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.

Siemens announces major investment in Hull

This week the United Kingdom’s wind industry received a major boost as German manufacturing heavyweight Siemens announced plans to progress with the construction of  large-scale turbine production and installation facilities.

These new developments not only serve to underline and maintain the UK’s cutting edge turbine industry but will also create a significant number of jobs in Hull and the surrounding areas.

Siemens had been working on plans to invest £80 million in the creation of the production facilities for a number of years but the news announced yesterday has revealed that the level of investment has been doubled to £160 million. This doubling in the level of investment demonstrates the conglomerates confidence in the future of the British wind industry.

The £160 million investment will be split between two sites: the previously announced ‘Green Port Hull’ construction, assembly and service facility and a new rotor blade manufacturing plant in nearby Paull,in Yorkshire. In further good news Associated British Ports will also be heavily investing, to the tune of £150 million, in the ‘Green Port Hull’ Scheme.

This combined investment of £310 million represents a significant boost to Hull and the surrounding environs, an area of the UK long troubled by economic decline. The new facility is expected to directly create and support 1,000 jobs. Additional jobs will be created during the construction of the facilities and once construction is completed, indirectly in the supply chain and local economy.

Construction at the two sites is scheduled to commence this autumn. The swiftness with which this work is to be carried out again underlines the confidence which investors have in the UK’s wind industry and it’s potential to generate yet more of the UK’s electricity than it is already doing. The manufacturing plant is to be used in the construction of Siemens latest 6MW offshore turbine model. These new turbines have rotor blades which are over 75 meters long and when spinning cover an area greater than two and a half football pitches. A Siemens spokesman revealed that the facility would be the first of it’s kind in the world. Construction of the new turbine models is expected to commence in 2016 meaning that the turbines can be expected to be deployed in the UK’s Round 3 Offshore Wind Farms later in the decade.

Siemens’ chief executive of the energy sector Michael Suess made the following statement at the announcement of the increased investment:

“Our decision to construct a production facility for offshore wind turbines in England is part of our global strategy. We invest in markets with reliable conditions that can ensure that factories can work to capacity.

“The British energy policy creates a favourable framework for the expansion of offshore wind energy. In particular, it recognises the potential of offshore wind energy within the overall portfolio of energy production.

“The offshore wind market in Great Britain has high growth rates, with an even greater potential for the future. Wind power capacity has doubled here within two years, to roughly 10 gigawatts. By 2020, a capacity of 14 gigawatts is to be installed at sea alone to combine the country’s environmental objectives with secure power supply. Projects for just over 40 gigawatts are currently in the long-term planning.”

The announcement was welcomed by politicians, industry figures and activists alike. UK Energy Secretary Ed Davey commented:

“This deal is excellent news for the people of Hull and the Humber, the UK, the wind industry, and our energy security. We are attracting investment by backing enterprise with better infrastructure and lower taxes. As well as helping to keep the lights on and putting more than 1,000 people in work, this deal means we will help to keep consumer bills down as we invest in home-grown green energy and reduce our reliance on foreign imports. This deal shows our strategy for offshore wind is working; bringing investment, green jobs and growth, and helping keep Britain the number one country in the world for offshore wind.”

Industry trade body RenewableUK’s Chief Executive Maria McCaffrey said:

“This is a major coup for the British wind industry – it’s the green-collar jobs game-changer that we’ve been waiting for. Attracting a major international company like Siemens to the UK, creating 1,000 jobs manufacturing turbines at two sites in Yorkshire, proves that we can bring the industrial benefits of offshore wind to Britain. This is just the start – where Siemens are leading, a cascade of others will follow – and we’ll see very significant growth in the UK supply chain.

“The British offshore wind industry already employs more than 12,800 people in direct and indirect jobs. Our research shows that within the next ten years, that number could rise to as many as 44,000 jobs. By 2030, the UK offshore wind sector will need dozens of factories making innovative, hi-tech blades, turbine towers, cables and offshore substations. This is a massive economic growth area for UK plc – a clean energy industry for the future.

Major developments like today’s announcement from Siemens will help us to retain the UK’s global lead in offshore wind, as we already have more capacity installed than the rest of the world put together. The rest of the world is eyeing us enviously, wanting a slice of the action. Now we know that a substantial part of that action will be undertaken by British workers in a major industrial renaissance on British shores”.

Lindsay Leask, Senior Policy Manager at Scottish Renewables, said:

“The announcement by Siemens illustrates the scale of opportunity available to Scotland if we utilise our offshore wind potential.

“Scottish Renewables’ recent employment report showed that almost two thousand people are currently employed in the offshore wind sector in Scotland, and that it is before a single project is even under construction.

“With the recent Scottish Government decision to consent offshore wind projects in the Moray Firth, and a number of manufacturers having committed to bringing similar-sized factories to Scotland if they win orders, there is a real opportunity for Scotland to take advantage of the manufacturing and supply chain opportunities in the offshore wind sector, not just in the UK, but globally.

“Increasing the number of consented offshore wind projects means a growing pipeline of orders for manufacturers and allows them to justify investing in facilities in Scotland. The more manufacturers we have involved in the sector increases the level of competition and, ultimately, leads to faster cost reductions.

“We will continue to work with the supply chain to make sure they benefit from the huge opportunities in Scotland.”

