealing to all types and sizes and business.

It is therefore positive to see proposed developments like these in Scotland more and more become the norm.

Finally we would like to congratulate Atlantis Resources for the monumental step they took recently in producing electricity from a commercial tidal energy farm. As the desire for clean renewable energy continues to grow the need for new technologies providing a share also increases.

In Scotland our tidal resources like our wind resources are plentiful so it would be remiss not to utilise this to the best of our advantage. However the process is difficult and dangerous so the steps Atlantis Resources have taken have been remarkable and their achievement is to be applauded.

Here is to them reaching their goal of 269 turbines and for many more tidal energy farms producing plentiful clean energy.

Wind energy generation still on the up in Scotland

A new report from WeatherEnergy has shown that in October wind turbines provided Scottish households on average 87% of their electricity demand. The data shows turbines generated 792,717MWh of electricity in October, up 25% on October 2015.

Taking into account all electricity used in Scotland last month including residential and business wind turbines generated 38% of the total 2,080GWh consumed.

Speaking at report launch Karen Robinson of WeatherEnergy said: “According to the Met Office, Scotland had the sunniest and one of the driest Octobers since records began.

“However, the month also witnessed some powerful winds leading to a significant increase in wind power output when compared to last year. All this additional renewable electricity is good news in the battle to address global climate change.”

WWF Scotland director Lang Banks said: “Thanks to a combination of increased capacity and stronger winds, output from turbines surged by more than a quarter compared to the same period last year – supplying power equivalent to the electrical needs of over two million homes.

“As well as helping to power our homes and businesses, wind power is helping Scotland to avoid over a million tonnes of polluting carbon emissions every month.”

However it may not be too long before wind turbines are generating 50% of the entire UK’s electricity needs on a regular basis according to Henrick Poulsen. The chief executive of Dong Energy, the largest wind farm operator in the UK with stakes in planned or existing projects able to produce five gigawatts (5GW), more than the planned Hinkley Point C nuclear reactors said “When you look back in 10 years from now, we’ll see this period around 2016-17 as an inflection point. The cost of offshore wind, also solar and onshore wind, is coming down at such speed that nobody could have predicted.”

Poulsen also claimed that technological advances in the renewable energy industry and subsequent falling costs meant wind power could end up supplying more than half of the UK’s electricity demand.

“When you combine different things, you could see offshore wind’s total of the energy mix going a lot higher, you could definitely go above 50%.”

Wind power does have its critics with one negative levelled at it regularly is that the output is neither regular nor predictable. However advancements in energy storage including vast recent improvements in battery storage offers the possibility of storing large amounts of wind energy ready to be put back into the Grid during periods of high demand.

Dong Energy plan to sell its oil and gas division, the original key elements of its business on the back of its success in renewables. “The company has an ambition of leading the energy transformation of leading the transition to renewables. That’s been driving us for the past few years and we see this as the natural step to transforming to be fully focused on green energy.”

While we agree with Mr. Poulsen that there is room for further onshore wind capacity in the UK without the correct support it is unlikely to improve much more than where we currently stand.

Yes there are projects in development which will give us another boost next year but beyond that it is unlikely to grow any further as the UK Government moves away from renewables and returns to more traditional energy generation methods.

The renewable network that has been built up over the past few years is impressive and not only the installations such as wind turbines and solar panels. Both locally and nationally the grid has benefitted from these new generation points as it has been constantly upgraded in order to cope with this greater demand.

Now as much of this infrastructure is in place and adding the falling costs of the technology we are as Mr. Poulsen points out in a very good position to increase of generation capacity. However a radical rethink is required before such a thing can be realised.

Scotland’s Onshore Wind Threat

Scottish Power has this week warned that without government support that onshore wind generation in Scotland will come to a standstill. They state that no new support framework has been created for onshore wind when the current subsidies end in April 2017.

Under the current Renewables Obligation scheme – which ends in 2017 – electricity suppliers get a subsidy for providing a proportion of the electricity they supply from renewable sources which in turn is funded by costs added to household fuel bills.

With this due to end Scottish Power Renewables has called for a new scheme of Contracts for Difference to be offered so some level of investment security can be added to future projects.

However the UK government has countered by saying their position remains unchanged and that a commitment was made at the General Election to end onshore wind subsidies. Keith Anderson CEO of Scottish Power Renewables however said that the support he required was not a subsidy.

Speaking to BBC Scotland he said “What we are asking for onshore wind is a level playing field.

“There’s a new mechanism in place for offshore wind, called contracts for difference. For gas investment the government have created a capacity mechanism.

“We’re asking for a contract to help underpin some of the risk of making these big, long term investments. We’re not asking for a subsidy.”

Scottish Power will have installed 221 turbines in the year to March 2017 bringing their total generation output to 2GW employing thousands in construction jobs and other support roles.

Also the Scottish Government has set a target of 100% of electricity generation via renewables by 2020. Speaking on BBC Radio Scotland Scottish Energy Minister Paul Wheelhouse said “We’ve made great progress. We’ve achieved 56% of that figure by 2015, which was ahead of schedule, but we’re now seeing changes since the 2015 UK general election where the UK government is derailing potentially a very important industry, not just in Scotland but other parts of the UK as well and that’s of great concerns to us.”

There are some that support the UK government’s policy stance include campaign group Scotland Against Spin. Spokeswoman Linda Holt said: “I think we’re saturated. You talk to people who live in the countryside who are surrounded by wind farms; they think we’ve got enough turbines.

“We’re already producing too much wind electricity in Scotland for us to be able to use ourselves so it’s either being exported or when it’s windy it’s being constrained off.”

Lindsay Roberts, from the industry body Scottish Renewables, said “Onshore wind is already one the cheapest and most popular forms of power generation. However the UK government has locked future development out of the energy market.

“Their own advisors say if we are to stand any chance of meeting our climate change targets we need to at least double our renewable energy capacity. So it’s vital that the UK government tells us what the future of onshore wind is going to be and that they allow it to compete in that energy market.”

A UK government spokesman said “We are fully committed to providing secure, affordable and clean energy for the UK’s homes and businesses.

“The renewables industry has been a strong success in Scotland thanks to UK Government support. Last year we invested a record £13bn in renewables across the UK, with Scotland continuing to benefit significantly from that support.”

It will not surprise you to learn that we at ILI Energy are pro-onshore wind however not to the detriment of the environment. Therefore we can understand those that feel that there are too many and in some areas they are right. Our belief however that is there are areas in which turbine installation can continue, increasing renewable generation.

The point regarding us producing too much for ourselves is an interesting one as this is seldom the case but when it does happen it does so at periods of low demand. The solution to this is to create a reliable energy storage network where renewable energy surplus produced during of period of low demand can be safely stored and put back into the grid during high demand peaks.

This however is not a case of simply attaching a few batteries to the grid, the amount of power we are talking about require solutions on an industrial solution. There are though potential remedies out there including industrial batteries, flywheels, compressed air, pumped hydro, plus others.

All have advantages and disadvantages but in most cases the technology is advancing and becoming more efficient. With a number of large industrial sized energy storage facilities the amount of wastage from wind turbines would decrease dramatically. In turn this will increase our renewable energy usage and bring us closer to our targets.

It will also mean in the long term that although some more turbines will be required not as many as if we were generating without storing.

Renewable energy is the future and marrying it with effective energy storage is the best way to reduce our carbon emissions, meet our targets and create a safe clean environment to live in.