New wind capacity unlocked by radar tech

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


National Grid to publish constraint payment information for all forms of energy generation

Last week, industry trade body Scottish Renewables announced that it had been in contact with the National Grid to request more balance in it’s reporting of constraint payments to wind turbine developers.

Constraint payments are payments made to energy generators at times of low demand. When there is a surplus of power in the National Grid generators are paid at a pre-agreed rate to shut down until power demand increases. Constraint payments act as compensation for revenue lost from ceasing to generate and supply power.

Scottish Renewables request to the National Grid was made following the publication of an article in the Scottish Times. The article attempted to detail the level of constraint payments which have been made to wind energy generators at times of low demand. It transpired that the article had been based upon “highly contested” projections of future wind constraint payments rather than actual data. One industry insider was quoted as describing the article as “tosh”. Indeed, the National Grid itself, whose projections the article had been based upon, described the article as highly misleading.

In the last financial year £28 million was paid out to wind energy generators in constraint payments. Whilst this apparently large sum makes for good headlines it should be placed into context. £28 million was paid out to wind energy generators whilst £138 million in constraint payments was paid out to coal, gas and other generators – almost six times as much. No breakdown of these costs has ever been published making it impossible to accurately state how much in constraint payments has been paid out to any form of energy generation technology apart from wind.

Following their contact with Scottish Renewables the National Grid has now confirmed that they have agreed to publish breakdown cost of constraint payments  for other forms of energy generation. The first publication of this information is expected before the end of February. A spokesperson for the National Grid made the point that until now it had only ever been wind energy constraint payment information that anyone had requested. This rather revealing comment  suggests that articles on constraint payments in many mainstream media publications have been motivated by an anti-wind energy sentiment rather than an urge to seriously examine the issue of constraint payments and the true cost of the various forms of energy generation which supply the National Grid.

Following discussions with Scottish Renewables a National Grid spokeswoman made the following comment:

“We have discussed this issue with Scottish Renewables and we are more than happy to meet this request in full. It’s vital that we provide clear information about how we constrain energy generation to balance the power grid.”

Niall Stuart, Chief Executive for Scottish Renewables made the following statement:

“Wind was responsible for 14% of all constraint payments in the first half of this financial year, with coal, gas and hydro accounting for the vast majority of the other 86%.

“Total constraint payments were equal to £161.2m and the cost of constraining wind was £23.3m, meaning that coal, gas and other generators received £137.9m – six times the amount paid to wind.

“Despite this, National Grid only publishes detailed figures on payments to wind, with no breakdown given for the other sectors.

“In the interests of transparency and an open debate about the costs and benefits of all forms of electricity, it is time for the grid operator to publish details of payments to other individual sectors – not just to wind.

“Constraint payments are an essential part of managing the grid, but the public deserves to know where their money is being spent, and the fact that payments to wind are significantly less than those made to coal and gas generation.”

This week, Scottish Renewables also published a report produced by consultancy group O’Herlihy and Co. The report aimed to ascertain the amount of people employed in the Scottish renewable energy industry. 540 companies were surveyed making this the most comprehensive study of its type yet produced.

The report found that 11,695 people are currently in full time employment in Scotland’s renewable energy industry. This represents a 5% increase on last year’s findings and demonstrates both the growth and employment potential of the industry. Interestingly, 5% growth represents a higher level of job creation than the Scottish economy more generally. The study also broke down employment by region and industry sector. The majority of jobs in renewable energy (54%) are located in the Central Belt. The Highlands & Islands (17%) and the North East (14%) are also renewable energy employment hubs.

Onshore wind energy was found to be the industry’s biggest employer with 39% of jobs in this sector. Offshore wind was the second biggest employer with 21% of jobs in this sector. Wave/Tidal and Bioenergy were also significant employers, both providing 9% of the renewable energy industry’s jobs. All other sectors were classed as insignificant employers (at least in terms of number of jobs compared to other sectors).

The data for employment by area and employment by sector were then cross examined. This revealed that Onshore wind and Hydro energy are the biggest renewable employers in the Highlands & Islands. Onshore wind ‘dominates’ employment in Glasgow and is also the ‘most significant employer in the South of Scotland and Lothian. Finally the North East is the country’s hub for Offshore Wind with ‘key concentration’ of jobs in this sector located in this region; taking advantage of the regions long standing experience of marine engineering.

