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.

Google continues move to 100% renewables

This week it was announced by Google that they had taken another step towards their aim of deriving all of their power from renewable sources. The tech giant has just announced the purchase of four onshore wind farms in Sweden. Power from these wind farms is to be used by the company’s data centres located within the country.

Each of the four wind farms is located in a different Sedish municipality. This lowers any risk to Google- ensuring that for instance if one wind farm were to go offline (for example due to dangerously high wind speeds) the wind farms in other areas would remain unaffected.

Google’s data centres have significant power requirements. Just one of the four wind farms purchased by the company is composed of 29 turbines and has a total installed capacity of 59 megawatts.

The Swedish purchase follows the $75 million investment Google made into an onshore wind farm located in Carson County, Texas at the close of last year. The 182 MW wind farm is expected to be fully constructed and operational by the end of the year.

Google’s director of global infrastructure Francois Sterin made the following comment after the completion of the purchase:

“We’re always looking for ways to increase the amount of renewable energy we use. Long term power purchase agreements enable wind farm developers to add new generation capacity to the grid – which is good for the environment – but they also make great financial sense for companies like Google.”

Google is of course not the only company aiming to derive 100% of it’s power from renewable sources. IKEA aims to achieve this by the end of 2020. In August last year the company purchase a wind farm in Northern Ireland to provide power stores in Belfast and Dublin. The company also already owns onshore wind farms in the  mainland UK, France, Germany, Poland, Sweden and Denmark and it is also common for solar PV arrays to be installed onto the roof’s of their stores. In contrast to Google IKEA aims to own all of the renewable generation developments necessary to hit the 100% target rather than simply agree to purchase power from specific sites.  Sky also has as a 100% renewable energy target: emblemised by the wind turbine installed at their headquarters.

Of course it should be remembered that on site power generation is not just the domain of large multinational companies such as Google and IKEA. Nor is it something which can only be achieved using large scale renewable energy developments such as those discussed above.  There are many examples of smaller companies providing their own on site power using smaller scale renewable energy developments such as small and medium scale wind turbines. We at Intelligent Land Investments (Renewable Energy) have been involved in several such developments and feel it is definitely an avenue worth exploring for many companies.

In other news this week saw the launch of the UK Government’s ‘Community Energy Strategy’. The strategy is designed to increase community engagement in energy schemes and help people to reduce their power costs. The strategy was designed following a survey carried out by the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) to determine public interest in community schemes.

The survey revealed that over 50% of those questioned as part of the survey stated that saving money on energy bills would be the ‘major motivation’  for them to get involved in community energy projects. Additionally 40% of respondants revealed that they were already interested in joining a community energy group, participating in collective energy provider switching schemes and participating in collective energy purchasing schemes.

The ‘Community Energy Strategy’ was produced as a response to such opinions. The following plans have already been revealed to fall under the umbrella of the strategy. Firstly, the launch of the £10 million Urban Community Energy Fund designed to kick start community energy projects in England. Secondly, the £1 million Big Energy Saving Fund designed to help support the work of volunteers helping vulnerable members of society to reduce their energy costs. Thirdly, the launch of the community energy saving competition which offers £100,000 to communities to develop innovative approaches to saving energy and money. And lastly, the creation of a ‘one-stop shop’ information resource to help people interested in developing community energy projects.

Speaking at the launch of the strategy Energy and Climate Change Secretary Ed Davey stated:

“We’re at the turning point in developing true community energy.

“The cost of energy is now a major consideration for household budgets, and I want to encourage groups of people across the country to participate in a community energy movement and take real control of their energy bills.

“Community led action, such as collective switching, gives people the power to bring down bills and encourage competition within the energy market.”

Energy and Climate Change Minister Greg Barker also commented:

“The Community Energy Strategy marks a change in the way we approach powering our homes and businesses – bringing communities together and helping them save money – and make money too.

“The Coalition is determined to unleash this potential, assist communities to achieve their ambitions and drive forward the decentralised energy revolution. We want to help more consumers of energy to become producers of energy and in doing so help to break the grip of the dominant big energy companies.”

Maf Smith, Deputy Chief Executive of industry trade body RenewableUK also commented on the strategy launch:

“RenewableUK is committed to helping communities engage in renewable energy, and sponsored a report from Respublica on this last year. We look forward to working with Government, communities and our members on addressing some of the barriers that currently exist to the development of further community ownership.

“With wind power already enjoying massive levels of popularity with communities around the country, the industry is eager to do what it can help find ways of maximising local participation in the future energy supply”.

It should be stated that the onshore wind industry is leading the way in community engagement with renewable energy developments. Last year the industry created a new protocol for onshore wind developers  increasing the level of community benefit taken from wind turbine revenue. Indeed we at Intelligent Land Investments (Renewable Energy) have included a community contribution as a part of all of our developments whether required to or not.

