The UK’s greenest year

2017 has been predicted to be the greenest ever for the UK with thirteen new record set through the course of the last twelve months. These include the first full day without the need of coal power since the Industrial Revolution, the most electricity produced from solar power at any one moment, and the most wind power produced in a day. Over the course of the year Britain ranked fourth cleanest for energy generation in Europe and seventh in the world.

In addition public support for renewable energy in the UK reached an all-time high in 2017 with WWF predicting it will be the greenest year ever. Gareth Redmond-King, head of energy and climate at WWF said: “We have never been cleaner or greener – and we are on course for an even better year in 2018. This is the success of supporting renewables in electricity.

“The Government has subsidised onshore wind, offshore wind, solar, hydro, the lot, and that has led to the cost of it falling, we have built more and now a third of our electricity comes from renewables.”

Duncan Burt, director of the system operator at National Grid said: “It’s been an exciting year managing the many ‘network firsts.’

“We now have significant volumes of renewable energy on the system which poses an exciting challenge for us in ensuring the supply and demand is matched second by second.

“As this trend continues, our ability to forecast these patterns is becoming more and more important. We have an expert team of forecasters who monitor a range of data, to forecast just how much electricity will be needed over a set period.”

Mr. Redmond-King added “Climate change is wreaking havoc on our nature and wildlife, but we are at last facing up to the challenge, turning our backs on polluting fossil fuels and embracing a new, clean future.”

He did warn however that positive Government action was required in order to continue with the drive towards clean green energy adding: “This is a success in terms of power; we haven’t done so well in relation to cutting emissions in our homes and vehicles. That’s where we need more concerted action. It’s a big job, but it has huge impacts, and we really need to see the detail of how the Government is going to commit to do that.”

The UK Government published its clean energy strategy in October last year setting out fifty policies and processes designed to improve energy efficiency and clean power generation. Critics however claim it does not go far enough to meet emission reduction targets especially the target of 2040 for end of sale of petrol and diesel vehicles.

On a more micro level the Anaerobic Digestion & Bioresources Association (ADBA) in Scotland have stated that one way of managing our emissions and meeting our goals is to significantly increase the amount of organic waste and energy crops we recycle into biogas for renewable heat and power, low carbon transport fuel and bio-fertilisers.

Anaerobic digestion (AD) is currently delivering 45MW of power and 11,000m3/hr of heat in Scotland, with AD plants across the UK now having enough capacity to power more than a million homes however ABDA believe more can be done.

Charlotte Morton, Chief Executive of the ADBA, said: “The Scottish Government has set itself ambitious but necessary targets for generating renewable energy in its new Energy Strategy and renewable heat and electricity produced through AD can make an important contribution to these goals, as well as reducing emissions from landfill, creating rural jobs, and helping to restore degraded soils.”

The Scottish Government’s Energy Strategy sets a new target for at least 50% of all Scotland’s heat, transport, and electricity consumption to be supplied from renewable sources by 2030.

The advances we have made in clean energy generation have all led to the success 2017 and continuing breaking records is great to see, it means we are doing a lot right. More is required however both in terms of reaching our emission reduction targets and in creating 100% clean energy generation.

After a period of inactivity the UK Government is now beginning to move towards more green policies and initiatives which will help greatly in helping us achieve our aims. We hope that this shift continues and more new developments and technologies are brought on-line in the near future.

2017 was a great year but let’s not make it the final year we break clean energy records.

Does Renewable Energy have a hidden carbon footprint?

The mandate of renewable energy is to deliver clean energy to the appropriate grid network in order to reduce carbon emissions and help create a cleaner more sustainable environment for all. It cannot be disputed that with no fossil fuel to burn the renewable energy production process reduces emissions substantially in some cases close to zero.

However the generation process is not the whole story and there has always been voices of distraction pointing towards the manufacturing and distribution of the technology and its components. The detractors claim that these processes contain a hidden carbon footprint with the emissions they create pushing the projects over the course of their lifespan into a negative carbon debt position.

For example the factories that manufacture solar panels use vast amounts of electricity, much of it likely to be generated from carbon heavy sources. Wind turbine installations require a sizeable amount of steel and concrete and the transport costs of moving the core elements of any renewable energy project to its final location usually involves long distances and therefore carbon heavy transport issues.

New research however published in Nature Energy and carried out by Carbon Brief shows that the carbon footprints of renewable energy technologies including wind turbines and solar panels are vastly less than coal or gas generation including those with carbon capture and storage. In addition the carbon footprint of the renewable energy installations remained below that of coal and gas when manufacture, transport, and construction were included.

