Renewables Research

Swedish company Vattenfall announced this week a £3 million renewable energy study programme based in Scotland designed to shed new light on how the offshore wind industry impacts the lives of dolphins and other sea life.

Adam Ezzamel, EOWDC project director at Vattenfall, said: “The announcement of these successful projects including three in Scotland is an exciting one, with each having the potential to unlock fascinating new insights into the offshore wind environment and determine influencing environmental factors.”

Three out of four projects sharing the £3 million fund are based in Scotland at the firm’s European Offshore Wind Deployment Centre (EOWDC) in Aberdeen and include schemes run by The River Dee Trust and Marine Scotland Science, SMRU Consulting and the University of St Andrews as well as MacArthur Green. Oxford Brookes University was the other successful recipient.

It is believed to be the largest-scale offshore wind research programme of its kind and will “put Scotland at the industry forefront” of research and development, according to Vattenfall.

The individual projects will be carried out at by different consultants with the final data collated by Vattenfall. SMRU Consulting and the University of St Andrews are working towards improving the understanding of bottlenose dolphin movements along the east coast of Scotland. MacArthur Green, based in Glasgow, will focus on reducing uncertainty in the future of auk seabirds near offshore wind farms. The River Dee Trust and Marine Scotland Science study looks at the interactions between salmon and sea trout with offshore wind technology. Finally Oxford Brookes will investigate the socio-economic impact of the energy source on the human environment.

Paul Wheelhouse, Scottish Government minister for business, innovation and energy, said: “The research will strengthen our scientific understanding of the potential environmental impacts of offshore wind generation and their socio-economic impacts too.

“It is very positive news that three of the four successful project bids were from Scottish organisations, which underlines Scotland’s expertise in providing robust science which can protect and enhance the biodiversity of our seas and also aid our understanding of offshore wind projects on communities and our economy.”

Almost 100 applications were submitted for the research programme, with a shortlist of 16 selected by a specialist scientific panel which included representatives of Vattenfall, Aberdeen Renewable Energy Group, Marine Scotland Science, Scottish Natural Heritage, the Scottish Environment Protection Agency, RSPB Scotland, the Joint Nature Conservation Committee, Whale and Dolphin Conservation, and The Crown Estate.

In other Scottish renewable energy new it has been revealed by industry group Scottish Renewables that Scottish sewers produce enough discarded and natural heat to warm a city as big as Glasgow for over four months per year according to new research.

They claim  that 921 million litres of wastewater and sewage were flushed down toilets and plugholes in Scotland daily and with the water in the sewers potentially as warm as 21 degrees Celsius, the environmental group said capturing and using its warmth could be the equivilant of 10,000 tonnes of CO2 entering the atmosphere via carbon based heat.

Figures produced for Scottish Renewables by Scottish Water Horizons showed how the energy potential of sewers could be captured using technologies such as heat pumps and waste water recovery systems.

“These new figures show the enormous scale of the energy we are literally flushing away every day,” Scottish Renewables’ policy manager, Stephanie Clark, said in a statement.

“Water which is used in homes and businesses collects heat from the air around it, as in a toilet cistern, or is heated, as in dishwashers and showers,” Clark added.

“That’s in addition to the energy that it gains from the sun when stored in reservoirs. Technology now exists which allows us to capture that energy, and waste heat can play an important role in helping us reach our challenging climate change targets.”

Scottish Water Horizons’ business development manager, Donald MacBrayne, said that water flushed down the drain at homes and businesses represented a significant source of thermal energy.

“Usually, this heat is lost during the treatment process and when treated effluent is returned to the environment,” he said. “By tapping into this resource using heat recovery technology we can provide a sustainable heating solution which brings cost, carbon, and wider environmental benefits.”

The innovative idea of using waste-water to help heat our homes is the type of project we must be aiming to implement if we are to reach our carbon emission reduction targets. As the onshore wind industry is no longer producing new developments on the scale seen previously we must think out of the box in order to come up viable new projects.

Using waste water which would ordinarily be well wasted is one such idea however the technology required in order to establish such systems will not come cheap. That is why industry and government alike must all be pulling in the same direction if such projects are to become a reality.

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