A Good 2013

2013 was a good year for Intelligent Land Investments (Renewable Energy).

A good year for us and a good year for others. For the landowners and farmers across Scotland that we are gaining planning approval for, allowing them access to alternative revenue streams with the potential to secure their businesses. For the community groups and charities which we are supporting across Scotland, helping them to continue the much needed good work which they do. A good year for Scotland’s energy ambitions. The country took a step closer to the ambitious renewable energy targets which are to be met by the end of the decade. We at ILI (RE) were delighted to play our part in helping the nation to achieving these ambitions and look forward to contributing further.

At present ILI (RE) has gained over seventy seperate planning permissions for small and medium scale wind turbine developments in Local Authority Areas across the country. Many more planning applications are currently live and being considered by planning departments. The numerous small scale developments in which we are engaged allow far more people to benefit from renewable energy than the larger scale wind farms that only large scale developers and landowners allow. The revenue created by even a small scale 225wK can mean all the difference for a farmer or landowner. Having spoke to many within Scotland’s farming industry and the farmers and landowners in which we enter into partnership we at ILI (RE) understand the pressures which Scottish farming is facing. For many the revenue from a turbine means being able to reinvest in their businesses; carrying out much needed maintenance work, purchasing new equipment, hiring more staff, keeping pace with ever rising costs, improving yields and efficiency, even simply keeping a traditional family business within a family.

Additionally given the scale and spread of our developments ILI (RE) has been able to offer people innovative solutions to grid issues which had previously ruled out the possibility of development. Whether it be the use of off-grid storage or demand, the creation of new grid links  or the linking together of geographically close developments we at ILI (RE) have been able to spread the benefits of renewable energy generation and government feed-in tariffs far wider than would have been possible from the development of large scale wind farms.

It should be remembered that all of ILI (RE)’s completed developments offer a community benefit to the area in which it is located. A portion of the revenue generated from all of our turbines will be allocated to either a Local Authority Area’s Community Benefit Fund or to a designated local charity. Not all Local Authority Areas in Scotland require a Community Benefit as part of a renewable energy development application. Despite this such a benefit is a part of all of our applications regardless of their location. In areas such as South Lanarkshire, where the council has established a Community Benefit Fund, we contribute to the pot; allowing Local Authorities to target funding where needed. In areas such as East Renfrewshire, which does not have a central fund, we have established a partnership with a local charity working within the community. In this case we have entered in partnership with East Renfrewshire Good Causes.

East Renfrewshire Good Causes (ERGC) was established in 2007. From that time the charity has helped over 1000 people within the East Renfrewshire area; working to improve their quality of life. Whether it be by providing educational support, procuring medical equipment or organising days out ERGC has provided vital support to many vulnerable people. It is point of pride that ILI (RE) has been able to support, not just the vital work done by ERGC, charities and community groups across Scotland. The community benefit funding from 70 planning approvals alone represents potentially almost £2 million worth of charity funding over the 20 year life span of our turbines. We would stress that this figure will increase as more of our potential developments gain planning approval.

Scotland and the UK moved a step closer to achieving their renewable energy generation targets in 2013. We at ILI (RE) were proud that our developments helped contribute to this progress. Just we will be proud to help move us closer still to these targets in 2014. More electricity being generated from renewable sources such as onshore wind means; importing less fossil fuels, less exposure to volatile markets, cheaper energy bills, reduced carbon emissions and the creation of more jobs. Renewable energy was one the UK’s fastest growing industries in 2013.

The potential of onshore wind is beginning to be seen. As has been discussed in this blog previously new UK wind generation records are being set with increasing regularity. But this month it was Denmark that fully demonstrated the potential of wind energy to the world. The month of December saw several new and startling wind generation records being set in Denmark. Firstly, 54.8% of electricity demand for the month of December was met by wind energy. Over half of the entire country’s electricity usage for the entire month! In December 2012 33.5% of electricity demand was met by wind energy. Secondly, on the 21st of December 102% of electricity demand was met by wind power. A surplus of energy even when every other single electricity source is discounted. Lastly, over the course of the entire year 33.2% of electricity demand was met by wind power.This in a year noted by network operator Energinet.dk as being not particularly windy. From all these new records then we can see the role which wind energy can play in meeting a nations electricity needs. A statement from an Energinet.dk spokesman noted that:

“The records do not only apply to Denmark. They are also world records. Because no other countries have as large a wind power capacity in proportion to the size of the electricity consumption, as we do in Denmark.”

It is our hope that the good news continues to come in, not just for ourselves but for all of our landowners.