The report also surveyed the 540 renewable energy companies to gauge their expectations for the coming year. 294 organisations (54%) felt their level of employment would increase in 2014. 229 organisations (42%) felt their level of employment would remain the same and just 9 organisations (1.6%) felt their employment level would decrease in 2014. The remaining organisations either did not know or did not respond. From this survey it can taken that Scotland’s renewable energy industry is expecting to continue to grow over the course of 2014.

Joss Blamire, Scottish Renewables Senior Policy Manager made the following statement at the publication of the report:

“These latest figures show the renewables industry has seen steady growth in the number of people being employed despite an uncertain year.

“The breadth of job opportunities for project managers, ecologists and engineers has led to a wide range of people seeing renewable energy as a sector where they can use their skills and training.”

From the news this week we can see that the Scottish renewables industry is looking ahead to a bright 2014. Growth and job creation are expected to continue, generation levels are expected to continue their upward trend and it is hoped that the quality of reporting, particularly on the wind industry, will improve. We here at Intelligent Land Investments (Renewable Energy) look forward in playing our part in moving Scotland closer to it’s renewable energy generation targets.


New UK Wind Energy Records Set

Last week it was announced by industry trade body RenewableUK that the month of December 2013 had seen several wind power records being broken. The announcement followed the publication of electricity generation statistics for December by the National Grid. Despite the high-winds experienced in the UK over the course of December it should be noted that the setting of new records does not simply represent a particularly blustery month but rather the continuation of an upwards trend.

The first record which was broken was the amount of wind power generated in a single month. December saw 2,481,080 MWh (Megawatt hours) of electricity being generated from wind power. This level of generation is enough to power 5.7 million British homes at a time of year which traditionally sees an increase in power usage and demand. The previous record was set in October 2013 when 1,956,437 MWh of electricity was generated from the wind. Crucially, however, this increase in generation led to an increase in the use of wind power by the UK. In December 2013 10% of the UK’s total power demand was sourced from wind power. In comparison, October 2013 saw 8% of the UK’s total energy demand being sourced from wind.

Records were also broken for the amount of electricity generated from wind power over the course of a single week and a single day. The week beginning Monday the 16th of December saw 783,886 MWh of electricity being produced from wind power. This level of power generation represented 13% of the weeks total electricity demand. The 21st of December was the day on which the single day generation record was broken. 132,812 MWh of electricty was generated from wind power representing a notable 17% of the days total electricity demand. The single day generation record had set as recently as the 29th of November. The regularity with which new records are being set reveals the progress that the UK’s wind industry is making in increasing capacity and reducing the country’s dependence upon fossil fuel imports. Indeed around 500 Megawatts of new wind capacity was installed and connected into the National Grid between June and November 2013.

Maf Smith, Deputy Chief Executive of RenewableUK made the following statement whilst announcing the new records:

“This is a towering achievement for the British wind energy industry. It provides cast-iron proof that the direction of travel away from dirty fossil fuels to clean renewable sources is unstoppable.

“In December, we generated more electricity from wind for British homes and businesses than during any other month on record – and we also hit weekly and daily highs.

“This gives us a great sense of confidence for the year ahead, when we will continue to increase the amount of clean power we generate from wind, onshore and offshore.

“As we do so, we are lessening our dependence on excruciatingly expensive imports of fossil fuels which have driven people’s fuel bills up. British wind energy is providing a better alternative – a stable, secure, cost-effective supply of home-grown power”.

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

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

In other news, figures released by Spain’s national grid operator have revealed that wind power has become the country’s dominant electricty source in 2013. Red Electrica de Espana (REE) published a report which revealed that for the very first time wind power contributed more to meeting electricty demand within the country than any other source. Over the course of 2013 wind met 21.1% of Spanish electricity demand. This was enough to produce more than Spain’s fleet of nuclear plants which met 21%. In total 53,926 GWh (Gigawatt hours) of electricity was produced from wind power in 2013. This represents an increase of 12% over 2012.

It should be noted that other forms of renewable energy also saw an increase in their output. Hydropower generation soared to 32,205 GWh; a 16% increase on the historic average helped by high levels of rainfall. Solar energy also contributed more due an increase in capacity. In 2013 173 MW of  new wind power capacity was introduced into the grid, 140 MW of solar PV and 300 MW of solar thermal capacity were also added to the system. These increases mean that renewable technologies now account for 49.1% of installed Spanish capacity.

