Europe’s largest tidal array granted planning consent

This week it was announced that the Scottish Government has granted planning consent to what will be Europe’s largest tidal array energy project.

The go ahead for the project was announced by Scottish Government Energy Minister Fergus Ewing, earlier this week, saying;  “Today we have granted consent to MeyGen Limited to develop the largest tidal turbine array in Europe and the first commercial project off these shores.”

Maygen is a joint venture between the investment bank Morgan Stanley, GDF Suez, International Power, and Atlantis Resources Corporation (a developer of tidal energy technology). A 25 year lease has already been agreed with the Crown Estate for 1.4 square miles of fast flowing water between the north-eastern tip of the Scottish mainland and the Island of Stroma. Planning consent has been granted for the development of around 86 1 MW (Megawatt) turbines. This would generate up to 86 MWs of electricity, enough to power 42,000 homes or 40% of the homes in the Highlands according to Scottish Government sources.

However, development is scheduled to occur in phases. With construction happening up until 2020. The first phase of the development is the installation of 9 of the 1 MW turbines to act as a demonstration of the successful commercialization of the technology. Each turbine stands 22.5 metres tall (73 feet), weighs 1,500 tonnes, and has a rotor diameter of 18 metres (59 feet) The site within the Pentland Firth could eventually yield up to 398 MWs of power.

Tidal and marine energy generation are considered by both the UK and Scottish Governments to have a huge role to play in the fulfillment of the countries renewable energy commitments. Improvement and refinement of the necessary technology will continue in the coming years but the development of the Pentland Firth array will act as both a milestone for the technology itself and also for Scotland’s world leading marine energy industry. The Carbon Trust has estimated that wave and tidal technology could provide 20% of the UK’s electricity demand if our resources are fully developed.

News of the granting of planning consent was met favourably by both industry and environmental bodies. A spokesperson for WWF Scotland commented:

“Scotland is well placed to lead in developing the technologies to turn this potential into a reality while create thousands of green jobs at the same time,

“However, as there is little point in generating huge amounts of marine renewable energy on Scotland’s islands if it cannot also be got to the mainland, we now need UK and Scottish Ministers to find a way forward that enables us to harness the full potential of this clean energy source.

“With careful planning we can harness Scotland’s huge wave and tidal energy to help cut our climate emissions, while safeguarding the nation’s tremendous marine environment.”

Scottish Renewables Policy Manager Michael Rieley stated:

“Scotland has just been given another reason to be proud of its burgeoning marine energy industry now that Europe’s largest tidal stream energy project will be calling Scotland home. This is by far one of the most important milestones for the tidal energy sector to meet.

“This latest announcement to come from the marine industry is further proof that all the hard work to win the global energy race is paying off. Not only will new projects like this mean a step further towards meeting our renewable energy targets, but it will also lead to further jobs being created, increased investment, and a significant contribution towards tackling climate change.”

In regards to onshore wind generation, UK Energy Secretary Ed Davey announced this week that onshore wind developments on the Scottish Islands are to be incentivised through the use of “strike prices”; higher subsidy payments than such developments would receive on the mainland. It was stated that the new price of £115 MW/h (megawatt hour) has been set to reflect the unique circumstances and potential of carrying out such renewable energy developments. The “strike price” does not apply for any other form of power generation than onshore wind. Often suitable sites on the Isles are subject to higher wind speeds than would be encountered on the mainland. However, costs can be far higher due to the potential difficulties and extra costs associated with connecting into the electricity grid. This is the first time that the UK Government has set a higher strike price for a specific region of the UK.

Mr Davey commented:

“This is good news for the future of renewables in Scotland and this unique solution will pave the way for more investment in green energy.

“An independent report showed that the specific circumstances of the Scottish islands required a different approach that breaks the mould of the wider UK strike price mechanism, and we are delivering that.

“This was possible because of a strong partnership between Westminster, Holyrood and the island councils.

“Thanks to consumers across the whole of the United Kingdom, we can offer this special higher strike price, so Britain gets more green energy, so consumers’ bills in Scotland are kept affordable and so the green economy of the islands grows.”