 

SSE Launches £50 Million Community Fund for Highlands

Last week Scottish and Southern Energy (SSE) launched their new community benefit fund. The launch took place in Bonar Bridge in the Scottish Highlands. The launch of this fund follows on from a change to the level of community benefit provided by the company’s onshore wind developments; last year the commitment was made that £5000 per megawatt of power per year would be devoted to community benefits. The most commonly used turbine model in SSE’s onshore wind developments  has a capacity of 2.5MW (megawatt) meaning that each of their turbines could be expected to provide around £12,5000 in community benefit every year.

The new fund could potentially provide up to £50 million of support to community groups and projects in the Highlands over the next thirty years. This year will mark the first round of funding and £1 million  is available to interested groups (specifically community groups and charities) which meet the funding criteria. The funding award committee is being chaired by former Scottish First Minister Jack McConnell.

Three priority areas have been developed by SSE and several local stakeholders to receive funding Firstly, job creation and skills training: the funding of apprenticeship schemes, training programs and similar projects to increases peoples chances of entering into employment or progressing further in their careers. Secondly,community energy: the funding of schemes to increase the level of community ownership of renewable energy developments which could create environmental, economic or social benefit. Thirdly, projects which enhance the area’s natural and built environment: schemes for the benefit of the local population and schemes to bring in more visitors to the Highlands are both considered to be priority areas.

A spokesperson for SSE commented at the launch and explained that it was taking place in Bonar Bridge “because we want to feature the success of the SSE Kyle of Sutherland apprenticeship fund, which is fully supported by community benefit from the SSE Achany wind farm.

“The apprenticeship scheme fits in with the criteria of the Sustainable Development fund and we believe it is a great example of how communities  use the funds they receive – for hosting a wind farm – in a sustainable way.

“ In the last three years, seven small businesses and young people from the Ardgay, Criech and Lairg areas have been supported through the scheme.

“We have two apprentices and two business owners coming along to the event, including Moray Munro, owner of WM Munro plumbing in Ardgay and Calum Smart, who is in the final year of his apprenticeship with the firm.”

The closing date for applications for the first round of funding is on the 15th of February 2014.

Of course, it should be remembered that it is not only SSE that operates a community benefit fund, nor is it only full scale wind farms which generate such funding. We here at Intelligent Land Investments (Renewable Energy) have been operating such schemes for some time. Our Community Benefits pre-date both the recently published Community Benefit Guidelines and the establishment of the Community Benefit Register itself.  We, at ILI (RE) have entered into partnerships with Local Authorities and Charities across Scotland. In areas such as South Lanarkshire where the Local Authority operates its own Community Benefit program we have been contributing more than the required amount for all of our completed developments in the area. More information on the Community Benefit Scheme in South Lanarkshire and information on how to apply for funding can be found here. In areas in which there is no Local Authority led Community Benefit Scheme we have entered into partnerships with local charities such as East Renfewshire Good Causes to ensure that such essential work can continue.

In other news week a new report produced by consultancy firm GlobalData has predicted that the small scale wind market is expected to undergo a sustained period of dramatic growth. As of 2012 the global small scale wind market was worth $609 million, by the end of the decade the market is now predicted to increase in size to over $3 billion. This represents an almost five-fold increase in market size in eight year or alternatively a Compound Annual Growth Rate of 22% up to 2020.

As of the end of 2012 there was just over 728MW of installed small scale wind energy worldwide. By 2020 GlobalData is predicting that there will 4,644MW of small scale wind energy installed worldwide. This represents an even more startling Compound Annual Growth Rate of over 26%. At the end of 2012 over 80% of small scale wind power was installed in China, the USA and the UK: 266MW were installed in China, 216MW in the USA and 118MW in the UK. As one would expect given the size of the country and it’s energy needs China is expected to remain a world leader in this sector through the decade. However, it should be noted that the GlobalData report also highlights the UK as an area which can expect significant growth in small scale wind throughout the decade despite the relative maturity of the UK small scale wind sector. Indeed in 2012 the UK was ranked the world’s fastest growing small-scale wind market with over 50MW of new small scale wind developments being installed in one year.

It is our hope that the launch if SSE’s community benefit fund will help to make the public more aware of the good work that the UK’s wind industry is contributing to- on a variety of scales. And regarding the GlobalData report we would say that a bigger small and medium scale wind industry means more community benefit funding.

 

Scotland’s Renewables generating £20 million a year

New figures released this week by industry trade body Scottish Renewables have demonstrated that renewable energy generation is providing almost £20 million of annual revenue to businesses, farmers, landowners, public sector organisations and homeowners across the country.

Revenue is being produced by generating electricity on site and then feeding it into the national grid. Precisely £19.3 million was earned in this fashion over the last year.

