Renewable links with Isles move a step closer

Last week the abundant renewable energy potential of the Scottish Isles and Islands took a step closer to being unlocked.

A report published last week for the Scottish and UK Governments by consultancy group Xero Energy has highlighted the actions which will need to be taken to ensure that the renewable resources available in areas such as the Shetland and Orkney Islands are available to the mainland. Much work will need to carried out to ensure that grid infrastructure is improved.

The key findings of the report are to considered by the intergovernmental Scottish Islands Renewables Group. These meetings are part of an ongoing collaborative process between the two governments to ensure that both Scottish and UK Renewable Energy 2020 targets are reached. Some of the reports key findings are as follows; certainty has to be provided for developers around the longevity of support from government which underpins the business case for sub-sea grid development,  the stability of grid charges, loan charges, and research funding support for grid connections for marine technologies such as tidal turbines.

One of the proposed sub-sea cables would stretch 50 miles (80 kilometres) from Gravis on the Isle of Lewis to Ullapool on the North-Western coast of Scotland. This cable would then link up to Beauly to Denny powerline. Great strides have been made on the Isles to unlock their renewable resources (work in which we at Intelligent Land Investments (Renewable Energy) have been involved in) but grid connections have to be improved to allow power to be exported to the mainland.

Commenting on the publication of the report Scottish Energy Minister Fergus Ewing commented:

“I welcome the publication of the Xero report, which will help us to address the critical remaining barriers to new transmission connections for the Western Isles, Orkney and Shetland Islands.

“The three island groups share significant challenges in getting grid connections off the drawing board in time to access support within the timeframe of the first Electricity Market Reform Delivery due to long lead-times and high costs for sub-sea connections – typically, upwards of four years to achieve approval and to build. The findings from this report will help us deal with these issues.

“There is wide acknowledgement across both the Scottish and UK Governments that the Scottish islands hold huge renewable energy potential, which could make a substantial contribution to both governments’ 2020 renewable energy targets and longer-term climate change ambitions.

“Our collaborative approach is based on this shared understanding, and through the work of the inter-governmental Scottish Islands Renewables Group, we will continue to build momentum towards delivery of these vital connections.”

UK Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change Ed Davey also released a statement:

“This report will play an important part in the next stage of our partnership work for renewable energy from the Scottish islands. We have already made more progress in the last year than for many years, after the UK Government announced last December additional support for onshore wind projects, with a special higher Scottish Islands strike price. While that initiative itself should unlock much potential green energy, I’m determined to tackle remaining issues despite the complexity involved.”

Last week also saw the publication of the Scottish Government’s Good Practice Principles for Community Benefits from Onshore Renewable Developments following an extensive period of consultation. These Principles have been designed to ensure that communities benefit from renewable energy developments in their area. The Scottish Government has already established a register of community benefits to allow communities to make sure they receive an appropriate  level of community benefit.

The key principle which has been unveiled is the promotion of a national community benefits package rate equivalent of at least £5,000 per Megawatt per year – index linked to inflation for the operational lifespan of developments. This would mean that, for example, a 20 Megawatt wind would generate a community benefit of at least £100,000 per year. At this point we are pleased to tell you that all of our developments at ILI (RE) already meet these requirements. All of our onshore wind developments have always included a community benefit which is directed to our local charity partners to ensure that communities benefit from our developments; even at the time when community benefits were not required by either national or local authorities.

Another key proposal of the new guidance is to encourage developers to to submit information on community benefits at the earliest possible stage of development. This is to allow communities to consider any proposals and develop ideas as to where such funding would be directed. Again we at ILI (RE) have always been proud of our community benefits and charity partnerships and have always sought to make local authorities aware of these.

Speaking at the fifth annual Scottish Highland Renewable Energy Conference Scottish Energy Minister Fergus Ewing launched the publication of the Principles:

“Community benefits from renewable energy offer a unique and unprecedented opportunity to communities across Scotland. Today, I can confirm that there is now around 285 megawatts of such capacity operational across Scotland. That puts us well over half way towards the target, and represents an increase of 40 per cent on the previous year’s figure.

“The Good Practice Principles is a landmark moment in encouraging developers to invest in community benefit schemes arising from renewables development and overall contribute to our target.

“This Guidance has drawn mainly on experience from the onshore wind sector but the Scottish Government would like to see community benefits promoted across all renewables technologies.

“This document details good practice principles and procedures promoted by Scottish Government, and is intended as a practical guide to the process but also, through examples of what is already being achieved, as a showcase to inspire success.

“Featured schemes include the Allt Dearg Community Wind Farm, which, through partial community-ownership, generated £130,000 for the Ardrishaig Community Trust in the first nine months of operation to September 2013, and which is expected to generate £100,000 in annual income to the Trust.

“The Scottish Government is very keen to see other communities get the chance to invest in local developments like this, and that is why as part of the Principles we have set up a short-term industry working group to develop guidance to encourage community investment in commercial renewables schemes.”

Finally, this week saw the publication of the Department of Energy and Climate Change’s latest (and ninth) quarterly Public Attitudes Tracker. The survey was conducted in over 2,000 UK households in late March and has allowed the government to keep track of public opinion and support for renewable energy. The results of the survey have revealed that public support for renewable energy has remained strong.

Indeed, 80% of respondents stated that they “supported the use of renewable energy to provide the UK’s electricity, fuel and heat”. Public levels of support have remained strong over the two year period in which these surveys have been carried out. This is despite the anti-renewables line taken by some mainstream media outlets over the course of this period. A majority of 59% of respondents stated that they would be happy to have a large scale renewable energy development in their area. This is a 4% increase compared to the survey published in March 2012 perhaps suggesting that more and more people are realizing the necessity of increasing the UK’s renewable energy capacity and the benefits which a renewable energy development can bring to an area.

It is also interesting to note that public support for individual forms of renewable energy generation have been unaffected by negative coverage in some parts of the media. Public support for onshore wind energy has reached an all time high of 70% indicating the public desire for more onshore wind developments. Both solar and offshore wind also saw record levels of support of  85% and 77% respectively.

One reason suggested for the entrenchment of public support for renewable energy is the increasing level of concern about climate change. According to survey climate change and energy security are now the joint fourth “biggest challenges facing the UK today”. The link between renewable energy and concern about climate change was illustrated by the publication of a report by the United Nations a few weeks ago; which outlined in the strongest possible terms that it is only through greatly increased use of renewable energy that disastrous climate change may be avoided.

With the media’s role in shaping public opinion on matters of energy generation under the spotlight it is extremely interesting to read the survey results on shale gas fracking. Some aspects are hugely in favor of shale gas fracking and have promoted it accordingly. Public awareness of the process of fracking has increased. In March 2013 48% of survey respondents were unaware of the process; this has now decreased to 25%. But, increased awareness has not translated into increased support. Under 30% of respondents supported shale gas fracking; very much a minority and very much in contrast to the majority support received by renewable energy.