The success of the Spanish embrace of renewable power can also be seen in the reduced output of more traditional forms of electricity generation. Output from traditional gas fired power plants dropped a dramatic 34.2%. Output from coal fired plants dropped 27.3% and even nuclear output dropped  by 8.3%. These reductions combined with a 2.1% drop in total power demand and increased use of renewable power has meant that the greenhouse gas emissions produced by the Spanish power sector are estimated to have dropped an incredible 23.1% last year to 61.4 million tonnes. These figures demonstrate that an electricity supply system based upon renewables not only works for end users but also serves to increase energy security and reduce carbon emissions.

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

$75 billion to be invested in global hydropower by 2020

A new report published this week  predicts that the global hydropower market will continue to expand over the next seven years through to 2020. By this time global hydropower capacity is predicted to exceed 1,400 Gigawatts.

The report was produced and published by the analytical firm Globaldata. Global cumulative hydropower stood at 1,065 GW in 2012. By 2020 this is expected to increase up to 1,407 GW. Of this 1,407 GW 1,052 GW will be produced by large scale hydropower installations, 215 GW will be supplied by pumped storage power and 140 GW will be generated from small scale hydropower developments (such as those being developed by ourselves at Intelligent Land Investments (Renewable Energy)). Globaldata’s prediction of 1,407 GW of installed capacity by 2020 represents an annual compound growth rate of 3.5% for the hydropower industry.

The level of growth predicted by Globaldata represents an investment into hydropower of $75 billion over the next seven years. The majority of this growth is expected to occur in the Asian-Pacific region – much of which will occur in China. China has the fastest growing energy demand in the world – it is this fact combined with the Chinese Government’s desire to move away from it’s dependency on fossil fuels and curb the increasingly high levels of pollution which are occurring in the country which will see the development of many large scale hydropower schemes within the country.

China is expected, by Globaldata, to have developed 147.3 GW of hydropower capacity by 2020. Other countries in the region are also expected to pursue further hydropower developments as well. For instance; India will develop an additional 23.2 GW of hydropower capacity between 2012 and 2020, Indonesia will develop a further 9.4 GW of capacity  in the same period.

It is an accepted fact that the vast majority of new hydropower developments will be pursued in the Asian-Pacific region. The reason for this is that other regions such as North America and Europe represent far more mature markets for the technology. A country only  has a finite amount of hydropower capacity to develop. A large scale hydropower development represents a huge amount of environmental and ecological upheaval. When potential development sites which fall within national parks or areas of specific scientific interest are discounted it can often be the case that a country is already approaching the limits of its hydropower capacity. This is the case in the UK where the vast majority of available sites suitable for large scale hydropower generation were developed in the immediate period following the end of the second world war (such as in the Scottish Highlands). The level of installed hydropower capacity from such sites has remained stable for decades.

However that is not to say that there is no room for growth for hydropowr in the West. The Globaldata report outlines an expectation for there to be 271 GW of installed hydropower capacity in North America by 2020 and for 197 GW of capacity in Europe by the same year. For the regions which represent the mature end of the hydropower market this represents more than encouraging growth.

Commenting on the publication of the report, Globaldata analyst Swati Singh commented:

“Although fossil fuels dominate electricity generation across the world, more than 60 countries use hydropower to meet more than half of their electricity needs. The technology is the most popular non-polluting source of electricity generation for various reasons, including its ability to respond to changing electricity demand, water management and flood control.”

In other news the UK renewable energy company Ecotricity announced this week that is now publishing real time data demonstrating the amount of electricity being generated and fed into the national grid by the 55 wind turbines which it has installed across the country.

Data is uploaded to this website every 30 seconds directly from the meters which connect each of the 55 turbines to the national grid. Figures are also supplied for total monthly output, CO2 emission displacement, and how many of the 55 turbines are currently supplying electricity to the national grid. At the time of writing this blog currently 50 of the 55 are feeding power into the grid

Previously the company was supplying live data on UK-wide grid generation but it was felt that the new data would help to dispel many of the myths which surround wind turbines. Ecotricty’s founder Dale Vince remarked; “This is all about being a modern, open energy company in the digital age. Providing real-time generation figures is important but equally you also need to look at the output over time.”

By allowing people to see for themselves exactly how much wind energy is being produced at any one time, the public will be able to see for themselves the significant contribution which wind power is already making to their energy needs.