Of course this figure is fully expected to increase in the future as more renewable energy developments are completed and more energy is fed into the grid. This upward trend can be seen in the fact that the amount of renewable energy being generated ‘on-site’ (i.e. on  business premises or farm land) has tripled over the past five years. A vast variety of renewable energy technologies are being utilised in this fashion; rooftop solar arrays, onshore wind turbines and heat pumps are just a few examples of the technologies being used.

Stephanie Clark, Policy Officer for Scottish Renewables, commented on the news:

“It’s not just big companies who are building renewable energy projects, but more and more private individuals and businesses are taking their energy needs into their own hands by looking to renewables.

“We’ve seen farmers use wind power to generate electricity to make ice-cream, universities using biomass boilers as a heat supply and minibuses powered by biodiesel. In all of these examples they are managing to do three things; lower their energy costs in the future, reduce their carbon footprint and potentially generate income.”

At Intelligent Land Investments (Renewable Energy) we have been helping farmers, landowners and public sector organisations to obtain their own renewable energy developments and realise the potential of their land for several years. With particular emphasis on small and medium scale wind developments and Scotland’s agricultural industry we have erected wind turbines for individuals across the country.

Scotland’s agricultural industry has come under increasing financial pressure over the last few years due to several factors including reforms to the European Unions Common Agricultural Policy payments but predominately due to ever rising energy costs. According to DECC (Department of Energy and Climate Change) statistics  the average annual prices for gas and electricity  for non-domestic customers have increased by 121% and 93% respectively. The use of ‘on site’ wind generation of the scale suitably appropriate for the average Scottish farm provides access to the UK Governments FiTs (Feed-in Tariffs); a significant and much needed revenue stream. In the past few years experience we have built up here at Intelligent Land Investments (Renewable Energy) we have gained an insight into how much of a difference this can make. Several of the farmers we have helped to progress and complete development  stated to us that the wind turbine we delivered was the game-changer that would allow them to continue to operate their business. It was a service we were delighted to give them

Of course, as we have discussed on this blog before, the owner of the land on which a renewable energy development sits is not the only beneficiary from the revenue it brings in. It has long been company policy here at Intelligent Land Investments (Renewable Energy) for all of our renewable energy developments to provide a community benefit to the area in which it is situated. This Community Benefit has generally taken one of two forms. In cases when the Local Authority in which a development is sited operates its own Renewable Energy Fund we turn funding over to the Local Authority to allocate as it sees fit. In many of the Local Authority Areas in which we completed developments the contribution they required was less than the standard amount we provide for our own Community Benefits. In all these cases we provided our full and usual amount. In cases in which the Local Authority has no Renewable Energy Fund (and frequently no requirement for a Community Benefit at all) we entered into partnership  with a local charity operating within the Local Authority boundaries. We have agreements with several community charities across Scotland with groups such as East Renfrewshire Good Causes; who provide expertise, support and funding for those in need within the local authority. Here at Intelligent Land Investments (Renewable Energy) our charity partnerships are very much a source of pride.

It should be emphasised that small and medium scale wind turbine developments are not just the preserve of Scotland’s farmers. For example, Stewart Tower Dairy in Stanley, Perthshire, has installed a single wind turbine which has been operational since January. It has already helped the business – which makes ice cream for Harvey Nichols and Gleneagles, among others – offset rising energy costs.

Owner Neil Butler said: “Making ice cream uses a lot of power, for fridges, freezers, compressors, and as we are on a plateau – about 300ft up with good wind speeds – a turbine seemed to make sense.

“The benefit for us is not selling power into the grid, but the offset; we are providing almost half the power we need using the turbine and that is saving us enormous amounts when power bills are rising around 10 per cent a year. When you look at that kind of price rise, on-site renewables look very attractive.”

Scotland’s renewable energy industry has achieved much in a short space of time and we at Intelligent Land Investments (Renewable Energy) have played our part in that process but there is still so much more that can be achieved.

 

Scottish Renewables publish new guidelines for Community Benefits

This week the industry trade body Scottish Renewables launched a new protocol for onshore wind developments and community benefits in Scotland. The protocol outlines a series of guidelines  for community benefits stemming from new onshore wind developments.

This is the first protocol of this kind to be used in Scotland.