Reading the news this week one can see the image of a renewably powered UK beginning to take shape. With a majority of the public in favor, community benefit guidelines being established and moving a step closer to unlocking the renewable potential of the Scottish Isles one can see the direction in which we are heading. We at ILI (RE) look forward to playing our part in realizing this.

UK Government announces backing for 8 major renewable energy projects

Today the United Kingdom Government announced that deals have been agreed to provide financial support for eight major renewable energy projects which will provide enough renewable energy capacity to power millions of homes.

Of the eight renewable energy projects five are offshore wind farms, the remaining 3 are biomass developments. All eight are to be supported by the Government’s Contracts for Difference support scheme. Through this scheme the government has agreed to pay a fixed rate for the power generated by these eight renewable energy developments for a period of fifteen years. The price will be determined by the date on which the developments begin to feed electricity into the grid. The sooner these developments come online the higher the price they receive will be.

The 8 projects combined could add up 4.5GW (gigawatts) of renewable electricity generation capacity to the National Grid. 4.5GW of power represents 4% of the UK’s current electricity capacity or enough electricity to power over three million homes across the UK. According to Government figures the eight projects will provide up to £12 billion of private investment in the UK economy by 2020 and support up to 8,500 jobs. Additionally, once completed, the 8 developments could produce 14% of the renewable energy the UK requires to meet it’s 2020 renewable energy generation targets. The increase in renewable capacity and reduction in the need for fossil fuels is also expected to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 10 million tonnes a year.

The eight developments are spread across the UK. The largest project approved in terms of capacity is the new 1.2GW Hornsea wind farm which will be located off the Yorkshire coast. Two other entirely new wind farms will also receive funding; the 664MW (megawatt) Beatrice wind farm which will be sited off the Moray coast and the 402MW Dudgeon wind farm which will be sited off the north Norfolk coast. Two extensions for existing offshore wind farms were also approved for funding; a 258MW extension to the Burbo Bank wind farm off the coast of Merseyside and a 660MW extension to the Walney wind farm in the Irish Sea.  The three biomass projects are also located across the country. Lynemouth power station in Northumberland and Drax power station in Yorkshire are to be converted for biomass use. And finally a brand new 229MW dedicated biomass power station will be constructed in Teeside.

Industry trade body Scottish Renewables released a statment following the announcement that the proposed Beatrice wind farm (located in Scottish waters) had been successful in it’s application:

“It is greatly encouraging to see a Scottish offshore wind project selected for an early investment contract by the Department of Energy and Climate Change.

“Having received planning consent from the Scottish Government in March, to now get an early Contract for Difference gives the Beatrice project the certainty of support we’ve been calling for from the UK Government.

“With our huge offshore wind resource, it is not unrealistic to expect to see a number of Scottish offshore wind projects receive planning consent and secure financial support by the end of the year.

“This decision will help kick-start the offshore wind sector in Scotland, which has the potential to provide thousands of jobs and billions of pounds of inward investment to our country, while also making a significant contribution to Scotland’s ambitious 2020 renewable energy targets.”

The eight projects were selected from an original shortlist of 57 applications. A smaller shortlist of 10 was published in December. These ten sites had been chosen on the criteria of cost effectiveness. Further Contracts for Difference are to be made available in the autumn of this year. The UK Government is committed to meeting over 30% of UK electricity demand from renewable sources by 2020.

Announcing the successful projects UK Energy Secretary Ed Davey made the following statement:

“These contracts for major renewable electricity projects mark a new stage in Britain’s green energy investment boom.

“By themselves they will bring green jobs and growth across the UK, but they are a significant part of our efforts to give Britain cleaner and more secure energy.

“These are the first investments from our reforms to build the world’s first low carbon electricity market – reforms which will see competition and markets attract tens of billions of pounds of vital energy investment whilst reducing the costs of clean energy to consumers.

“Record levels of energy investment are at the forefront of the Government’s infrastructure programme and are filling the massive gap we inherited. It’s practical reforms like these that will keep the lights on and tackle climate change, by giving investors more certainty.”

It should be remembered that it is not through offshore wind and biomass alone that Scottish and UK renewable energy targets will be met. All forms of renewable energy generation will have to play their part. Particularly onshore wind; due to it’s nature one of the cheapest and most mature renewable energy technologies. We at Intelligent Land Investments (Renewable Energy) are looking forward to contributing further to meeting the countries binding renewable energy generation targets.

In other news this week it was announced that Scotland could soon be home to new form of floating wind turbine. The BAT (Buoyant Airborne Turbine) has been in development for several years through a collaboration between entrepreneurs and US military personnel.

The BATs (which some have said resemble UFOs in appearance) are filled with helium and are then tethered to the ground. The technology is intended to operate at increased heights in comparison to more traditional wind turbines  allowing power to be generated from higher wind speeds. The tether has the dual function of allowing higher wind speeds to be used and to reduce costs.

Currently 4 prototypes have been developed. The first commercial model is expected to be tested in Alaska in 2015 by American green energy firm Altaeros Energies. This model is expected to produce 30kW from a height of 1,000 feet. Successful testing of this model will then be followed by further testing of higher capacity designs at increased heights. Scotland has been mooted as a suitable location for further testing due to the high wind speeds as well as the large number of isolated rural communities located in the country. The BATs are intended to be used in isolated areas where energy has to be transported in; as is the case on several of the Scottish Isles.

Altaeros business development manager Ryan Holy said: “The real value is that we are generating more electricity because we are capturing stronger, more consistent resource, and that means that the price is going to be lower because the annual kWh produced will be a lot higher.

“In addition to that, the customer doesn’t have to deal with a lot of the logistical headaches of installing a concrete path or a tower, which can take some time and might be dependent on seasons.

“We are looking at remote and rural locations first, and any region that is suffering from high electricity costs, as our product can give that customer more energy independence and lower their price, so it could be some parts of Scotland, or any islands that have to ship their fuel in.”

The development of the BAT demonstrates that despite onshore wind being one of the most mature renewable energy technologies there is still vast room for improvement, innovation and cost reduction.

 

Gamesa unveils new anti-ice tech

This week turbine manufacturer Gamesa launched a new and innovative solution to ice formation on turbine blades.

The new system, known as ‘Bladeshield’, is a paint based solution, featuring the usage of nano-materials, which is designed to combat the issue of ice formation experienced in colder climates.

Whilst solutions are already available for this issue, ‘Bladeshield’ is the first technology to not simply reduce ice formation and erosion but to help prevent it. An additive is dissolved and applied to the paint base before being applied to turbine blades. The new paint is expected to improve, even double, the durability of turbine blades.