Dr. Gunnar Luderer energy system analyst at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impacts Research (PIK) and study co-author said: “There was a concern that it is a lot harder than suggested by energy scenario models to achieve climate targets, because of the energy required to produce wind turbines and solar panels and associated emissions.”

He went on to tell Carbon Brief “The most important finding [of our research] was that the expansion of wind and solar power…comes with life-cycle emissions that are much smaller than the remaining emissions from existing fossil power plants, before they can finally be decommissioned.”

The first stage of the research was to work out the energy required to build power stations and provide the fuel in order to generate electricity. The study found that fossil fuel plants require “significantly higher” amounts of energy for this process than wind and solar power.

The study found for example that 11% of energy generated by a coal fired power station is offset by the energy required to build and supply the plant. Wind and solar in comparison need only 2% of energy generated to offset build and supply requirements.

Study co-author Edgar Hertwich – Professor of Industrial Sustainability at the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies – told Carbon Brief “I continue to be amazed just how low the embodied energy use of solar, wind and nuclear power is, in comparison with others.”

With the research stating that the footprint of wind and solar is much less than coal and gas generation Dr Luderer told Carbon Brief “A crucial strength of our approach is that it fully accounts for future changes in the energy system. For example, increasingly less energy will be required to produce solar modules, due to technological progress and a shift towards less energy-intensive technology variants. At the same time, the global climate change mitigation effort will reduce the CO2 emissions per unit of electricity and steel inputs, further limiting life-cycle greenhouse gas emissions. The earlier studies considered by the IPCC did not account for these future changes, thus overestimating indirect energy requirements and indirect greenhouse gas emissions of several low-carbon technologies.”

The footprint of solar comes in at 6gCO2e/kWh and wind is also 4gCO2e/kWh. In contrast, coal CCS (109g) and gas CCS (78g) have relatively high emissions, compared to a global average target for a 2C world of 15gCO2e/kWh in 2050.

The study therefore concludes that contrary to the claims of critics the hidden emissions due to building wind turbines, solar panels or nuclear plants are very low, in comparison with the savings from avoiding fossil fuels.

“Some critics have argued renewable energies could come with high hidden greenhouse gas emissions that would negate their benefits to the climate. Our study now shows that the opposite is true,” Dr Luderer concluded.

Reference: Information and quotes written here relating to the study mentioned above along with full details of the study and its findings can be accessed at https://www.carbonbrief.org/solar-wind-nuclear-amazingly-low-carbon-footprints

A New Smart Grid

Traditionally the UK’s electricity network has been a one way supply with a number of large power stations generating electricity and supplying it to the grid. The rise of renewable energy generation from more numerous small scale installations plus a rise in demand for power for electric vehicles however has created a demand for the new smart grid capable of operating efficiently in the 21st century.

SP Energy Networks, one of the UK’s network operators is currently in the process of developing new technologies which will help create this smart grid. Other network operators including SSE Networks and UK Power Networks are also involved and all believe smart technologies could help create mini regional energy markets across the country in addition to the national transmission system. Under the cross industry plans, power from solar panels on properties or from electric vehicles could be sold back to the network, or even directly to neighbours using block-chain technology.

For example a new type of network power transformer transformer, the LV engine project, which can closely control network voltage and power flow and can provide a direct current (DC) power supply – essential for electric vehicle charging – and developed by SP Energy Networks will go through a five year trial funded by Ofgem. LV Engine will be delivered by SP Energy Networks in collaboration with fellow electricity network operator UK Power Networks.

SP Energy Networks will also lead a separate research scheme called FUSION to be trialled in the East Fife area. The project will create the UK’s first intelligent local energy marketplace where energy flexibility can be bought and sold by consumers in an open and competitive market.

Jim McOmish, SP Energy Networks Head of Distribution Networks, said: “Business and residential customers are seeking to maximise the efficiency and lower the cost of their energy use, and the flexibility of their demand for energy is a marketable commodity.

“At the moment there is no open accessible transparent market to buy and sell this flexibility, and the challenge is building one which unlocks that value for everybody – electricity providers on one side and consumers on the other.”

This project could see consumer savings of over £200million and carbon emission reductions of over 3million tonnes.

Frank Mitchell, CEO of SP Energy Networks, said: “These globally innovative projects will enable customers to be fully engaged in the electricity market, creating additional income through local generation and storage, whilst unlocking additional network capacity to make a truly nationwide network of electric vehicles a reality.