The announcement of such major investment following so closely on the heels of heavy investment in grid infrastructure, sub-sea cables and the onshore sector makes the overwhelming case that the UK’s wind industry is flourishing and thriving. We at Intelligent Land Investments (Renewable Energy) are delighted to be playing our part, if perhaps on a slightly smaller scale. We have also invested large sums in the country’s infrastructure to improve wind capacity, help keep energy bills down and help the UK meet it’s renewable energy targets. Every month new turbines are consented or installed, both by ourselves and others in the industry. The upward trajectory of the UK’s wind industry is clear to see in the fact that every month new records are set for the amount of British electricity demand being met by wind energy.

 

New UK Wind Energy Records Set

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

FiTs cuts endangering manufacturing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

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.

 

Survey reveals farming industry’s hunger for renewables

This week industry trade body RenewableUK held a lunch event in partnership with the River Cottage food business and the online community Energyshare. The lunch was held on the Devon/Cornwall border. The Great British Wind Meal was used as an opportunity to publicize several recent items of research in regards the relationship between British farming and renewable energy.

Several of the speakers at the event suggested that a greater uptake of renewable energy generation by British farmers would help the United Kingdom to meet both it’s food and energy needs. One speaker suggested that as well as helping the UK to meet it’s renewable energy targets farmers stand to benefit from on-site generation by it allowing them to reduce the costs involved in producing food and also ensuring that their businesses are in a better position to navigate through at troubled economic climate for the farming industry.

Speaking at the event, Forum for the Future’s principal sustainability adviser Nicky Conway remarked:

“There are about 300,000 farms in the UK so if you are going to have renewable energy generation at any level of scale, farmers have the land and the capacity to install those renewable energy schemes.

“Therefore they should be a target audience because they have the land and the resources to produce the energy”.

Ms Conway went on to state that Forum for the Future was attempting to increase the uptake of renewable energy generation developments on UK farms:

“The specific way that we would like to do that is to try and build a common evidence-based vision, and [highlight] why can farm-based energy can play such a critical role in the UK’s energy system rather than being a niche activity.

“The other thing we want to do is unlock some of the key barriers. Things like grid connections and accessing finance, particularly for lower income farmers.”

Farm owner Robin Hanbury-Tenison argued against claims that renewable energy developments take land away from food production – giving the example of his own solar panels:

“A lot of people say that PV panels are taking up land, wasting land but far from it if it is done properly.

“My sheep prefer being under or around the panels than being in the open fields. The grass grows better, they also have lovely shelter and they lamb underneath them.”

Attendees at the lunch also heard the results of a new survey carried out in partnership between Nottingham Trent University, the Farmers Weekly and Forum for the Future. The survey was carried out this summer and asked nearly 700 UK farmers for their opinions on farm-based renewable energy. Interestingly 38% of the farmers surveyed revealed that they were already generating renewable energy on their farms with the two most popular technology types being solar PV and wind energy. The majority of those generating electricity from wind energy are feeding at least some proportion of their output into the National Grid. The average capacity of these developments was 176kW however it should be noted that larger scale developments are perfectly possible given the right site and the expertise and experience needed to navigate through the planning process. Furthermore 61% of those who are not already generating renewable energy specified that they would be likely to do so over the next five years. Despite that fact that the majority of those surveyed are already generating renewable energy 76% of respondents did not believe that the full potential of farm-based renewable energy generation was being realized.

The survey was also used to explore farmers perceptions  on what the benefits of renewable energy generation are. 76% of those surveyed (the most-widely held opinion) felt that farm-based renewable energy generation helped to reduce the costs of the other parts of a farm business. 73% felt that renewables provided a safe-means of generating non-fossil fuel energy. 72% felt farm-based renewables helped to contribute to the country’s energy security. 71% expressed the opinion that renewable energy generation provided a good return on investment compared to more traditional farming activities and 65% felt renewable generation helped to combat climate change by reducing a farms carbon footprint. Interestingly 81% of participants felt that family, neighbours and other farmers would approve of a decision to invest in renewable energy generation. These results would suggest that there is a widespread belief amongst the UK’s farming community that renewable energy generation represents a positive investment for the industry.

The farming industry’s opinion on the barriers to farm-based renewable energy generation were also explored in the survey with five problems emerging as the crucial barriers to completing a renewable energy development. 84% of those surveyed identified the major stumbling block as the high investment costs involved. 53% felt that red tape represented a major barrier to completing a development.52% felt the planning process to be cumbersome and costly. 45% felt that local opposition could be a stumbling block and 39% raised the issue of accessing a bank loan. At this point we at Intelligent Land Investments (Renewable Energy) would like to state that have the expertise and experience to address all these issues. We require no investment from the farmers we enter into partnership with, we have vast experience of dealing with the planning process at both a national and local level and all the red tape that may be involved. We always take steps to involve and liaise with local communities through programs such as our Community Contribution and we do not need bank loans to fund our developments.

It was left to broadcaster and campaigner Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, responsible for the Wind Meal’s menu, to give the final word on the role that British farmers have to play in renewable energy generation, emphasising that wind energy can be regarded as another crop:

“All farmers are in the business of renewable energy – that’s what food is,

“Farmers produce food, we consume that food for our energy, and for farmers to stay in business it has to be a renewable business.

“The idea of farmers diversifying into ‘pure energy’ as well as food energy makes a whole lot of sense.

“We know that wind is going to be an important part of our energy into the future.

“Who has got best access to wind in the country? Our farmers.”

We at Intelligent Land Investments are very pleased to be playing our part in bringing the benefits of renewable energy generation to as many farmers as possible.