The protocol outlines four key commitments for onshore wind developments in Scotland. Firstly, developers are committed to providing a yearly community benefit of £5000 per megawatt (or equivalent) for all wind farm developments with a generating capacity of 5 Megawatts or over. Secondly,developers are required to support and follow the forthcoming Community Benefit Good Practise Guidance. This Guidance is currently being developed by a number of bodies in partnership. These bodies include the Scottish Government, Local Energy Scotland (LES), Scottish Renewables, Foundation Scotland, Consumer Futures as well as other industry partners, communities and local governments. Thirdly, all new onshore developments are to signed up to the Scottish Government’s Community Benefit Register. Lastly, developers are committed to exploring the potential of community ownership of renewable infrastructure as well as cooperating with the Scottish Government in producing further good practise guidance. It should be noted that this guidance does not apply for developments which already have community benefit agreements in place or those developments for which a final planning decision has been made.

Scottish Renewables Chief Executive, Niall Stuart, made the following statement at the launch of the new protocol:

“We want to clearly state our industry’s commitment to delivering local benefits from every new wind farm in Scotland.  The protocol will also ensure a consistent approach to the development of community benefit agreements.

“According to the Scottish Government’s online register, community benefit has topped £5 million per year and we’re keen to build on that success as new projects are developed.

“To date we’ve seen major changes being brought about thanks to community benefit funding, for example, energy efficiency measures, college bursaries, investment in local museums, cycle paths and tracks, and even funding for community transport schemes.”

Mr Stuart added: “As the most mature of renewable technologies, the benefits from onshore wind stretch far beyond the local area. Wind power meets the equivalent of more than 20 per cent of our electricity demand, tackles climate change, is responsible for attracting more than £1.3 billion of investment into the Scottish economy and employs thousands of people too.

“There are a number of examples across the country such as Earlsburn and Neilston where local communities have a financial stake in the wind farm by owning individual turbines or entire projects. By encouraging our members to explore community ownership as a possibility, we hope to strengthen the relationship between developers and local people to maximise the benefits onshore wind can bring.”

Scottish Government Energy Minister Fergus Ewing also commented:

I welcome today’s announcement by Scottish Renewables of the first set of standards that have been developed by the Scottish onshore wind industry that will ensure commitment on community benefits standards.

“The Scottish protocol goes further than those adopted in other parts of the UK in that, as well as the baseline rate, developers will be committing to consider the scope for direct community investment in their schemes, as well as to adhere to our forthcoming Good Practice Guidance and to use our public Register.

“Scotland is continuing to lead the way on community energy, and this commitment to a baseline level of community benefits of at least £5k per MW continues to set the pace. This protocol is an important step in the right direction as we move towards a position where as many new wind farms as possible, even small scale developments, are able to sign up to these commitments.

“In light of recent announcements regarding the renewable sector in Scotland these set of standards not only show strong leadership from Scottish Renewables, but also the huge investment opportunities still to come make it even more vital that DECC think again about the level of support being proposed through Electricity Market Reform.”

It should be stated that we at Intelligent Land Investments (Renewable  Energy) provide a community benefit for every single one of our consented developments (whether one is required or not – as had previously been the case). Often this takes the form of an annual contribution to charities operating at a local level. In other cases we enter into partnership with local authorities and allow them to direct the funding (as is the case with many of the community benefits stemming from large scale wind farms) using their local knowledge to  direct funding to where they think it is most needed. We at ILI (RE) are extremely proud of the help we are able to provide to worthy causes up and down the country.

In other news it was announced last week that the Scottish island of Gigha will be the site for testing of new battery storage systems. The island is already home to several wind turbines which are supplying power locally as well as feeding into the grid on the mainland. However, there is a limit to how much power the island can export to the mainland. Currently any excess is going unused. The new battery systems will allow power to be stored at times of excess generation and will mean that less power will have to be imported from the mainland. The scheme is supported by the Department of Energy and Climate Change and will use large-scale batteries containing 75,000 litres of sulphuric acid. Such battery systems, if tested successfully, could be used across isolated regions of the country and help to achieve the renewable energy targets laid out at both UK and Scottish Government levels.

The new Community Benefit protocol laid out by Scottish Renewables will serve both developers and communities. Communities will know exactly the level of funding they should be expected to receive and developers will benefit from increased awareness of the Community Benefit Programme.

Majority of UK Public Support Renewables

A survey published last weekend in the Sunday Times has revealed that public support for renewable energy remains strong across the political spectrum. Support for renewable energy continues to outstrip support for shale gas developments despite a concentrated and sustained media campaign by shale gas companies.

The survey, carried out by YouGov, polled 1,952 people, establishing their political preferences and asked them if they were in favour of financial support for a variety of energy generation technologies. The poll revealed that a majority of all four political parties supporters were in favour of continued funding for renewable technologies such as wind and tidal power.