From the news announced this week we can see the central role that Scotland, and in particular the Scottish Islands, have to play in not only increasing the UK’s energy security, meeting renewable energy generation targets, and reducing carbon emissions but also in the development of a world class industry capitalising on the natural resources of the country.

SSE to carry out £200 million grid upgrade in Argyll and Bute

It was announced this week that Scottish and Southern Energy (SSE) is to carry out over £200 million worth of upgrades to the electricity transmission network between Argyll & Bute and North Ayrshire. Much of the investment will be directed towards a new subsea link between Kintyre and Hunterston.

The announcement was made after SSE’s plans received approval from industry regulator Ofgem. However, spokespeople for SSE have revealed that pre-construction work on the network upgrade has already commenced. The project is estimated to be completed by 2016.

The news is significant for both the local and the renewables sector. 150 Megawatts of capacity will be devoted to renewable energy developments. Renewable energy is an industry which has long been considered to have significant potential for economic growth within Argyll & Bute. However, some renewable energy developments in the area have been constrained by a lack of available grid capacity. Whilst investment in the area’s transmission has long been mooted now both local businesses and renewable energy developers can now proceed with certainty.

The network upgrade is good news for other reasons as well. Parts of both Argyll & Bute and North Ayrshire suffered from prolonged power outages earlier this year due to extreme weather conditions. The work to be carried out by SSE will serve to increase the local grids resiliance and make such events far less likely in the future.

SSE’s Director of Transmission, David Gardner commented:

“The announcement from Ofgem signals another significant step in our plans to reinforce the transmission infrastructure throughout Scotland.

“Along with completion of key projects within our approved budget of £1.4bn, this project demonstrates that we are gaining momentum on our capital expenditure programme which will connect significant amounts of renewable energy to the grid; contributing to energy security, economic growth and decarbonisation of electricity generation.”

The work to be carried out in Kintyre is only one small part of the £5 billion investment SSE intends to make into Scotland’s energy transmission network. Such levels of investment will provide a huge boost to Scotland’s renewable energy industry. There are currently developments across the country which are being delayed by a lack of available grid capacity.

However, in some cases, smaller renewable energy projects such as the medium scale wind developments carried forward by ourselves at Intelligent Land Investments (Renewable Energy) can make use of alternative solutions to a lack of grid capacity.

Ofgem’s approval of this grid upgrade work is the first to be issued under their new Strategic Wider Works (SWW) programme. SWW was introduced to consider funding for specific major transmission projects on a case by case basis in a timely fashion. A large number of transmission network uprgade programmes are being considered. We at Intelligent Land Investments (Renewable Energy) and within the wider renewable energy industry look forward to further approvals.

New radar system could mean boon for onshore wind

Last week a new and potentially revolutionary 3D radar system was tested in Scotland. The new system is designed to eliminate interference in radar systems from wind turbines.

Current radar systems can be subject to interference from wind turbines. When spinning and generating power turbines in areas covered by aviation radar systems can potentially confuse or ‘clutter’ radar. Whilst there are some limited solutions available to turbine developers the scale at which these can be used is limited. Existing aviation radar systems can be ‘patched’  to reduce any potential for ‘clutter’ on radar screens however this must be done on an individual basis and it is generally the case that one patch can be used in a 2.5 kilometre radius. Additionally patches are not always available. These limitations have meant that many potential onshore wind developments have been unable to progress despite them meeting all other criteria for development in terms of environmental and landscape impact,grid capacity, visual impact etc. The trade body RenewableUK has estimated that approximately 6.2 GW (Gigawatts) worth of onshore wind developments have been held up due to such aviation issues. However, this figure is likely to be higher due to developments being dropped early or never progressed with due to expectations of such issues down the line.

The new 3D holographic radar system was successfully tested at Prestwick Airport last week by the systems developer Aveillant. The new 3D radar system was successful in differentiating between spinning turbine blades and flying aircraft. The turbines at Millour Wind Farm which is nearby to Prestwick Airport were used to conduct the tests. It should be noted this this windfarm is located in an area which does not cause any potential safety risks to the existing radar system at Prestwick Airport.

