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.

IKEA to spend £1.5 billion on renewables

It was announced this week that IKEA, the world’s largest furniture retailer, is purchasing the 7.65MW Carrickeeny wind farm located in north-west Ireland.

The purchase is part of the company’s renewable energy program which is aiming to invest £1.5 billion in renewable energy developments by 2015. The program is part of a larger drive to ensure that all of the energy used in IKEA’s stores will be generated from renewable technologies by 2020.

The wind farm is due to be operational by early 2014 and it is at this point at which the purchase will be completed. Development is currently being handled by renewable energy company Mainstream Renewables. The electricity produced will be used to power IKEA’s stores in both Belfast and Dublin. The wind farm is expected to generate enough energy to power 5,500 homes annually.

IKEA currently operates and owns 137 turbines across the globe. Wind farms have already been purchased in the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Poland, Denmark and Sweden. Solar panel arrays have also been installed on the roofs of a number of their stores worldwide.

The ultimate aim of IKEA’s program is energy independence. Earlier this year the company’s Chief Sustainability Officer Steve Howard outlined the corporate strategy during an online seminar:

“”We have made a commitment to go 100% powered by renewable energy by 2020, but not just buying it off the grid or through green certificates; we said we will own our renewable energy. We have a subsidiary target of 70% by 2013, and are at a little over 34% today. Over the last couple of years we have installed over 300,000 solar panels on our stores and we have invested in wind farms; we now own 126 wind turbines in 5 countries. […] We have provisioned that by about 2025 we will invest about 1.5 billion pounds in renewables.”

The progress being made by the company can be seen in the fact that in 2011 it was reported that 12% of the energy being used in their stores came from renewable sources. The fact that a further 20% of their energy being generated from renewable technologies was achieved within 12 months indicates the seriousness with which IKEA is pursuing their target. It also gives an indication of the strides being made in the wind power industry more generally.

Joanna Yarrow, Head of Sustainability for IKEA UK and Ireland made the following comment at the announcement of the purchase:

“Our investments in renewable energy not only help to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from our operations in Ireland, but also, together with our energy efficiency efforts, help to control our electricity costs so we can pass any benefits to our customers by continuing to offer high quality home furnishings at low prices. Companies, individuals or governments – we all have responsibility to address the resource dilemma and commit to a more sustainable future.

“Producing our own, affordable, renewable electricity gets us one step closer to becoming completely energy independent by 2020, while ensuring our commercial success.”

Of course, one of the major benefits of pursuing such a target for IKEA is that they are ensuring that they are insulated from rising fossil fuel prices; a point made by Mainstream Power’s Chief Executive Eddie O’Connor:

“We are being approached by a growing number of energy-intensive corporations in the retail, IT and mining sectors that want to invest in our large portfolio of wind and solar plant being developed across four continents. Owning wind and solar plant makes a lot of sense for them on a number of levels.

“As the cost of the fuel is free the more of it they have the more stability and certainty they have in relation to their energy costs in the long term. On top of that, the more forward-thinking corporations are investing in wind and solar energy as part of their sustainability strategy, and IKEA is a fantastic example of this.”

It should be pointed out that it is not just multi-national corporations such as IKEA which are ensuring that the rising cost of fuel fossil imports are not impacting upon business. Companies, across the UK, large and small, are investing in renewable energy developments to safeguard their businesses. Whether it be through the example given here, purchasing a large-scale wind farm, or investing in small and medium scale wind projects such as those developed by ourselves at Intelligent Land Investments (Renewable Energy). The opportunities presented by renewable energy are there to be seized.