Regardless of political opinion, a majority of 65% were in favour of continuing support for the wind industry. This was a strong result given the continuing campaign against the industry in some parts of the media. 76% of those polled were in favour of financial support for the embryonic tidal power industry and 79% were favourable to continued support for solar power. These poll results seem to indicate that a consensus exists among the public in regards to renewable energy generation. Nearly two-thirds of those polled are of the opinion that renewable energy is the solution both to rising energy prices and climate change. This is reflected in the poll results for fossil fuel use. Only 40% of those polled were in favour of financial support for shale gas despite the optimistic estimates made in some parts of the media about it’s potential impact upon the domestic energy market. This belief in renewable energy was also seen in the fact that only 49% of those polled were in favour of financial support for nuclear support. This is despite the fact that new nuclear power generation will not be able to go ahead in this country without very heavy financial support from the government.

Shale gas has rapidly become a concern for many people within the UK; as demonstrated by the anti-fracking protest groups which are springing up across the country. Such concerns are reflected in the polling data. For example, 47% of those polled considered shale gas extraction (fracking) to be damaging to the environment. Only 31% believed that this was not the case. Furthermore, 43% of people felt that shale gas development would be harmful to their local area. Only 25% of people would be happy to see fracking proceed in their locality.

The fact that UKIP were included as one of the political party preferences demonstrates their growth; particularly in England. The party has often been perceived as an extremist (in some regards) offshoot of the Conservative party. One would expect therefore their supporters to be strongly anti-renewables. However, 51% of polled UKIP supporters were in favour of financial support for wind power and 76% in favour of support for marine energy. These results correlate with an earlier survey which found that voters favour politicians who actively support wind power. Public support for wind energy generation continues to be strong.

RenewableUK‘s Director of External Affairs, Jennifer Webber released the following statement about the poll results:

“Poll after poll shows that voters value low carbon technologies such as wind and tidal power. This latest poll shows that there’s not a single age group or voting demographic where a majority of people don’t want financial support for wind. It’s clear that for politicians, whether they’re UKIP, Conservative, Liberal Democrat or Labour that further development of our natural wind and marine resources is the way to go.

“With a recent study from Cardiff University showing that over 80% of people are worried about becoming overly dependent on energy from other countries, it’s important that confidence is retained for domestic low carbon producers. Wind provided enough power for the equivalent of 4.5 million homes last year and needs to play an increasing role in our electricity provision. If we press strongly on, as supporters of all political parties are urging, we can also build on our offshore and marine supply chain to create tens of thousands of jobs over the next decade”.

In other news, several major turbine manufacturers are collaborating together on solutions to reduce bird fatalities caused by turbine blades. The project is being led by Energy Norway, includes contributions from Statoil, Vatenfall, Trønder Energi Kraft, NVE and NINA, and is supported by the Research Council of Norway. Although research has demonstrated that turbines have no long term impact on bird populations and indeed cause less fatalities than traffic or domestic cats bird deaths remains an issue for some members of the public. This new pilot scheme will test whether painting some parts of wind turbines black (for instance one of the turbine blades or part of the tower) can increase their visibility to bird species and reduce collisions. The use of ultraviolet paint (which is invisible to the human eye) is also being explored. Trials are to be carried out at the 68 turbine Smøla wind farm in Northern Norway. Whilst any step which can be taken to reduce collisions is welcome it should be remembered that the most significant steps taken to avoid harming bird populations are carried out at the planning stage. Stringent planning requirements exist in Scotland (and the wider UK) to ensure that turbines are placed in areas in which they will have a minimal impact on protected species, large populations and migratory routes. However, if such schemes can further minimise bird deaths then they be welcomed by both the wind industry and the public.

Wind power continues to receive the support of the British public. But the result of this fact must not be complacency.The wind power industry must continue to get it’s message across. And programs such as that being trailed in Norway can only help to do so.

South Lanarkshire wind attracting large investments

Last week,  a share issue was launched by a Scottish Wind-farm Co-operative to fund wind projects in South Lanarkshire. This share issue indicates not only the extraordinarily competitive returns that renewable energy developments can bring but also the status of South Lanarkshire as one of the best regions in the United Kingdom for onshore wind developments.

The Spirit of Lanarkshire Wind Co-operative launched it’s share issue last week, aiming to raise up to £2.7 million for two wind farm developments in the area. If the share issue is over-subscribed priority will be given to South Lanarkshire residents. Within it’s first week it has raised £132,000. According to the chairman of the co-operative a respectable annual rate of return of 8.5% is expected.

Tom Robinson, an investor in previous share issues, commented:

“It has worked out excellent. There was one year when we only got 7.6%, but then you look at an ISA paying 0.1%. One year it was 10.6%.”

Similarly, last month an Australian renewable energy firm launched a four year ‘mini bond’, offering a fixed rate of return of 7.5%, intended to finance both solar and onshore wind projects within the UK. The frequent occurrence of such share issues illustrates the profits that can be made from renewable energy development. However, it should be remembered both that these are not risk free investments nor are they the only investments which one can make in this field.