The new solution has been under development for the last three years as a part of the Azimut project for the development of new offshore technologies. The Azimut project is a collaborative project between a number of Spanish renewable energy companies to develop technologies used in both onshore and offshore wind with the intended aim of producing a new 15MW turbine model. The Azimut project works in collaboration with Spain’s Centre for the Development of Offshore Technology. It should be noted, however, that Gamesa has already confirmed that the new paint solution will be used in their line of 2.0MW – 2.5MW turbines for both onshore and offshore use.

Gamesa’s Chief Technology Officer Jose Antonio Malumbres commented:

“Although Gamesa already had blade de-icing systems, it has developed this innovative solution in anticipation of the emerging needs of our increasingly sophisticated and demanding customers. Most of the anti-icing solutions on the markets studied within Azimut project reduce blade paint´s resistance to erosion. Gamesa has attempted to remain one step ahead, using nano-materials to create a system that not only prevents ice formation but also improves anti-erosion performance.”

Gamesa has already unveiled a number of other technical innovations including two separate, custom designed, systems for detecting and removing ice from the blades of their 2MW and 2.5MW turbines. An additional ice prevention system is currently being designed for the company’s range of 5MW turbines in partnership with Finnish technology provider VTT.

The development of wind turbine systems for cold and extreme climates is moving apace. The EWEA (European Wind Energy Association) has forecasted that 40 to 50 gigawatts of wind energy will be built in cold climates by 2017. This would represent an increase of 72% on the amount of wind energy capacity installed in cold climates in 2012. Technical innovation is pushing the expansion of wind energy into frontiers and climates.

In other news this week, potato supplier Greenvale announced that a 15MW turbine is to be constructed at their potato packaging plant (the largest in the UK) in Cambridgeshire.

The 100 metre tall turbine is expected to be constructed and generating power by the end of the year. Once completed it is anticipated to generate up to 60% of the electricity used on the site. This will serve not only to significantly reduce the plants costs and overheads in the short term but also safeguard the company from price rises in the future.

Trevor Dear, operations director of Greenvale, said: “The wind turbine will secure a reliable energy supply for our packing site, generate jobs within the region, and reduce our impact on the environment. This is a key part of our environmental policy, which aims to reduce our CO2 output by 20 per cent by 2015.”

Funding for the project was supplied by Santander and Tridos Renewables. This marks the 13th project in Tridos Renewables Investment’s portfolio. The group now has a combined clean energy portfolio of 60MW. The Greenvale turbine underlines the benefits which small and medium scale wind can bring, not just to landowners, but to companies and businesses across the UK. On-site power generation not only means reduced bills in the short term but also reduced CO2 emissions and protection from energy price spikes and fossil fuel volatility in the future. Small and medium wind will also be crucial to ensuring that Scotland’s and the UK’s renewable energy and CO2 emission reduction targets are met.

It should be remembered that wind energy does not simply mean large scale wind farms but also individuals and businesses taking their power needs into the own hands and reaping the benefits. We at Intelligent Land Investments (Renewable Energy) are delighted to have helped people across Scotland reduce their overheads, open up new revenue streams, diversify their businesses and brought much needed sustainability.

UK renewable energy at record high

New figures published last week by the UK Department of Energy and Climate Change in it’s ‘Energy Trends‘ document have revealed that the amount of electricity being produced from the country’s renewable energy infrastructure has increased dramatically over the course of 2014.

The figures revealed that in 2013 a record 14.8% of the UK’s overall electricity production came from renewable sources. In total 52.8 terrawatt hours of electricity was produced from renewable sources in 2013.  In the same period the UK’s renewable energy capacity increased by a quarter to 19.4 Gigawatts. These headline grabbing figures underline the great strides which the UK’s renewable energy industry made in 2013 and the promise of further great leaps forward in the future.

Indeed the further progress which renewable energy is making was underlined by the fact that from November 2013 to January 2014 renewables met approximately 18% of the UK’s electricity demand. Given the high wind speeds experienced in the country over this period one would be correct in assuming that this increase of around 3% of electricity demand met by renewables was powered by wind energy.

The record increase in renewable energy generation capacity was largely driven by the UK’s wind energy industry. Huge progress was made by both the onshore and offshore sectors. In 2013 onshore wind produced 16.5 terrawatt hours of electricity. This is an increase of over 36% compared to generation figures for 2012. Offshore wind generation increased by almost 46% to 10.9 terrawatt hours. An impressive and understandable increase given the relative maturity of the onshore sector.

Industry trade-body RenewableUK’s Director of External Affairs Jennifer Webber made the following comment shortly after the publication of the figures:

“At a time when we needed it most, wind delivered. Onshore wind generation was up 64% compared to the previous year, and wind as a whole delivered over 10% of the UK’s total power needs across the quarter, proving it’s a force to be reckoned with.

Wind energy’s generation was the equivalent of power for 7.86 million homes for the full quarter.

By developing our wind resource we ease our reliance on costly imported foreign fuels and reduce the amount of polluting COin our atmosphere.

In addition by using our natural resources we’re creating thousands of jobs, like the ones Siemens announced just this week.

The UK has a choice – stay in hock to foreign powers for our energy or invest in secure, clean renewables and build tens of thousands of jobs for British workers”.

It should be noted that it was not just wind energy that took great strides in 2013. For example solar energy produced 2 terrawatt hours of electricity; an increase of almost 70%  of 2012’s total. Bioenergy generation also saw an increase of 22.8% demonstrating the growth experienced in all renewable energy sectors in the UK.

The renewable energy industry’s success in Scotland or rather Scotland’s success with renewable energy was particularly notable. Scotland has managed to begin to harness the power of it’s renewable resources and is outpacing the rest of the UK in moving to a low carbon energy sector. Around 32% of the UK’s renewable energy generation in 2013 was carried out in Scotland. 46% of Scotland’s total electricity consumption was met by renewable sources. This puts the country well on track to meet the 2020 target of 100% renewable energy and leaves the interim 2015 target of 50% renewable energy as something of a formality. We at Intelligent Land Investments (Renewable Energy) are delighted to have been able to contribute to such success. The revealing of such Scottish success was met enthusiastically by government and industry. Scottish Energy Minister Fergus Ewing released the following statement:

“These figures show that renewable electricity in Scotland is going from strength to strength, showing that 2013 was a record year for renewable generation in Scotland. Scottish renewable generation made up approximately 32 per cent of total UK renewable generation in 2013 – showing that Scotland has some of the best natural resources.

“The Scottish Government’s target is to generate the equivalent of 100 per cent of Scotland’s gross annual electricity consumption from renewable sources by 2020, as part of a wider, balanced, energy mix. These figures show that renewable generation in Scotland was at a record high last year, meeting around 46 per cent of our electricity demand, and helping keep the lights on across these islands at a time when Ofgem are warning of the ever tightening gap between peak electricity demand and electricity supply.