“I am delighted to secure this additional funding on behalf of our customers. These awards, which come hot on the heels of another recent Ofgem funding award to roll out the latest network monitoring and control technology in the Dumfries & Galloway area, demonstrate our continued leadership in commercial and technical innovation together with our ongoing ambition and capability to innovate in the best interests of our customers, communities and wider stakeholders.”

The Energy Networks Association (ENA) said Wednesday’s plan is the culmination of almost a year of small-scale trials and marks the start of a “rapid increase” in energy mini-markets in the next six years.

David Smith, boss of the ENA, said the overhaul will help networks to meet the challenge of balancing more complicated energy systems, provide a cash boost to customers, and deliver a £17bn benefit to the UK economy in the coming decades. The economic benefit could rise to as high as £40billion according to Government estimates.

Without doubt there is an energy revolution on the way. The increase in use of electric vehicles is expected to sky rocket over the coming years with traditional petrol and diesel based vehicles being phased out around the globe. As this happens not only will demand rise but the ability to store it will also.

All this demands a new smart grid to ensure that the electricity can flow as readily as needed and stored efficiently when not. The new technologies and projects proposed are therefore very welcome. The long term advantages of creating a new smart grid network will benefit us all and open up more clean, renewable and less expensive electricity to all of us.

 

Scotland’s innovative renewable projects

Scotland is on track to meet its target of 100% of electricity generation from renewable sources by 2020. Since the turn of the century we have gone from producing 10% of electricity from renewables to 60%. We hit our emissions reducing target five years earlier than anticipated and look set to preserve that momentum going forward.

Our transition to renewable energy has been made without any negative impact on the country’s finances demonstrating that there is no need to choose between ecological and economic considerations.

Wind power has played major role in this success with both onshore and offshore developments contributing significantly. Solar has also added its share although not to the same level as wind, as any resident will tell you, it is much more windy than it is sunny here.

It is not only these two major components which are providing clean electricity as more and more innovative ideas and projects are being realised throughout the country. With the reduction of new onshore wind and solar developments to almost zero over the past year it is these new type developments which will keep us on track for hitting and maintaining our targets.

For example in Glenrothes, Fife councillors have granted planning permission for a vast network of underground pipes to be installed throughout the town as part of the Glenrothes District Heating Scheme.

Although the councillors were concerned regarding the extent of pipe laying required committee members were reassured the pipework generally followed the route of roads and unless absolutely necessary would avoid existing utilities and greenspaces with all excavated land being replaced as it is.

The £17million project is being organised by the local council in conjunction with energy company RWE and the Scottish Government with the aim to provide low-carbon heat to both residential and business premises. It will use heat capacity from the local biomass plant and transport it initially to the council’ Fife and Rothesay House. A further 327 homes have been identified as potential beneficiaries as has Rothes Hall, a local library, a social club, a church and a number of shops.

Another example is a pioneering Scottish Government funded trial currently taking place in Aberdeenshire into the use of hydrogen technology to reduce and hopefully eliminate carbon emissions from tractors and other farm vehicles.

A number of farmers are taking part in the trial including David Barron who will using the hydrogen electrolyser technology on his JCB loader tractor. The special hydrolyser has been retrofitted and although it will not replace the vehicles diesel use it will reduce it significantly meaning a reduction in its carbon emission output.

The unit puts an electric current through distilled water to create oxy-hydrogen which is then put through the engine helping to keep it extremely clean. As well as reducing carbon emissions the hydrolyser unit reduced the machine’s fuel consumption by approximately three litres per hour.

Based on a fuel cost of 50p a litre, this equates to a saving of £1.50 an hour and a potential annual saving of £1,500 if the machine is used for 1,000 hours during the year.

Phil Davies, of Water Fuel Engineering Ltd, which fitted the hydrolyser to the loader, said Mr Barron’s JCB was the first agricultural machine in the UK to be fitted with this new technology. He said: “What we have created is an electrolyser which produces oxy-hydrogen on board and on demand.

“We have turned a standard diesel vehicle into a hybrid to clean up the emissions – it takes out about 80% of the emissions.”

He said the company was confident that the technology would be mass produced and commercially available to farmers, at an affordable price, from 2019.

“We are really excited because in the past five to 10 years the government has made a lot of noise about emissions in cities, but in rural areas it’s more significant. What perhaps we will need to be thinking about is how heavy industrial traffic could actually contribute to cleaner air. There’s a danger sometimes that we might take clean air for granted.”

Alan Bruce, of SAC Consulting’s office in Turriff, oversees Nether Aden’s involvement in the government project. He confirmed improved efficiency and reduced carbon emissions went hand in hand.