The new radar system has also been succesfully tested recently in the United States; at Indian Mesa Wind Farm in West Texas. In both tests the system was completely successful in pinpointing the location of all turbines and aircraft (as part of the test information about the flight-paths and altitudes of aircraft passing over and near to the turbines was not made known in advance) without any interference. Following the US tests it was announced that American civil and military surveillance requirements were successfully met. Gordon Oswald, Aveillant’s Chief Technology Officer stated:

“We don’t know exactly what was flown overhead – we’re talking about the most sophisticated government in the world here, and they will be out to test us – but we can confirm that several different types of aircraft were detected above and around the wind farm, and that our radar easily distinguished between wind farms and different types of aircraft.”

It is worth noting that the radar system was safely and successfully installed for the US test in less than a day. Developer Aveillant has announced that provided further, more detailed, tests are successful then the radar system could be in commercial operation by the end of this year.

David Crisp, chief executive at Aviellant made the following statement after the completion of the test at Prestwick:

“This is the first live demonstration of the radar [in the UK] and it has gone fantastically well.

“We have had very good feedback from wind farm developers and the Civil Aviation Authority, and will be doing more detailed risk assessments to meet the CAA’s standards.

“It’s an interesting thing to demonstrate because we are basically showing that there is nothing to see. Normal radar sweeps around once every four seconds. Holographic 3D radar is the next generation technology, going round four times per second, or 16 times faster.

“The first aim was to prove that the 3D radar can differentiate between aircraft and turbines, which was clearly demonstrated. The second aim was to show that the holographic radar can be integrated with airport radar, which happened seamlessly.

“If all those objections shown in the RenewableUK data last year were removed you could almost double the amount of wind farms in the UK. This will have a huge impact in Scotland, which is, quite rightly I think, very committed to wind power and has a very good wind climate compared to England.”

Several major players in the onshore wind industry have invested in the development of this new radar system through the Aviation Investment Fund Company Limited (AIFC).Currently AIFC has invested £500,000 in the development. Their chairman Simon Heyes was present at the test in the UK and made the following comment to the press:

“To see what we have heard so much about has been really good. It certainly takes us a step forward to our goal of getting wind farms constructed where they currently are held up by objections from airports.”

Industry body Scottish Renewables has estimated that around half of all wind turbine applications which have ran into aviation issues are in Scotland. From this then we can see the contribution the roll-out of such new radar systems could make not just to Scotland’s onshore wind industry but to our country’s targets in renewable energy generation, carbon emission reduction and to increasing our energy security.

Scottish Renewables’ senior policy manager Ross Blairmie reacted to the successful testing:

“For a number of years the industry has been working extensively to understand how wind farms interact with radars used by the aviation industry … This has resulted in major investments being made to find innovative solutions to tackle the issue.

“Scottish Renewables welcomes the new research and technology being tested by Aveillant and hopes to work with companies like them, along with the Scottish Government and the aviation industry, to find a solution to remove this significant barrier to the development of onshore wind in Scotland.”

It is worth noting that the issue of radar interference has not just affected the development of large scale wind farms but small and medium scale developments such as those carried out by ourselves at Intelligent Land Investments (Renewable Energy). Whilst much of the media attention has focused on wind farms, as is often the case, there are landowners and farmers in many areas of Scotland who have been unable to progress with their developments due to aviation concerns. The successful commercial deployment of new 3D radar systems represents an opportunity for many farmers and landowners to progress with onshore wind developments. Meaning that much needed revenue streams can be accessed in what are difficult times for many in the agricultural industry. Additionally the progression of such developments would also mean more funding for community contribution schemes such as we at ILI (RE) operate.

We eagerly await further news on this front.

 

 

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.

 

 

Scotland achieves Europe’s biggest carbon reduction

Last week new figures were published by the Scottish Government which have revealed the strides the country is taking in reducing carbon emissions. Ambitious targets were set by the current administration; as with renewable energy generation.