“Investment in Scottish renewable energy continues to grow. Between January 2010 and April 2013, the industry announced £13.1 billion of investment and over 9,000 associated jobs. Scotland leads the world in the development of marine energy technologies. There are more different wave and tidal power devices being developed and tested in Scotland than there are in any other country in the world.

“Independence will allow Scotland to pursue the opportunity to maximise the benefits from our energy wealth, including our potential for further developments in renewable energy. We can build on our existing success in this area and work to encourage the development of a wide range of renewable technologies, which will help enhance a reliable and secure energy supply and help Scotland meet its ambitious climate change targets.

Joss Blamire, Senior Policy Manager at Scottish Renewables, said:

“Even today, many people do not realise the massive contribution renewables make to powering our homes and businesses and reducing our carbon emissions.

“These UK Government figures show that, alongside nuclear, renewables are the biggest provider of electricity in the country, with 2013 our best-ever year.

“The report goes to show what can be achieved when industry and government work together towards our ambitious 2020 renewable energy targets.

“However, at a time of some change and uncertainty, government and industry must remain focused on these shared goals if the sector is to continue to provide increasing economic, environmental and social benefits to Scotland.”

In other news last week,  a report published by consultancy group Pöyry and Cambridge Econometrics has revealed the impact that wind energy could have upon the Irish economy.  If 5.4GW of new wind capacity is installed by 2030 then around €8.3 billion of new investment would be delivered to the Irish economy.

The report, entitled ‘Value of Wind Energy to Ireland’ goes on to reveal that the net annual GDP impact of new wind capacity will be between €350m and €490m a year to 2020. This figure would then be expected to increase to between €646m and €769m a year during the 2021 to 2030 period. Such a drive for wind energy could also create over 20,000 jobs in the country by 2030. Additionally it could eliminate the need for spending around €700 million a year on fossil fuel imports. The publication comes at a time in which Ireland’s dependence upon fossil fuel imports is coming under the spotlight due to geo-political uncertainty in Eastern-Europe. The success which has been found in the UK can only increase the desire for an Irish drive for wind.

The release of the DECC report has highlighted what successful 2013 the UK’s renewable energy experienced. ILI (RE) is proud to have done it’s part but attention must now turn to the future and the successes of 2014.

Wind energy save EU €2.4 billion worth of water a year

A report published last week by the European Wind Energy Association (EWEA) has highlighted the cost to the union of non-renewable forms of electricity generation.

The report, entitled ‘Saving Water with Wind Energy’, has revealed both the amount of water which is used for energy generation within the European Union each year and the amount of money which this costing taxpayers and consumers across the continent.

It should first be noted that wind energy generation is saving Europe around €2.4 billion every year. This figure represents the cost of the water which would have been incurred had the electricity generated from wind power had been generated in more traditional ways. This figure was for the year for 2012. Given the strides that wind power has made across Europe it can be concluded that this figure has risen since then and shall continue to do so.

Startlingly, 44% of the water used within the European Union is used in power generation. It should be noted that the vast majority of this 44% is used in traditional power plants. For example nuclear and coal plants which require vast amounts of water for cooling. Energy production is by far the biggest use of water within the European Union. In comparison agriculture only represents 34% of water demand, the public water supply only 21% and industry accounts for only 11%. In total 4.5 billion cubic meters of water are used by nuclear, coal and gas firing plants every year.

Given that demand for water is increasing due to population growth and density increase as well as pressures placed upon the environment by climate change water efficiency will become an increasingly important issue in the coming years. Already at least 11% of European Union citizens are affected by water scarcity – for example in the South East of England were droughts and hose-pipe bans are now an annual occurrence. Using huge amounts of water to produce electricity only exacerbates these issues.

Renewable forms of energy generation require far less water to operate than more traditional and large scale technologies. Nuclear power uses the most water to produce power; on average 2.7 cubic meters of water are needed to produce a single megawatt hour. Coal is slightly less intensive requiring 1.9 cubic meters of water for every megawatt hour and gas is further less intensive requiring 0.7 cubic meters per megawatt hour. However in comparison the amount of water required to produce a megawatt hour of wind power is minimal. Wind turbines only require water for infrequent blade cleanage and generator cooling.

Indeed the EWEA report estimated that usage of wind turbines in 2012 reduced the EU’s energy industry’s water usage by 1.2 billion cubic meters – the annual water usage of 4% of the EU’s population. Again these figures will have increased given the increase in wind capacity seen throughout the EU’s member states. 1.2 billion cubic meters saved represents €2.4 billion saved. Furthermore given the consensus existing among many economists that water is heavily undervalued the true savings could be far higher.

The EWEA’s head of policy analysis Ivan Pineda commented at the publication of the report:

“Water equivalent to over three Olympic size swimming pools is consumed every minute of every day of the year to cool Europe’s nuclear, coal and gas plants. Increasing our use of wind energy will help preserve this precious resource far more effectively than any ban on watering the garden– while saving us money”.

The report projected that by 2030 wind energy will save the EU between 4.3 and 6.4 billion cubic meters of water per year. This would represent a financial saving of between €11.8 and €17.4 billion per year. Given the expectation that water usage and efficiency will become an increasingly part of resource management governments across the European Union are being urged to factor such considerations into energy policy. Industry trade body RenewableUK’s Director of External Affairs Jennifer Webber commented:

“Water is a very precious resource – water restrictions were imposed in the UK in the summer of 2012 in areas hit by drought. One of the many benefits of wind energy is that it requires hardly any water to keep generating. This report is a timely reminder of the environmental impact of other technologies which use vast amounts of water for cooling. When Governments set energy policy, they should take this into account – it’s not just the carbon footprint that matters, but also the water swallowed up by these other thirsty generators”

In other news, this week SSE exported power from it’s offshore wind testing facility to the National Grid for the first time. The facility, sited on the North Ayrshire coast is the UK’s first, and currently only, onshore test site for offshore turbines. The site was established with support from both the UK Government’s Department of Energy and Climate Change and Scottish Enterprise.The Ayrshire site has similar wind conditions to those found offshore. The currently operational turbine is a 6MW Siemens 154 direct drive machine, some 177 meters high. Work has already begun to install the site’s second turbine; a 7MW Mitsubishi model. This is expected to be operational by the autumn.

The commencement of power exportation has been enthusiastically greeted. Clark MacFarlane, Managing Director, Siemens Wind Power Offshore UK&I said:

“We are delighted with the news of first power for our 6MW turbine at Hunterston. This is another important milestone for our next generation wind turbine technology. The SSE and Siemens team has worked extremely hard to get to this point and should feel proud of their achievement in delivering this important clean energy project.”

Ian Flannagan, SSE’s Project Construction Manager, said:

“It’s great to see the Siemens wind turbine generating electricity for the first time which is testament to the hard work and commitment shown by everyone involved in the project.

“We are busy preparing the site ahead of the second turbine, a Mitsubishi SeaAngel 7MW offshore wind model, arriving in a few months time.”