Mr Barron’s farm is one of nine taking part in the Scottish Government’s Farming for a Better Climate initiative which helps farmers find ways to make their businesses more profitable and efficient, while in turn reducing their carbon footprint.

As well as installing the hydrolyser on his JCB, Mr Barron has discussed a wide range of issues with fellow farmers attending meetings at Nether Aden as part of the Farming for a Better Climate initiative. In addition, Mr Barron has enrolled Nether Aden in the government’s Agri-Environment and Climate Change Scheme and green manure has been incorporated into cropping plans as part of this.

Over the coming years there will be many more creative ideas and inventive projects launched to utilise our renewable sources and continue to reduce our carbon emissions. However small they may seem they all add up and contribute significantly to us meeting our renewable energy generation and carbon emission reductions.

Whilst wind and solar are incredibly important for us is achieving these it is the combined contribution of the small projects that will take us over the line and keep us there.

 

The Balancing Act

A new study from battery developers Eaton in partnership with the Renewable Energy Association (REA) and Bloomberg New Energy Finance shows that the cost of generating energy from wind and solar in the UK is expected to halve by 2040 which in turn is expected to lead to more opportunities for energy storage.

The study confirmed that the intermittency of wind and solar energy generation will create extremely varied outputs. This is likely to produce periods when output exceeds demand and also when demand outstrips generation levels.

The study does state that while battery storage is a viable solution to short-term volatility issues it is not well suited to providing long term back-up of weeks or months. To meet these longer-term gaps hydro, interconnectors and gas generation are the only solutions that can ease flexibility economically. Other technologies such as hydrogen storage would require significant cost reductions by 2040.

Speaking at the launch of the study report BNEF’s head of global analysis Albert Cheung said: “This study highlights a seismic shift in how power systems will operate in future. As wind and solar become the cheapest options for power generation, the race is on to develop and deploy the flexible resources that will complement them.”

This new study follows on from the BNEF New Energy Outlook report published in June which stated that renewable energy generation will account for approximately 75% of the projected $10 trillion of global investment in energy technologies by 2040.

The expected back-up capacity is expected to remain relatively flat up to 2040 with current levels being approximately 70GW. This could be balanced via dispatchable resources, generation, storage, flexibility and interconnectors. In the highest output months, the UK could source 70% of its needs from wind and solar and some associations claim that bioenergy could be used to provide the remaining baseload.

Another solution could be found in the Nordic countries where a larger percentage of the energy generation and storage is produced and maintained via hydro-power. While the Nordic countries are expected to produce 67% of their energy in generated by hydro by 2040 the figure in the UK is currently projected to be much lower leading to claims that more hydro generation and hydro storage options are required.

“Massive increases in future renewable power generation mean that industry and government must start planning now to ensure low-carbon, cost-effective ways of balancing demand and supply,” the REA’s chief executive Dr Nina Skorupska said.

“We believe that there is a role for fuelled renewable technologies such as bioenergy and energy from waste to provide the complementary baseload generation that will be required, to avoid the need for carbon intensive generation at all.”

Analysis from the Carbon Trust suggests that energy storage could contribute £2.4bn to UK electricity system savings by 2030, but only if a range of ‘necessary regulatory reforms’ are introduced to steady the UK’s energy market.

“These solutions could include continued promotion of smart metering, reforms to increase market openness and transparency for all grid ancillary services and long-term grid service contracts and pricing schemes. We will also analyse the benefits of various policy options for the future of the energy market that include storage,” Eaton’s distributed energy segment manager Louis Shaffer said.

Energy storage is fast becoming one of the hottest topics in generation circles. As countries continue to increase their renewable output viable storage solutions become equally important As with energy generation successful storage will require a mix of different technologies to cater for different situations.   Battery storage will certainly work on a local short-term level. However large scale nationwide supply will require more suitable technologies.

Pump Storage Hydro is considered to be one of the most advanced largest capacity form of grid energy storage that currently exists. This proven technology can help reduce renewable energy curtailment and therefore promote grid stability. For example ILI Group is currently working on three potential large scale developments in Scotland which combined could export over 1.2GW of energy to the grid.

Renewable energy is the answer to clean, safe energy generation. Renewable energy storage will help us overcome intermittency issues and guarantee that whatever the weather we will have a continuous flow of clean energy.

 

A Perfect Match

Wind power was the toast of Scotland again in October as over the course of the month turbines throughout the country produced enough electricity for almost double the amount of homes.

1.7million megawatt hours of electricity were generated by Scottish wind turbines in October according to data collated by WeatherEnergy, enough to power 4.5 million homes with more than 100 per cent of the total domestic electricity requirement generated on 28 out of 31 days.