The released statistics show that carbon emissions went down by 9.9% in 2011 compared to 2010. This is the largest reduction on record. In 2010, Scotland was responsible for 56.9MtCO2e (metric tonnes of carbon emissions) being released into the atmosphere. 2011 saw 51.3MtCO2e being released into the atmosphere – a reduction of 5.6MtCO2e. These results ensured that Scotland retained its position as the most successful EU-15 member state (the EU-15 is composed of Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Sweden and the countries of the United Kingdom) in reducing its level of carbon emissions. Over the period 1990-2011 Scotland has successfully reduced carbon emissions by 29.6%.

Unfortunately, despite the record breaking nature of these emission reductions Scotland was unable to meet the revised target for 2011 by a narrow margin of 0.8MtCO2e. The Scottish Government attributed this to a revision of the historical data which was used to set carbon emission reduction targets in 2009. Spokespeople for the Government stressed that the country has been successful in meeting the reduction target for the year in percentage terms. The failure to meet the target in terms of carbon emissions themselves was wholly attributed to the revised and thusly increased levels of carbon emissions between 1990 and 2009. Had these figures been un-revised the 2011 target would have been exceeded.  It was emphasised that the 2020 carbon emission target is still absolutely achievable and as of this point in time the country will have to reduce its level of carbon emissions by 44% over the next seven years. Scotland is over halfway there.

Paul Wheelhouse, Scottish Government Minister for Environment and Climate Change announced the release of the data with the following statement:

‪“Latest statistics published show that Scotland is on course to meet our climate change targets.

“In 2011 unadjusted emissions fell by 9.9 per cent – the largest year-on-year drop since records began. They also show large decreases in greenhouse gas emissions in the energy supply, residential and public sectors.

“The long term trend shows we will achieve our world-leading target of a 42 per cent emissions reduction if we continue on the course we have set. I also welcome that Scotland continues to lead the EU15 on emissions reductions.

“Despite changes to the historical data on emissions, making this year’s target harder to achieve, we have come within touching distance of it, and the revised targets mean we will all need to focus our efforts in the future to stay on course.

“Whilst I am disappointed we have not achieved our climate change reduction goal for 2011 in carbon terms, we have met it in percentage terms – with a 25.7 per cent reduction between 1990 and 2011. If the baseline had not changed the target would also have been met in carbon terms.”

Responses to the information were perhaps somewhat muted but optimistic for the future. Dr Sam Gardner of Stop Climate Chaos Scotland commented:

“We recognise that this is due in part to complicated changes in how we count our emissions, but the headline of another missed target strongly underlines the need for the much tougher climate action plan – expected out later this month – that will drive down emissions year on year and give confidence that future targets can be met.”

There was further good news in other aspects of the countries long term energy strategy. For instance, nearly two thirds (65%) of homes in Scotland were ranked ‘good’ in terms of energy efficiency. This represents an increase of 15% since such data was last collated in 2007.

Additionally, Scotland is ahead of schedule in meeting the 2020 target for 100% of the country’s electricity needs to be generated from renewable sources. Provisional data indicates that in 2012 38.7% of Scotland’s electricity needs were generated using renewable sources. Given that the first marine and tidal tubine farms will begin feeding electricity into the national grid over the course of the next few years and the increasing prevalence and popularity of onshore wind then one one would expect the 2015 interim target of 50% of electricity needs to be generated from renewables to be exceeded as well.

Responding to these comments Scottish Government Energy Minister Fergus Ewing (who was involved in a round-table discussion with our Chief Executive Mark Wilson last week) commented:

“2012 was another record year for renewables in Scotland.  Scotland also contributed more than a third of the entire UK’s renewables output, demonstrating just how important a role our renewable resource is playing in terms of helping the UK meet its binding EU renewable energy targets.

“We remain firmly on course to generate the equivalent of 100 per cent of Scotland’s electricity needs from renewables by 2020 – with renewables generating more than enough electricity to supply every Scottish home.”

With the Scottish Government also announcing increased support for wind power it is clear that the country is committed to carbon emission reduction and renewable energy. ILI (Renewable Energy) will continue to do it’s part in contributing to the fulfillment of these targets and keeping energy bills down for consumers by reducing dependence upon fossil fuel imports

Community Benefits

It is frequently the case that any mooted renewable energy development will also propose to establish a community benefit of some sort.