UK Energy and Climate Minister, Greg Barker said:

“SSE Renewable’s test site for offshore wind turbines is an exciting and innovative project. It will help the country take another step towards delivering £110 billion investment into our energy sector while helping to support local jobs.”

The success of the offshore turbine testing site is good news for the UK’s wind industry ensuring that it’s world leading position is maintained.

The report published by the EWEA serves to underline the many benefits which wind energy generation has; increasing both energy and water security, reducing CO2 emissions and combating climate change and helping to keep energy bills down by reducing reliance upon fossil fuel imports. We at Intelligent Land Investments (Renewable Energy) are proud to be doing our part to increase the UK’s wind energy generation capacity.

New UK Wind Energy Records Set

This week it was announced by industry trade body RenewableUK that the month of February 2014 had seen several wind power records being broken.

The announcement followed the publication of electricity generation statistics for February by the National Grid. Despite the high-winds experienced in the UK over the course of February it should be noted that the setting of new records does not simply represent a particularly blustery month but rather the continuation of an upwards trend.

The first record which was broken was the amount of wind power generated in a single month. February saw 2,750,086 MWh (Megawatt hours) of electricity being generated from wind power. This level of generation is enough to power over 6.5 million British homes at a time of year which traditionally sees high power usage and demand. The previous record was set in December 2013 when 2,481,080 MWh of electricity was generated from the wind. Crucially, however, this increase in generation led to an increase in the use of wind power by the UK. In February 2014 11% of the UK’s total power demand was sourced from wind power. In comparison, December 2013 saw 10% of the UK’s total energy demand being sourced from wind. It should be noted that the previous record set in December broke a record set only a few months before. The pace with which such records are being set and broken demonstrates the progress that the UK’s wind industry and companies such as ourselves at Intelligent Land Investments (Renewable Energy) are making.

The record for the amount of wind energy generated in a single day was also broken in February. On the 23rd of that month wind energy met 17% of the country’s total energy demand. Again in this case the previous record was set in December 2013. Additionally a new all-time record was set for the amount for wind energy produced in a single half hour on the 31st of January – a remarkable 6,215 MW.

Of course it should be remembered that the figures released by the National Grid do not represent the full amount of wind energy being generated in the UK. There are a large amount of wind turbines in the UK, particularly within the small to medium scale (the scale at which we at Intelligent Land Investments (Renewable Energy) specialise in) which do not feed power into the National Grid. Such turbines will be supplying power locally or on-site. The owners of such developments are not required to supply real time output data to the National Grid and as such will not have been included in their figures.

It should be noted that UK wind power breaking such records as this is set to become a regular occurrence in the near future as more turbines are consented, constructed and begin to supply power into the National Grid. We at Intelligent Land Investments (Renewable Energy) are looking forward to playing our part in this process as more of our developments are completed in the very near future.

The need for secure domestic supplies of electricity and thus lowered reliance on gas and oil imports has been highlighted by recent events in the Ukraine. With much of Europe, including the United Kingdom, increasingly dependent upon Russian hydro-carbons and Eastern European pipelines it is becoming increasingly clear that a renewed push for more renewable energy generation would allow the country more room to maneuver on the international stage as well as protecting consumers from potentially hugely volatile fossil fuel prices. It is worth noting that according to figures recently released by DECC 2013 was the first year in which net imports of gas exceeded UK production.

This point was emphasised by industry trade-body RenewableUK’s Deputy Chief Executive Maf Smith:

“The need to develop a secure, home-grown supply of electricity in a cost-effective way is at the forefront of people’s minds right now, so it’s good to see wind energy consistently ticking all the right boxes, month after month.

“To meet the energy needs of homes and businesses throughout the UK, it’s vital that we keep on harnessing one of Britain’s best natural resources. This makes us less reliant on expensive imported energy from volatile international markets”.

Last week the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) published it’s Provisional Energy figures for 2013. The final figures are expected to be published next month.

The provisional figures revealed a surge in the amount of the UK’s energy demand being supplied by low-carbon electricity. Indeed, nearly one third of the country’s entire energy demand in 2013 was met by electricity produced from low-carbon sources such as onshore and offshore wind.  In 2013, 32.7% of the country’s energy needs were met from low-carbon sources. By comparison, in 2012 29.4% of the country’s energy needs came from such sources.

Much of this increase is attributed to the surge in wind capacity and output that the UK underwent in 2013. In 2013 7.7% of total energy demand was met with electricity produced from wind. In 2012 this figure stood at 5.5%. From we can see that the UK’s wind industry increased it’s capacity by 38% year on year. An impressive and encouraging figure.

The UK’s offshore wind industry saw particularly pronounced growth. According to sources at RenewableUK the period from June 2012 to July 2013 saw the completion of four separate major offshore wind developments. During this period offshore capacity increased from 1.86 GW (Gigawatts) to 3.3 GW. An increase of a startling 79%.

Of course the more mature onshore wind industry would find it difficult to replicate such figures but that is not to say that the onshore industry did not experience significant growth of it’s own. 1.29 GW of new capacity was added to the grid over the period June 2012 – July 2013. This was a 25% increase in capacity which now stands at 6.4 GW.

Interestingly, the increases in low-carbon generation were achieved despite a reduction in the amount of electricity produced from hyrdo-stations. Hydro-power generation in 2013 decreased by 1.2% compared to 2012. Many have attributed this drop to low levels of rainfall experienced in areas around some hydro-power plants. This reduction in hydro output only serves to emphasize the great strides made by the UK’s wind industry.

As with the National Grid figures it should be noted that the provisional figures released by DECC will be lower than the actual generation levels. These provisional figures are only produced from data supplied by the major power suppliers and thusly do not include the amounts of electricity produced from the country’s many single turbine and small and medium scale wind farms (such as those developed by Intelligent Land Investments (Renewable Energy)). The final figures published next month are expected to be higher and therefore more accurate.

Maria McCaffery, Chief Executive of RenewableUK commented on the publication of the provisional figures:

“It’s great to see the way wind power has grown in just one year. Each unit of wind power production means that we’re having to import less foreign fuel – especially gas which is eyewateringly expensive. There has been a steady decline of UK production of traditional energy sources, so we need to make sure there is something replacing that – and wind is increasingly playing that role. Developing our wind resource doesn’t just provide security of energy supply, it also tackles climate change and creates jobs in some of the areas which need them most. It’s crucial that we continue to develop our ability to harness our abundant natural resources to generate clean power.”

We at Intelligent Land Investments (Renewable Energy) are delighted to have played a part in setting new wind generation records. We also look forward to helping set new records with our already installed turbines and also those of our developments which will have completed construction in the near future.

 

Wind Turbine Lifespans Surpass Expectations

Last week a report published by the Imperial College revealed that the operational lifespan of wind turbines may be longer than had been previously believed.