WeatherEnergy’s Karen Robinson said: “October was an extraordinary month and provides more evidence that greater investment in both renewables and storage is the way forward.”

Gina Hanrahan, acting head of policy at WWF Scotland, said: “No-one will be surprised that October proved to be a spectacular month for wind energy, with some high winds, including the tail end of Hurricane Ophelia.

“Fortunately our infrastructure coped well with the windy weather which provided enough to power nearly twice the number of households in Scotland and almost all of our electricity demand.

“Scotland’s renewable sector is thriving, but to have continued growth of clean, cheap power the UK Government needs to allow onshore wind and solar to compete for contracts on a level playing field.

“This is backed by everyone from the Scottish Government to the National Infrastructure Commission to Ofgem and, most importantly, the general public.

“Renewables, including onshore wind, are riding high in the polls with record levels of support. Consumers, the industry and the planet would all benefit from their continued deployment.”

Stephanie Conesa, policy manager at industry body Scottish Renewables, said: “Scotland is home to approximately 25 per cent of Europe’s offshore wind resource and we are now starting to build projects which will harness this potential.

“The Beatrice project in the Moray Firth is forging ahead, Statoil’s world-leading Hywind is now generating electricity and the contract awarded to the 950MW Moray East project by the UK Government in 2017 showed the impressive cost reductions which are possible in the sector.

“Scotland is also emerging as an international centre of offshore wind innovation. The 196 metre Levenmouth turbine in Fife is the world’s most advanced open access offshore wind turbine dedicated to research, while the European Offshore Wind Deployment Centre – an 11-turbine scheme off Aberdeen – is set to trial next-generation technology and boost the industry’s drive to produce competitive clean power.

“The economic impact of these projects is already being felt. Ports like Nigg and Wick and coastal towns, including Campbeltown and Stornoway, are seeing investment, development and jobs.

“Other parts of the supply chain, too, are developing apace, with companies such as Edinburgh’s Limpet Technologies developing innovative systems to protect the offshore wind workforce of the future.

“The Scottish Government has shown its ambition to generate the equivalent of half of all energy consumed from renewable sources by 2030 and offshore wind can play a key role in meeting that ambition, as well as the UK’s wider climate goals and our international commitments under the Paris Agreement.”

In other wind generation news the Crown Estate Scotland, who are responsible for leasing the seabed to developers, is to start discussions with the renewables industry and the government to prepare for potential new offshore wind farms.

The proposed new leasing will potentially see more sea bed used by developers to build commercial-scale (100MW+) floating and / or fixed offshore wind farms and follows figures released in September showing a sharp fall in the cost of offshore wind electricity.

John Robertson, senior development manager at Crown Estate Scotland said: “We have now started to consider if and how to issue new leasing rights for commercial-scale offshore wind projects.

“This will include speaking to local, Scottish and UK stakeholders in 2018 to understand their views on our proposed approach.

“The waters around Scotland have fantastic potential, particularly for developments in deeper waters.

“With costs being lowered and jobs created throughout the supply chain, new leasing has the potential to benefit communities, consumers and the climate.”

Scottish Government minister for business, innovation and energy, Paul Wheelhouse MSP, said: “The potential benefits of offshore wind energy are enormous, given Scotland’s very extensive maritime area and estimated 25% share of Europe’s wind energy potential.

“Investment in renewable energy, such as offshore wind, will not only stimulate economic growth, but can also help to lower electricity prices in the future and significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions and, thereby, mitigate the impacts of climate change.

“We want to maximise the huge potential of this industry and its supply chain here, in Scotland, and so I welcome Crown Estate Scotland’s efforts to identify future licensing opportunities and look forward to working with CES as they manage Scotland’s marine assets directly on behalf of Scottish Ministers.”

UK Government energy minister, Richard Harrington, said: “The offshore wind sector in the UK has shown great ambition and is bringing forward clean energy projects that could power more than 3 million homes, at half the cost achieved in previous auctions.

“Our Clean Growth Strategy sets out that the UK could support another 10GW of offshore wind in the 2020s, with the opportunity for more if it’s cost effective. This announcement today is an important step towards these future projects.”

We have always stated that a diverse renewable energy mix is the best way to generate power and stand by that. However wind generation is very much the leader in Scotland. Its technologies are tested and reliable. Its costs are now below that of the non-renewable traditional generation methods and we have the resources. It is a perfect match.

So while it is not surprising to see it producing such quantities of electricity it is pleasing. With new storage methods coming online the ability to produce, store, and distribute renewable energy to suit the peaks and troughs of consumer demand is not far away.