Most often this benefit takes the form of an annual charitable donation or  annual funding given to a local community group to direct where it is felt to be most needed. Community benefits are often one of the most important aspects of any proposed development ;and certainly one of the most relevant to local communities. However, it can be argued that community benefits are frequently one of the less publicised elements of any development. Developers and, it must be said, Local Authorities often fail to successfully get their message across.Debate is often led up the path of spurious speculation on health rather than the concrete benefits developments can bring in these times of ever decreasing central and local funding

In our experience, the potential for community benefits to be lost in the debate over development is not helped by the fact that there is little consistency across Local Authority areas in how such funding is not just collected or administered but if it is even required. For some Local Authorities community benefits are collected and managed by the Local Authority itself; such as in South Lanarkshire. It may be the case that only developments above a certain scale  are required to produce a community benefit. In some councils providing a community benefit is not considered to be mandatory. The lack of consistency between Local Authorities in the requirements for community benefits could be argued to be real hindrance to renewable energy developments in this country. Community benefits are often the most immediately palpable positive part of a development but their impact may be heavily diluted by a lack of public awareness or expectation. Perhaps if community benefits were more widely promoted by both developers and local authorities it would enable local communities to engage more fully with the arguments surrounding potential developments.

We at Intelligent Land Investments would like, at this time, to stress that all of our developments proposed, consented or constructed includes a community benefit regardless of whether one is required by the local authority. Frequently in cases where we are paying into a council managed fund we are paying more than required by that council. In all of the cases in which there is no requirement for a community benefit  we sought out a local charity working widely within the local authority area of a development, helping the vulnerable of that community, ran by members of that community for the benefit of that community.

The Scottish Government has taken some steps to promote and publicise community benefits but more could be done.

The Community Benefit Register, launched last year, which can be found here provides details of all of the community benefits provided by constructed renewable developments. However it is not mandatory to register community benefits on the website let alone mandatory to provide them. More standardisation of community benefits across local authority areas could prove to be extremely beneficial. For instance making the provision of community benefits mandatory across the country would shift the debate from promoting their existence to promoting not just the good work they could fund but the good work they are already funding. We at Intelligent Land Investments feel that promoting such work would have more impact than promoting the difference in projected energy bill pricing between a renewables and fossil fuel based energy system.

 

A Good Week

Last week saw good news for us here at Intelligent Land Investments as we saw five of our sites gain planning approval over the course of a few days. This acceleration of sites coming through the planning process is the result of much hard work over the last year in signing up, assessing and making the case for our sites to communities and councils.

The five sites are in Local Authority Areas across the country including Aberdeenshire and South Lanarkshire; two areas of great wind resource, arable land and grid development. In total they add up to over a megawatt of renewable energy which will be constructed, connected to the National Grid and generating renewable electricity over the course of the next few months.

Good news for ourselves but more importantly good news for the farmers and landowners which we work with. The benefits of renewable energy should not be reaped solely by those landowners and developers able to develop large scale windfarms. The feed-in-tariff, as we are demonstrating, can be accessed by a much higher proportion of the population. People to which the revenue from a wind turbine, such as those consented last week, can be a game-changer  At a time when the UK’s agricultural sector is coming under increasing pressure from poor weather, higher costs and reduced governmental support the work companies such as ourselves are doing can make a real difference for farmers across the country.

Good news for communities across the country as well as money from every one of these turbines (as well as all of our other sites) will be used to support community groups, projects and charities in every one of the Local Authority Areas in which we are operating. At a time when funding for such vital work is being squeezed we are delighted to be able to make a contribution.