The new study demonstrates that wind turbines remain productive in generating electricity for at least 25 years. Previously it had been claimed by some that it would be necessary to upgrade installed wind turbines to allow them to continue generating power for a quarter century. This belief formed the basis of the argument that wind turbines had a limited lifespan of use compared to other forms of renewable energy generation technology.

The United Kingdom currently has over 500 wind farms installed across the country as well as a significant number of smaller scale turbine developments. This capacity base is already meeting a minimum of 7.5% of the country’s energy demand. From this installed base the Imperial College’s Business School analyzed data from 4,246 turbines across the country. Analyzing this information together with wind speed data provided by NASA (collected over a twenty year period) demonstrated that wind turbines are more than capable of lasting their full 25 year lifespan without requiring any upgrade work.

The study also revealed that the oldest operational wind turbines in the United Kingdom, installed in the mid-1990’s, are still producing  three quarters of their original output despite having been in use for that last nineteen years. The three quarter figure is almost twice the level of output which these turbines had previously been assumed to be capable of at this point in time. These 19 year old wind turbines are fully expected to continue generating power for at least the next six years, meeting the promise of a twenty-five year lifespan and making such already outdated wind turbine models comparable in lifespan to the gas turbines found in conventional power plants.

Given that more modern wind turbines inevitably make use of improvements in both design and technology, and as such perform better in age, the report argues that modern wind turbines can be expected to have an operational lifespan beyond twenty-five years without requiring any upgrade work. The researchers and scientists who produced the report emphasised that their findings strengthened the case of wind turbines being a strong long term investment.

Dr Iain Staffell,  research fellow at the Imperial College’s Business School and co-author of the report commented:

“Wind farms are an important source of renewable energy. In contrast, our dwindling supply of fossil fuels leaves the UK vulnerable to price fluctuations and with a costly import bill.

“However, in the past it has been difficult for investors to work out whether wind farms are an attractive investment.

“Our study provides some certainty, helping investors to see that wind farms are an effective long-term investment and a viable way to help the UK tackle future energy challenges.”

Professor Richard Green, head of the Business School’s Department of Management and co-author of the report stated:

“There have been concerns about the costs of maintaining ageing wind farms and whether they are worth investing in. This study gives a ‘thumbs up’ to the technology and shows that renewable energy is an asset for the long term.”

Whilst other studies have been published in this area previously the Business School report made use of far more accurate and specific data than any previous attempt. The wind speed data provided by NASA was gathered over a twenty year period and allowed researchers to calculate precise wind speeds at individual wind farm sites. Previous studies were limited by their use of average estimated national wind speeds and as such have now been superseded.

In news this week it has been revealed that a proposed wind farm in Perthshire will bring significant ecological and conservationist benefits if it is successful in gaining planning permission.

Developers behind the proposed Bandirran Wind Firm have laid out a series of ecological improvement measures which will be carried out in the event of gaining planning consent. Firstly a series of ‘nectar margins’ around the site. These flower rich areas provide an ideal habitat and breeding ground for a variety of insect species including bees and butterflies. Secondly wooded areas near to the wind farm development would be enhanced and enlarged according to Forestry Commission guidelines. Thirdly 260 meters of new hedgerows would be created through the planting of species such as hawthorn, hazel, dog rose and blackthorn. Hedgerows are a vital habitat for a diverse range of species but one that is becoming increasingly reduced in modern times. Fourthly, the restoration of heather to the development sites surrounding moorland. And lastly the creation of a dedicated area for curlew; a species of wading bird which has been granted conservation status. This area would be an ideal habitat as well as breeding area and developers have pledged to monitor breeding numbers for a period of at least five years.

Mark Bates, director of Ecology at Heritage Environment Ltd. led an extensive survey of the development site who determine the best course of action to take to enhance the area’s plant and animal life remarked:

“The measures we have identified will actually improve, diversify and add to the habitats currently on the site and provide direct and indirect benefits to a wide range of wildlife. They will also help in achieving both local and national biodiversity targets.”

Colin Anderson, development director at Banks Renewables, made the following statement:

“We have worked closely with groups, businesses and residents in the area to ensure our wind farm would deliver real financial and social benefits, supporting good causes and creating jobs and training opportunities.

“On top of that, it is fantastic to know that if our plans are given the go-ahead then we’ll be doing a massive amount of work to restore some of the most precious aspects of the countryside.

“Most people know that wind energy will help give Scotland a clean, green, secure and sustainable source of energy that we rely on in every aspect of our lives, which is hugely important to our future.

“But they probably don’t realise how we will actually be making huge inroads to protect and enhance very fragile habitats which are under threat right now.”

These two pieces demonstrate not just the value that wind turbines can bring to investors but also the environmental benefits which they can also bring. Just as studies of offshore wind farms have revealed that large numbers of marine and bird species use them as habitat. The benefits of wind turbines are many.

New wind capacity unlocked by radar tech

This week air traffic services company National Air Traffic Services (NATS) announced that it had signed an agreement with two large-scale onshore wind energy developers which could open up a large section of the South of Scotland and the North of England for onshore wind development.

The deal was signed between NATS and developers’ Scottish and Southern Energy (SSE) and Vattenfall. Funding is to be provided to modify two radar sites – Lowther Hill in Dumfries and Great Dun Fell in the Pennines – to provide radar mitigation for wind turbines in the surrounding areas. It has been estimated that up to 2.2 Gigawatts of currently undevelopable renewable capacity could be made available for development as a result of the modification. This represents enough energy to power around 1.25 million UK homes.

NATS is a mandatory consultee  for all onshore wind turbine developments in the UK. Wind turbines have the potential to interfere with radar systems and can also ‘clutter’ radar screens given their visible nature. In cases in which this occurs NATS issue an objection to the development  on the grounds of aviation safety. Any applications subject to an objection from NATS are then rejected by the Local Authority. However, this is only the case for developments which have been inappropriately sighted. It is understood that only 2% of wind turbine developments encounter issues with radar interference.

Previously there were ways in which an objection from NATS could be addressed. For example, in some cases reducing the height of a turbine can serve to remove it from radar screens all-together. For other developments it has been the case that a computer patch can be applied to a radar system to prevent a turbine from showing up as ‘clutter’. However this solution has only ever been of limited use given that such a patch can only be used for one development in any one given area. The solution announced by NATS this week suffers from no such limitations.

Technical modifications will be made to the radar systems at Lowther Hill and Great Dun Fen. The nature of these modifications is such that more than a single turbine development becomes viable in the  surrounding areas. Mitigation will be able to be provided in the vast majority of cases for the entire lifespan of a turbine.

The technology which will be installed at Great Dun Fen and Lowther Hill has been in development for the last three years and has been funded by a variety of organisations including NATS, the Aviation Investment Fund Company Limited (AIFCL), DECC, the Crown Estate, the Scottish Government and radar manufacturer Raytheon. The nature of the agreement made between NATS, SSE and Vattenfall is such that the option is there to roll the modification out to radar sites and funding is in place to further explore the potential for further improvements to radar mitigation. NATS will also we holding briefings with the wider onshore wind energy industry next month to explain in detail how the new mitigation solution can be applied.