And with that will come the realisation of 100% of the country’s electricity demand being met by renewables. Then we can start importing to other countries all the while reducing our reliance on carbon based energy and the harmful emissions it can produce.

 

Positives and Negatives for the UK Renewables Industry

New statistics released by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) last week revealed an extensive  downturn in solar PV development in the UK.  In particular, the last two months shown, August and September, have seen just 13MW and 12MW installed respectively.

Since the closure of the Renewables Obligation for solar in March 2017 a similar level of new capacity has been added to the grid. In Q1 2017 it is estimated that 541 MW in capacity was added with Q2 and Q3 only deploying 77MW combined.

The government has committed to conduct a review of the feed-in tariff scheme before the end of this year, however resisted the chance to do so within its Clean Growth Strategy which largely ignored solar PV’s possible contribution to a cleaner power system.

However the stagnating solar deployment has been set against a backdrop of record renewables and low carbon generation in Q2 2017, indicating just how successful renewable energy has been at replacing legacy fossil fuel generators within the UK power mix.

BEIS revealed last week that a record 29.8% from renewable energies which was largely driven by soaring wind and PV generation.

James Court, head of policy and external affairs at the Renewable Energy Association, described the record as “another milestone” towards a more flexible energy system and said the success had been facilitated by the fall in costs of solar and wind.

“The government must address the policy barriers which have unnecessarily impeded their deployment over the last year and give the industry clarity around how the market will be structured in the 2020’s.

“We must now also replicate this progress within the heat and transport sectors. This means deploying renewable technologies which are able to utilise resources such as waste, bioenergy and low carbon power, coupled with smarter and more efficient housing. There is no single silver bullet.”

While solar stagnates heat pump technology continues to grow with new pioneering scheme to be developed in Clydebank. The development will use water pumped from the nearby River Clyde and will form part of the £250million Queen’s Quay regeneration project, the site chosen for the scheme has been the now disused John Brown’s shipyard.

Commenting on news that plans have been submitted Sarah Beattie-Smith, Senior Climate and Energy Policy Officer at WWF Scotland said: “Cutting our reliance on fossil fuels for heating our homes and buildings is the critical next stage in the journey to a zero carbon Scotland.  This exciting new project would apply technology already tried and tested by Scottish companies overseas.

“It’s fantastic to think that having played host to the industrial revolution the Clyde can now be the source of renewable heat, helping to stimulate Scotland’s part in the global low carbon industrial revolution.  With Scotland having no shortage of rivers or coastline near our towns and cities this technology could play an important role in helping us ensure half of all Scotland’s energy needs across heat, electricity and transport are met by renewables by 2030.”

Whilst renewable energy generation continues to produce high quantities of clean electricity heat generation is still highly carbon intensive. As heat generation accounts for half of all energy use it is therefore imperative to continue to develop technologies and launch projects in the renewable heat sector.

As more of these types are projects are launched we will see our reliance on carbon intensive heat technologies reduce much in the way we have seen renewable energy revolutionise electricity generation.

The answer will not be as simple as wind turbines or solar panels and the works involved may be more costly and initially on a smaller scale but in the long term the value is incalculable.

Scotland’s floating wind farm officially opens

The world’s first floating wind farm off the coast of Scotland exported electricity to the grid for the first time this week. The ground breaking development fifteen miles from Peterhead in the North East of the country was formally opened by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon on Wednesday.

The project, developed by Norwegian state energy company Statoil, consists of five 6MW Siemens Gamesa machines atop Navantia-made floating spar foundations which are suitable for water depths of up to 800 metres. A one megawatt-hour lithium battery storage solution called Batwind will also be installed as part of the project.

Floating turbines have been installed on about 2.5 square miles (four sq km) of water in the North Sea, where the average wind speed is about 10 metres per second. At 175m from sea surface to blade tip they extend another 78 metres below the surface and are chained to the seabed to stay in place.

Norwegian energy firm Statoil has been working on developing the project, known as Hywind, for more than 15 years. The floating approach allows turbines to be installed in much deeper waters than conventional offshore wind farms.

This wind farm is positioned in water depths of up to 129m, whereas those fixed to the seabed are generally at depths of up to 50m. Statoil says up to 80 per cent of potential offshore wind sites are in waters more than 60m deep. The company believes floating turbines have the potential to work in depths of up to 800m.

The first minister said the project, which will generate enough power for about 20,000 homes, was testament to Scotland’s “international reputation” for renewable energy.