Bonds purchased in such share issues cannot be traded on the UK stock market. Nor are they covered by the Financial Services Compensation Scheme; leaving the investor open to risk in the event of such developments not proceeding as planned. Finally, in the case of the Co-operative share issue, investors will not be paid back until after 25 years i.e. the life span of a wind farm. For many people in South Lanarkshire and elsewhere (particularly land owners) smaller scale developments may prove to be more suitable.

Such developments, do however, confirm South Lanarkshire as one of the United Kingdom’s best regions for onshore wind developments. High wind speeds, tracts of rural land, an informed public and local authority all add up to a prime renewable region.

We at Intelligent Land Investments (Renewable Energy) offer our landowners an extremely competitive rate of return with the enhanced attractiveness that we require no monetary investment from them. All development costs are met by us. This, combined with the fact that small or medium scale turbine developments are far quicker to progress through planning than full scale wind farm development, means that  a landowner may be able to make more money more quickly from only one or two turbines than from a wind farm and not just in South Lanarkshire but across all of Scotland.

 

New Survey Reveals Farmers Enthusiasm for Renewables

A survey published last week has revealed the full extent of the enthusiasm which the British Agricultural Industry has for renewable energy. The research, ‘Farms as Power Stations’ has demonstrated the massive increase in renewable energy generation on British farmland over the last few years and indicates that this level of growth is expected to continue. The role which British Agricultural can play in renewable energy generation is something which we at Intelligent Land Investments (Renewable Energy) have long appreciated.

The research was carried out in partnership between Nottingham Trent University, Farmers Weekly and Forum For The Future. Around 700 farmers from across the UK participated in the survey. Nearly 40% of those farmers surveyed were utilising renewable energy generation on their land. This is a huge increase on the last comparable survey, carried out by DEFRA in 2010 which found that only 5% of surveyed farmers were generating renewable energy on their land. Such a large and rapid increase demonstrates the great strides the renewable energy industry, particularly onshore wind, has been making over the last few years.

Indeed of those surveyed who did not have some form of renewable energy generation on their land 61% stated that they were extremely likely to rectify this within the next five years; with a majority indicating that small or medium scale wind generation would be their preferred choice. Such keenness is reflected in the reasons given for wanting a renewable  development on their land. Whilst expected reasons such as reducing climate change or increasing national energy security were given by many; 71% gave as their primary reason the good financial returns in comparison to more traditional farm enterprises.

The results of the survey were received enthusiastically by those bodies involved in the canvassing as well the wider renewables industry. Professor Eunice Simmons, the dean of Nottingham Trent University’s School of Animal, Rural and Environmental Sciences, said:

“It’s very positive news that renewables are becoming more popular with UK farmers – and this trend looks set to continue over the coming years.

Maf Smith, Deputy Chief Executive of industry body RenewableUK commented:

“This important new research shows just how valuable renewable energy is to farmers at a tough time for crop yields. Farmers have always worked with the countryside and depend on the weather to make their living, and it’s good to see small-scale wind turbines playing their part in this. The UK’s small wind industry leads the world, and there’s a beautiful synchronicity in turbines manufactured in Loughborough turning in fields in Lincolnshire.”

“With 76% of farmers still believing the potential for renewable energy is not being met, it’s clear that there are a lot of opportunities out there for further development. A consistent rate of support for small and medium-sized wind turbines, and consistent and predictable planning decisions, to help our British industry really establish itself, could ensure that even more farmers are helped to make the most of their natural resources”.

The farmers surveyed also provided what they considered to be the top 5 barriers to on-farm renewable energy generation. The major reason given was the high investment costs. It is at this point in time that we would like to point out that we at ILI (RE) do not require our landowners to provide any capital. The next major barrier given was the amount of red tape involved. ILI (RE) handles all of this for our clients allowing them to concentrate on their core businesses. The third major barrier cited in the survey was the planning process. Whilst it is true that progressing a renewable energy development through the planning system can be a time consuming process we at ILI (RE) are vastly experienced in this process and can call on our in-house specialist staff to deal with any hurdles.  The fourth major barrier, community opposition, is also something which we have dealt with a number of times; gathering support from the community for a development and directing support towards the planners handling any application. The final hurdle, accessing capital, is again something which is not an issue for our developments.

The results of the ‘Farms as Power Stations’ survey chime with other research carried out in this area. For example, a survey carried out in May of this year found that 95% of British farmers believe that renewable energy will play a key role in the future of British Agriculture. We at Intelligent Land Investments (Renewable Energy) can only agree with this majority. Having spoken to farmers and landowners up and down the country we understand the importance of accessing the revenue which renewable energy developments can bring in modern British agriculture. Particularly in these times of poor weather and CAP reforms.