Good news too for both the UK and Scottish Governments. We are contributing to both parliaments meeting their renewable energy generation targets along with the rest of our industry. Over the past few years Renewable Energy has been one of the few industries in the UK able to create both growth and jobs

The benefits that renewable energy generation can bring to farmers across the country were promoted by the NFU (National Farmers Union) in the run up to their annual conference this week. Noting that British agricultural yields and productivity have dropped to levels not seen since the 1980s (largely attributed to last years poor weather) it was revealed that in 2012 an estimated one in five NFU members produced renewable electricity on their land. The NFU is encouraging more of it’s members to explore the opportunites available to them:

“2012 was a difficult year for the farming community, with bad weather hitting incomes hard. Investing in renewable energy provides farmers and growers with additional earnings at a time when farm budgets have become very stretched.” – Dr Jonathan Scurlock, NFU Chief Advisor for renewable energy and climate change.

Maria McCaffrey, Chief Executive of RenewableUK received the news enthusiastically:

“Farmers are experts at harnessing the Earth’s natural resources, so it’s no surprise that they are leading the way on wind energy. The UK has the most powerful wind resource in Europe and this has provided a vital source of income for farmers, helping to preserve rural communities in Britain.”

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

A good week for Wind Energy

There was good news for the UK wind industry this week as a YouGov poll published in last weeks Sunday Times revealed that support for renewable energy remains extremely high with the British public.

The poll from the country’s most respected market research agency revealed particularly strong support for wind, wave and tidal power. For example when those sampled were asked which technologies they most supported for meeting Britain’s energy needs  18% of those asked backed wind power and a further 18% backed wave and tidal power. In comparison only 5% felt that further gas generation was the best solution and a meagre 2% backed an expansion of coal power generation. This is despite strong claims from some sections of the UK Government that a boom in unconventional gas could act as an economic stimulus for the country over the next decade.

Government support levels for renewable technologies have also been a contentious issue for some aspects of the British press with some outlets claiming that there is mass public opposition to schemes such as the Renewables Obligations and the Feed-in-Tariffs. However this YouGov poll reveals that 66% of those surveyed feel the government is entirely correct to subsidise renewable developments. Additionally 56% of people polled are strongly in favour of continued financial support for wind. These figures would seem to suggest that it is vested interests rather than the public who are unhappy with the expansion of renewable energy developments in the UK. Some press outlets have also maintained that people are particularly opposed to these developments happening in their own local area. Again these claims are not backed up the  polling figures: 64% of people would be in favour of a large scale onshore wind development in their area, 72% would support a large scale offshore wind development and 71% would be in favour of large scale development of wave and tidal resources. In comparison only between 4-13% of people would oppose such developments.

The publication of the poll was received enthusiastically by Jennifer Webber, Director of External Affairs for RenewableUK:

“Each time one of these national polls is published we see the same message – resounding support for wind, wave and tidal, continued acceptance of financial support for them and understanding of the benefits. Government needs to focus all its efforts on realising the low carbon future people are calling out for – 78% of people polled chose a low-carbon source of energy as their choice for the future. To achieve the investment needed to secure people’s overwhelming request for a low carbon future, we need to see a signal from Government beyond 2020. The 2030 target would be a great way to achieve this.

Additionally, this week, a document published by the European Wind Energy Association (EWEA) revealed that the UK now has the third highest wind energy capacity on the continent.  This is an improvement on 2011 when the UK was fifth behind France, Italy, Germany and Spain. 2012 has seen the UK leapfrog France and Italy now behind only the long established German and Spanish industries. In total the UK now has 8.4GW of installed wind capacity.

Maf Smith, Deputy Chief Executive of RenewableUK commented:

“The UK’s strong performance in the European league table reflects the growing importance of the British wind industry as a leading player. This proves the increasing significance of wind energy to the UK’s economy despite tough global economic conditions.

“The Government is calling for the UK to quadruple the amount of wind installed between now and 2020. The industry can achieve 31 gigawatts onshore and offshore by the end of the decade, but only with clear-cross party political support.

“We can attract billions of pounds worth of investment to the UK and create tens of thousands of jobs, but only if the signals from Westminster are right. The proof of this will be in the Energy Bill, which is due to become law by the end of the year. So the decisions taken by Government over the next few months are absolutely crucial for the UK’s wind industry.”

69% of all new European energy capacity came from renewable technologies underlining the consensus that exists in Europe about both the importance and potential of renewable energy.