Ms Sturgeon said: “Scotland has developed an international reputation for modern, renewable energy technologies and Hywind Scotland – the world’s first floating wind farm – is testament to that.

“This pilot project underlines the potential of Scotland’s huge offshore wind resource and positions Scotland at the forefront of the global race to develop the next generation of offshore wind technologies. In addition to the green benefits of renewable energy, it also has a very significant contribution to make to our economy.

“I’m pleased Scottish suppliers have contributed to the Hywind project from the development through to the production phase and are still involved to investigate long-term potential for floating wind. This has been possible through the unique support which we have made available in Scotland.”

Environmental campaigners also welcomed the opening, with Gina Hanrahan, acting head of policy at WWF Scotland, “With around a quarter of Europe’s offshore wind resource in Scotland, it’s great to see the world’s first floating wind farm inaugurated off our coast.

“Offshore wind is already an industrial success story across the UK, cutting emissions, creating jobs and dramatically driving down costs.

“By demonstrating the commercial viability of floating wind, Scotland can help to develop the industry in new frontiers and deeper waters. With this kind of innovation and investment, and continued political support, Scotland will continue to power towards our target of securing half of all our energy needs from renewable sources by 2030.”

Scottish Renewables chief executive Claire Mack said: “Hywind’s presence in Scottish waters is a reminder that, as the windiest country in Europe, and with some of the deepest waters and most promising offshore wind sites, Scotland is perfectly placed to capitalise on floating turbine technology.

“That deployment, through sites like Hywind and the Kincardine project further south will help lower costs for this young sector, increasing the opportunity for Scotland to take advantage of a significant future global market.”

We previously wrote about the Hywind project when the turbines were first floated back in August and we are delighted to report the official project launch. Wind generation has proven to be clean, reliable, and cost effective. When it comes to producing electricity it is the most advanced of the renewable technologies. Wind speeds are higher on average offshore and the extra distance these floating turbines can be set at increases potential capacity even further.

After a period of production it is expected that the technology will be rolled out to all Scottish offshore waters increasing our generation capacity and continuing to make positive strides towards our goal of 100% of electricity generated from renewable sources.

We believe that this week is a landmark in achieving this goal and will be remembered as such for many years to come.

Scotland’s Public Energy Company

At the SNP party conference earlier this week in Glasgow First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced plans to create a new state owned energy provider. The main aims of this new venture would be to promote renewable energy generation and help reduce rising energy costs for consumers.

Energy generated or resold by the new company would be available across Scotland as an alternative to privately owned providers such are Scottish Power, Scottish Gas, and Scottish and Southern Energy.

In her announcement Ms Sturgeon claimed that the company would be incorporated by 2021, supplying both electricity and gas and would give consumers in Scotland the option to switch to a supplier only concerned with securing the lowest price for customers.

Ms. Sturgeon also stated that the company would be fully operational by end of the current parliament and that more details will be set out in the government’s forthcoming energy strategy.

“Energy would be bought wholesale or generated here in Scotland – renewable, of course – and sold to customers as close to cost price as possible,” she said. “No shareholders to worry about. No corporate bonuses to consider. “It would give people – particularly those on low incomes – more choice and the option of a supplier whose only job is to secure the lowest price for consumers.”

Both the Labour and Conservative Parties have recently announced energy price cap policies with Labour also having recently suggested a not for profit energy provider. Scottish Labour interim leader Alex Rowley accused the SNP of “passing off” his party’s policies as her own and an attempt to address fears among senior SNP strategists of a Labour revival in Scotland. However the SNP had pledged to explore the option of a new publicly owned, not for profit energy company during the campaign for last year’s Holyrood election.

Responding to Ms Sturgeon’s speech, Mr Rowley said: “From a not-for-profit energy company to teacher training bursaries, action on period poverty and promises on public sector pay, this conference shows that it is Labour which is setting the policy agenda in Scotland.”

Emma Grant McColm, energy spokesperson for the Citizens Advice Scotland Consumer Futures Unit last night cautiously backed the announcement. “We would welcome any intervention that genuinely increases fairness for energy consumers,” she said.

Claire Mack, chief executive of Scottish Renewables, said a state-owned energy firm could provide a “one-stop-shop” or gateway to accessing public funds.

We at ILI Energy see both positives and negatives in this announcement however it also raises many questions which we believe have to be answered sufficiently prior to it becoming operational. As they plan to generate at least some of the energy it will be providing they will have to own energy generation installations.

Will it be developing these themselves or will they be looking to purchase them from developers? How does this affect planning for such developments especially since the Scottish Government is currently involved in the planning stages of large scale installations?