 

 

 

Biggar Museum to be funded by onshore wind

It was announced this week that the Biggar Museum Trust has been awarded £620,000 of funding from the Clyde wind farm community fund by South Lanarkshire Council. This funding means that the Trust will now be able to build a new facility to house Biggar Museum’s collection.

The Clyde wind farm community fund allocates approximately £800,000 annually to community and business projects in South Lanarkshire. As such the £620,000 awarded to the Biggar Museum Trust represents the largest single contribution made by the fund, administered by South Lanarkshire Council on behalf of SSE’s (Scottish and Southern Energy’s) Community Investment Programme. At least £20 million will be invested in South Lanarkshire over the 25 year life span of the 152 turbine, 350 Megawatt  Clyde Wind Farm.

Biggar Museum Trust has been trying for a number of years to develop a new facility. Currently the Trust’s collection, which has been being built up over the last 40 years, is currently scattered across a number of locations across Biggar. in 2012 the Trust had applied unsuccessfully for Lottery Funding but has now been able to secure a larger level of funding thanks to local renewable energy developments.

The new facility will be based at the former Stephens Garage on Biggar High Street. Estimates submitted as part of the funding application indicate that the new museum will bring in approximately £88,000 per year to the local economy. Upon receiving the news that the funding application had been successful James Dawney, Chairman of the Biggar Museum Trust, commented:

“We are absolutely delighted with this award. It represents a major element of the financing needed to build the new museum of Biggar and Upper Clydesdale, a project that will not only safeguard the future of Biggar’s unique collection but will also create a cultural hub for visitors and local people to connect with their heritage and enjoy a wide range of activities.”

Chair of South Lanarkshire Council’s Enterprise Services Committee, Councillor Chris Thompson, said: “This project is great news for the people of Biggar and the surrounding communities. Hopefully it will attract people from far and wide and allow them to see for themselves the impressive collection of artefacts the Trust has collected over the years.”

Ciara Wilson, SSE Community Investment Advisor, added:”SSE is proud to be backing a project of this calibre through our Clyde wind farm fund. The new museum has the potential to create significant economic benefits for the wider community by bringing new visitors to the area and supporting other local businesses in turn. It will be a great legacy for future generations.”

It should be noted that the Biggar Museum Trust was not the only project to be awarded funding from the Clyde wind farm community fund; nor indeed was the only fund to be allocated this week. For example the Clyde wind farm community fund also awarded £32,402 to the Rigside Playpark Group – a band of parents and local volunteers – to redevelop a playpark in the village of Rigside. Similarly the Douglas Playpark Group was awarded £46,185 to redevelop the Manse View Playpark

The Blacklaw Renewable Energy Fund (again administered by South Lanarkshire Council on behalf of ScottishPower Renewables) awarded £15,322 to the Fourth Royal British Legion to refurbish their premises in Blacklaw Village. New toilet and kitchen facilities will be installed as part of this refurbishment. Funding was also awarded to St Mary’s Episcopal Church in Hamilton to carry out refurbishment work. These are just some of the examples of the good work which is being facilitated, not just in South Lanarkshire but across the country, by renewable energy developments, particularly onshore wind.

Councillor Chris Thompson, the chair of the council’s Enterprise Services Committee, which approved the applications, observed: “All of the projects given approval today will have a real benefit for their community. I am delighted that such a wide range of them have received this support.

“We do of course have to thank the various wind farm operators as the money comes from them and we simply administer the funds on their behalf.”

Intelligent Land Investments (Renewable Energy) is pleased to be able to say that we are also contributing to South Lanarkshire Council’s renewable energy fund through the large number of consented developments we have in the area. We also look forward to increasing the level of this funding by increasing the number of developments we have consented in South Lanarkshire.

However, it must be pointed out that there numerous local authorities within Scotland that do not operate such funds. This is perhaps unfortunate as it can make the benefits renewable energy developments can bring to an area less visible. This is an issue that we hope the Scottish Government Community Benefit Register is rectifying.

In such areas, which do not have a council administrated fund, we at Intelligent Land Investments (Renewable Energy) have made our own arrangements. Often in areas in which there is no obligation to offer a community benefit of any kind. Contributions are being made to community groups and local charities up and down the country, particularly in areas of child support and development. It is our belief that the benefits of local renewable energy developments should be directed at those most in need. The unsupported, marginalised and vulnerable. Medium scale single turbine developments such as ours not only mean that the benefits brought by feed-in-tariffs are not limited to large-scale landowners but that community benefits can go beyond construction and into vital local social support networks.