News of the deal was enthusiastically announced. Colin Nicol, Director of Onshore Renewables at SSE commented:

”We are delighted to have secured this agreement with NATS and with another developer. Our investment helps ensure on-going aviation safety and paves the way for unlocking not just some of our own wind development projects but potentially those of the rest of the industry as well.

“This is truly a positive collaboration between two sectors working together in partnership through innovation.”

Piers Guy, Head of Development for Vattenfall UK, observed: “This investment in UK Infrastructure will benefit the whole industry by unlocking the potential of gigawatts of otherwise stalled wind power capacity.

“This new capacity would generate well over a billion pounds of new investment creating hundreds of jobs and significantly boosting UK renewable energy production. We are very pleased to be part of such an exciting initiative which has brought the aviation and energy industry together to successfully tackle a UK wide problem and I would like to thank everyone for their commitment to delivering this safe and cost effective solution.”

Richard Deakin, NATS Chief Executive, remarked: “This is a landmark agreement that heralds a significant technical advance in mitigating the radar interference from wind turbines; it unlocks significant potential for wind-based power generation and indeed for the UK in meeting its carbon reduction targets.

“We’ve been committed to working across the industry to find a way of unlocking this new power while ensuring aviation safety.  This is a fantastic result.”

The announcement was received enthusiastically by the UK’s renewable energy industry. RenewableUK’s Chief Executive Maria McCaffery said:

“This is another significant step forward for the UK’s wind energy industry, as it creates fresh opportunities to install new capacity in areas of the country which enjoy excellent wind resources. It also marks what we hope is the start of a wider process to introduce modifications at other radar stations throughout the UK to unlock even greater capacity. RenewableUK is proud to have played its role, helping to bring the parties together and support them in the long-running process which has produced innovative technical solutions and led to this ground-breaking deal”.

In other news, last week Scottish Power revealed plans which would potentially more than double the capacity of the Ben Cruachan hydro electric power station. The hydro-plant, located in Argyll & Bute, currently has a capacity of 440 MW but this could increase to 1,040 MW of capacity provided  the feasibility studies being carried out over the next two years are successful. If the expansion does go ahead construction would take up to a decade and create 1,000 jobs during the period of peak construction.

The Scottish Government has already came out in support of the expansion. Increasing the amount of hydro-storage capacity available to the National Grid could be crucial to realizing  the country’s renewable energy ambitions. Hydro-power can be used at times of high demand and can also be used as energy storage when renewable generation outstrips demand. Electricity from, as an example, wind turbines can used to pump water up to the top of the dam meaning that hydro power can then be utilized as required at times of higher demand.

Both these pieces of news indicate the progress that Scotland is making towards its renewable ambitions both in terms of improving infrastructure and using technological progress to unlock previously unusable renewable capacity. We at Intelligent Land Investments (Renewable Energy) look forward to playing our part in helping to realize them further.

 

FiTs cuts endangering manufacturing

This week the UK Government has been accused of putting British manufacturing at risk and putting more pressure on the British farming industry by slashing feed-in tariff payments for small and medium scale wind turbine developments by 20%.

The 20% reduction to the popular and successful feed-in tariff scheme is due to come into effect on the 1st of April this year. This deadline has created a rush within the renewable energy industry to complete the installations of wind turbines, solar panels and anaerobic digestion plants before the end of March.

Prominent members of the UK’s solar panel industry have voiced confidence that the industry is well placed to cope with the 3.5% cut being introduced to the feed-in tariff payments for  domestically generated solar energy. However the far more severe cuts being introduced to the UK’s small and medium scale onshore wind industry are set to be far more problematic.

Many within the onshore wind industry and the wider renewable energy industry have voiced concerns that the severity of the soon to be implemented cuts will create a number of issues. Firstly, the cut runs of risk of provoking capital flight as investment in onshore wind energy is driven overseas. Secondly the cuts will create a barrier to smaller investors who are far more likely to invest their money in smaller scale wind energy developments. Lastly the cut threatens to negatively impact upon British manufacturing at a time when all the rhetoric is about encouraging, supporting and enabling the country’s manufacturing base.

It should be noted that it is not just the cut to the feed-in tariff itself which has raised concerns. The banding which determines what level of feed-in tariff a development receives (based upon the developments capacity) is also being changed. Up until last year, turbines of a scale up to 15kW received higher feed-in tariff payments than developments of a larger capacity. This fact helped to make small scale wind turbines an attractive investment to community groups, farmers and public concerns such as schools who are looking to reduce energy costs.

However under the new rules sub 15kW developments will now be placed in the same band as developments with a capacity of up to 100kW. This represents a significant leap. Some have suggested that this will encourage investment in the larger schemes which the government may now find more favourable however it comes at the cost to deterring smaller investors and community groups. This was point made by Gaia Wind’s Chief Executive Johnnie Andringa:

“There are a lot of small companies working in this area and the feed-in tariff helps make the product more affordable but now smaller turbines are at a disadvantage because they are in the same band as turbines ten times their size.

“It will be more difficult for small farmers or crofters to put up a small turbine and generate their own electricity”.

Keith Parslow, Chief Executive of Leicester-based small turbine manufacturer Evance made a similar point:

“You have to put in 20 of our 5kW machines for every one of the 100kW machines installed, so it really is unfair for the smaller user, it’s driven people to make do this as more of an investment… and it means our typical prospective customers are now unsure whether they can justify the investment, unless they live in an area of really high wind speeds.”

Evance is now known to be focusing its attention on the export markets to mainland Europe and the Far East.

The impact of the feed-in tariff cuts on the small and medium scale wind market is particularly unfortunate given that the majority of wind turbines manufactured within the UK fall into this scale. It is far more common for developers of  larger scale projects to import their turbines from foreign markets than it is for developers who are working on a smaller scale. At a time when so much political emphasis is placed upon supporting the British manufacturing sector it is regrettable that a government policy would work against the interests of British manufacturers. A point underlined by turbine manufacturer Ampair’s Managing Director David Sharman:

“It’s certainly going to decrease the market for small wind, which is why we now sell around two-thirds of our products overseas. We just don’t trust the British government.

“It’s a wonderful own goal by the British government to cut the tariff and damage the industry. We told them that it would harm manufacturing and they just didn’t care.”

Industry trade group RenewableUK also flagged up the potential dangers to the UK Government. Deputy Chief-Executive Maf Smith commenting:

“The UK’s world-leading small wind sector has already seen reductions of domestic installations due to the removal of the different tariff brackets for all turbines under 100kW. Small wind is a UK manufacturing success story now under huge pressure, and the thousands of farmers and small businesses up and down the country who want to generate their own power face disappointment if these changes go ahead.”