As they also plan to buy energy and effectively be a reseller much in the same way as Robin Hood Energy and Bristol Energy in England who will they be buying it from and will they have long term power purchase agreements? How will they decide who to buy it from?

Also how will these meet concerns with competition regulations? As stated we are not against this however we strongly believe that a lot has to be satisfied before it can become viable.

That said we are very much for affordable clean energy for all and if this is a mechanism which can achieve this in a way which is commercially fair then it could be beneficial for all of Scotland.

 

Positive news for Islands amid future energy uncertainty

As part of their 2017 election manifesto the Conservative party pledged to support land based wind turbines in Shetland as long as the community benefit from any development. However no timescale was attributed to the pledge.

Local newspaper ‘The Shetland Times’ learned this week that an announcement is due later this month when it is hoped that information relating to the proposal will produce definitive plans for future developments and end the uncertainty over the islands’ energy supply.

Industry regulator Ofgem recently released a proposal stating that a 60MW subsea cable from Dounreay on the mainland could be connected to the islands however this would require backup provided by diesel engines. Alternate plans for a new power station at Rova Head in Lerwick were scrapped as Ofgem claimed it didn’t offer value.

This new proposal has been met with resistance from local councillors who this week published a special report focusing on the limitations of the supply only cable in particular concerns that Shetland’s potential as an exporter of energy will be delayed and even lost if the ability to export electricity to the mainland is lost.

Development committee Chairman Alastair Cooper remains optimistic. Speaking to ‘The Shetland Times’ he said: “Ofgem and National Grid needs the UK government to clarify its position. They’re actually dealing with a situation that is in front of them today. They’re having to deal with the situation as they have it.

“If the UK government would provide clarity on the remote island wind they may even, at this late stage, still be able to take a better decision.”

While Shetland is experiencing issues with potential renewable generation, further south the picture is much rosier. This week industry giant Scottish and Southern Energy (SSE) released figures showing the impact renewable energy community contributions had affected the Perth and Kinross area in a positive way over the past year. In total £518,000 was delivered in support of local groups and projects.

Forty eight local projects in total have benefitted from the fund including the Tayside Mountain Rescue Association which was awarded £25,000 from the Griffin and Calliachar Fund to purchase a new communications command vehicle.

The thirty strong volunteer team assist those in need on mountains, local rivers, canyons and cycle trails. The new vehicle will assist in the safety of expeditions until at least 2030 and will also be used to educate the community on staying safe while outdoors.

Stuart Johnston, team leader, said: “The funding will help to protect our mountain rescue volunteers and the people we rescue. Our new incident command vehicle provides essential support for volunteer safety.”

Others to benefit from the community fund included Dunkeld and Birnam Friends of Guiding who received £70,000 towards restorations to their meeting hall and the Alyth Development Trust which received £22,000 to help support the Alyth Town Development Plan.

The SSE report published last week also stated that for every £1 received from the fund, recipients obtained an additional £5.26 in match funding from other sources.

SSE head of sustainability Rachel McEwen said: “We hope that these projects will leave a lasting legacy for the local communities in Perth and Kinross and that the success of these projects will encourage more groups to come forward and apply for funding.”

SSE’s community investment annual review documents every award made from SSE’s 27 community benefit funds. In total, 402 not-for-profit projects received grants to the value of £4,965,322 in the 12-month period.

Due to location Shetland unfortunately missed out on the renewable energy boom of the past ten years so it was very welcome to see the government pledge to support new onshore wind farm developments on the islands. However the delay in any further information plus the recent Ofgem recommendation is concerning.

The islands are particularly windy, even for Scotland, and therefore their ability to generate a surplus of electricity would almost be guaranteed. Add the advancements in battery technology and the right amount of strategic developments and the islands could be powering themselves, and others, cleanly and safely for the foreseeable future. We strongly hope the outcome of the forthcoming announcement is positive for the entire island community.

Further south things are very different. Community contributions have in the past been perceived by detractors as a negative, playing their part in convincing local communities to allow turbines in the area. However time and time again it has been shown the majority of those living close to wind farms do not feel negative towards them whether they benefit from community funds or not.

In most cases, almost everyone does either directly or indirectly and when such worthwhile causes such as Mountain rescue teams receive a boost it is difficult to frame it as a negative.

Renewable energy and wind power in particular is now less expensive than the majority of alternative generation sources providing clean, safe energy for everyone. Local communities are benefitting in a number of different ways through funds including skills, education, community facilities and services.

All in all we do not see any negatives and believe that in the future we will be powered 100% from renewable energy. We also believe it won’t be that far in the future.