The UK Government has attempted to calm the situation. A DECC spokeswoman emphasised the feeling that the UK’ small and medium scale wind market is well placed to overcome any hurdles presented by the reduction to the feed-in tariff.

“The changes reflect the need to drive cost reductions in the sector, following significant deployment. The FITs scheme continues to support the deployment of small scale wind turbines. The number of degression bands was minimised when the degression mechanism was implemented to reduce distortions within sectors.

“Onshore wind is a major success story for the UK which brings economic benefit to our shores, supports thousands of skilled jobs and is an important contributor to our energy mix.

“As costs come down for more established technologies like solar and onshore wind, it is right that the level of public support is reduced to protect consumers.

“In line with new EU guidelines on competition and to deliver best value for money to the taxpayer, the government is considering introducing competition between more established large-scale low carbon technologies and will make a decision on this in 2014.”

We at Intelligent Land Investments (Renewable Energy) would stress that we feel well paced to handle the feed-in tariff reduction. Many of our tubine developments are already installed. Many more have secured the higher feed-in tariff rate as developments were pre-accredited with the regulators to ensure that there would be no mad rush to complete developments over the next two months.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

New poll reveals support for renewables

Yesterday the Department of Energy and Climate Change published it’s eight quarterly public attitudes survey.

The survey is carried out every three months to monitor the public’s attitudes to the government’s energy policies. Face to face interviews were carried out at 2,110 households in mid December. The published results confirm that the public’s support for renewable energy remains widespread.

77% of those polled stated that they supported or strongly supported the continuing use and expanding development of the UK’s vast renewable energy resources.

This represents a 1% increase on the level of public support recorded in the previous survey. This is despite the long running campaign against renewable energy being carried out by several mass media publications. Not to mention the campaign for shale gas extraction being carried out by several of the same publications. Despite this more than three quarters of the Great British public support the continued and further use of renewable energy technologies.

51% of those people polled signaled that they “support” the use of renewable energy technologies. A further 26% of those polled responded that they “strongly support” the use of renewable energy technologies. In dramatic comparison only 4% of those polled gave the opinion that they opposed the exploitation of renewable energy resources. A further 1% “strongly opposed” the use of renewable energy. This comparison demonstrates that in reality anti-renewable energy sentiments are very much a minority, if not fringe, concern. This contrasts sharply with the picture presented in some avenues of the mainstream press which seek to portray such opinions as being held by the majority of people in this country.

The survey broke down support levels for individual forms of renewable energy generation: 81% stated their support for solar energy, 71% for wave and tidal energy, 72% for offshore wind generation, 64% for onshore wind generation and 60% for biomass. Additionally the levels of “strong support” given for each technology type stands consistently between one quarter and one third of respondents. It has been suggested that the reason  wave and tidal and offshore wind have polled so highly is due their relatively low visual impact as opposed to their cost effectiveness; a standard in which other technologies such as onshore wind rank far higher.

The survey also demonstrated that public awareness of shale gas and shale gas extraction has increased significantly in the last few years. When these quarterly surveys were first carried out two years ago 58% of respondents were unaware of shale gas. As of now this figure has decreased to 30% of respondents. Over the same time scale respondents “who know something” about shale gas have increased from 32% to 52%.

However increased awareness has not translated into increased support. This quarterly survey was the first to gauge public support for shale gas. Despite much coverage in the media and strong messages of support from some senior political figures only 27% of respondents stated that they would support shale gas development. 21% stated that they would not support shale gas development. It is also worth making the point that despite much lobbying in those parts of the UK which have been proposed as areas suitable for shale gas exploration, or fracking, have seen widespread and organised protests against the proposals.

Also this week it was announced that Glasgow City Council is to become the first local authority in the UK to switch to low energy LED (light-emitting diode) street lighting after securing a loan from the Green Investment Bank.

Glasgow City Council intends to convert over 70,000 street lights to LEDs in an effort to reduce costs, energy consumption and light pollution. Street lighting costs Local Authorities in the UK  £300 million a year and produces 1.3 million tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions annually. For some Local Authorities street lighting can account for up to 40% of their energy usage. The Green Investment Bank has voiced it’s hopes that other Local Authorities will follow Glasgow City Council in participating in such schemes.

Indeed to that end the Bank is offering similar loan packages to that given to Glasgow City Council to other Local Authorities. To fund LED street lighting conversion schemes the Bank is offering low, fixed rate loans over a period of up to 20 years. Repayments will be taken from energy bill savings. The Bank is advising Local Authorities that LED switching delivers pay-back within 5 to 15 years. Following this Local Authorities can expect bills to drop by up to 80%.

The securing of the loan was announced with enthusiasm from all parties. UK Green Investment Bank chief executive, Shaun Kingsbury, stated:

“Bad lighting does not come cheap, it carries an electricity bill which can be cut by up to 80 per cent with a move to low energy, LED lighting.  Making the switch saves councils money, increases community safety and dramatically reduces the UK’s carbon footprint.”

“The GIB Green Loan is essentially a corporate loan facility that covers the set-up, capital investment and installation costs of lighting upgrades to LED, with repayments being made from within forecast savings.  Put more simply, local authorities borrow money from the Green Investment Bank, but repay the loan entirely through the money they save by changing their lighting.”

Business Secretary, Vince Cable said:

“Once again the UK Green Investment Bank (GIB) is leading the way in the green revolution. Street lighting across Britain tends to be very costly and energy inefficient, emitting the same amount of carbon dioxide each year as a quarter of a million cars on the road. This investment by GIB into new LED technology could make big strides in saving money for local councils and reducing our carbon footprint. I urge councils across the country to follow Glasgow City Council’s lead and GIB’s new Green Loan can help speed up the take up of this streetlighting.

“So far through the Green Investment Bank – the first of its kind in the world – we have invested more than £750 million in energy projects which are driving innovation and our plans for green growth. For every £1 the bank has invested, £3 has been raised from the private sector for projects in areas ranging from offshore wind to waste to energy efficiency products.”

Councillor Gordon Matheson, Leader of Glasgow City Council, said:

“My vision is to make Glasgow one of Europe’s most sustainable cities. It is our goal to improve energy efficiency, cut carbon emissions and generate savings for the public purse. Glasgow City Council is not only creating a digital and low carbon route out of recession with social justice at its heart, but also ensuring Glasgow is one of Europe’s most sustainable cities.

“Glasgow is leading the way in meeting existing challenges head on to become a smarter, more intelligent city. One of our current measures is set to see us become the first local authority to receive a Green Investment Bank loan as we work towards further embracing low energy streetlighting.”

Support for renewable energy and energy-saving schemes such as that announced in Glasgow yesterday remains widespread in the UK. It is our hope that we at ILI (Renewable Energy) can do our part to increase it.