UK Government announces backing for 8 major renewable energy projects

Today the United Kingdom Government announced that deals have been agreed to provide financial support for eight major renewable energy projects which will provide enough renewable energy capacity to power millions of homes.

Of the eight renewable energy projects five are offshore wind farms, the remaining 3 are biomass developments. All eight are to be supported by the Government’s Contracts for Difference support scheme. Through this scheme the government has agreed to pay a fixed rate for the power generated by these eight renewable energy developments for a period of fifteen years. The price will be determined by the date on which the developments begin to feed electricity into the grid. The sooner these developments come online the higher the price they receive will be.

The 8 projects combined could add up 4.5GW (gigawatts) of renewable electricity generation capacity to the National Grid. 4.5GW of power represents 4% of the UK’s current electricity capacity or enough electricity to power over three million homes across the UK. According to Government figures the eight projects will provide up to £12 billion of private investment in the UK economy by 2020 and support up to 8,500 jobs. Additionally, once completed, the 8 developments could produce 14% of the renewable energy the UK requires to meet it’s 2020 renewable energy generation targets. The increase in renewable capacity and reduction in the need for fossil fuels is also expected to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 10 million tonnes a year.

The eight developments are spread across the UK. The largest project approved in terms of capacity is the new 1.2GW Hornsea wind farm which will be located off the Yorkshire coast. Two other entirely new wind farms will also receive funding; the 664MW (megawatt) Beatrice wind farm which will be sited off the Moray coast and the 402MW Dudgeon wind farm which will be sited off the north Norfolk coast. Two extensions for existing offshore wind farms were also approved for funding; a 258MW extension to the Burbo Bank wind farm off the coast of Merseyside and a 660MW extension to the Walney wind farm in the Irish Sea.  The three biomass projects are also located across the country. Lynemouth power station in Northumberland and Drax power station in Yorkshire are to be converted for biomass use. And finally a brand new 229MW dedicated biomass power station will be constructed in Teeside.

Industry trade body Scottish Renewables released a statment following the announcement that the proposed Beatrice wind farm (located in Scottish waters) had been successful in it’s application:

“It is greatly encouraging to see a Scottish offshore wind project selected for an early investment contract by the Department of Energy and Climate Change.

“Having received planning consent from the Scottish Government in March, to now get an early Contract for Difference gives the Beatrice project the certainty of support we’ve been calling for from the UK Government.

“With our huge offshore wind resource, it is not unrealistic to expect to see a number of Scottish offshore wind projects receive planning consent and secure financial support by the end of the year.

“This decision will help kick-start the offshore wind sector in Scotland, which has the potential to provide thousands of jobs and billions of pounds of inward investment to our country, while also making a significant contribution to Scotland’s ambitious 2020 renewable energy targets.”

The eight projects were selected from an original shortlist of 57 applications. A smaller shortlist of 10 was published in December. These ten sites had been chosen on the criteria of cost effectiveness. Further Contracts for Difference are to be made available in the autumn of this year. The UK Government is committed to meeting over 30% of UK electricity demand from renewable sources by 2020.

Announcing the successful projects UK Energy Secretary Ed Davey made the following statement:

“These contracts for major renewable electricity projects mark a new stage in Britain’s green energy investment boom.

“By themselves they will bring green jobs and growth across the UK, but they are a significant part of our efforts to give Britain cleaner and more secure energy.

“These are the first investments from our reforms to build the world’s first low carbon electricity market – reforms which will see competition and markets attract tens of billions of pounds of vital energy investment whilst reducing the costs of clean energy to consumers.

“Record levels of energy investment are at the forefront of the Government’s infrastructure programme and are filling the massive gap we inherited. It’s practical reforms like these that will keep the lights on and tackle climate change, by giving investors more certainty.”

It should be remembered that it is not through offshore wind and biomass alone that Scottish and UK renewable energy targets will be met. All forms of renewable energy generation will have to play their part. Particularly onshore wind; due to it’s nature one of the cheapest and most mature renewable energy technologies. We at Intelligent Land Investments (Renewable Energy) are looking forward to contributing further to meeting the countries binding renewable energy generation targets.

In other news this week it was announced that Scotland could soon be home to new form of floating wind turbine. The BAT (Buoyant Airborne Turbine) has been in development for several years through a collaboration between entrepreneurs and US military personnel.

The BATs (which some have said resemble UFOs in appearance) are filled with helium and are then tethered to the ground. The technology is intended to operate at increased heights in comparison to more traditional wind turbines  allowing power to be generated from higher wind speeds. The tether has the dual function of allowing higher wind speeds to be used and to reduce costs.

Currently 4 prototypes have been developed. The first commercial model is expected to be tested in Alaska in 2015 by American green energy firm Altaeros Energies. This model is expected to produce 30kW from a height of 1,000 feet. Successful testing of this model will then be followed by further testing of higher capacity designs at increased heights. Scotland has been mooted as a suitable location for further testing due to the high wind speeds as well as the large number of isolated rural communities located in the country. The BATs are intended to be used in isolated areas where energy has to be transported in; as is the case on several of the Scottish Isles.

Altaeros business development manager Ryan Holy said: “The real value is that we are generating more electricity because we are capturing stronger, more consistent resource, and that means that the price is going to be lower because the annual kWh produced will be a lot higher.

“In addition to that, the customer doesn’t have to deal with a lot of the logistical headaches of installing a concrete path or a tower, which can take some time and might be dependent on seasons.

“We are looking at remote and rural locations first, and any region that is suffering from high electricity costs, as our product can give that customer more energy independence and lower their price, so it could be some parts of Scotland, or any islands that have to ship their fuel in.”

The development of the BAT demonstrates that despite onshore wind being one of the most mature renewable energy technologies there is still vast room for improvement, innovation and cost reduction.

 

Gamesa unveils new anti-ice tech

This week turbine manufacturer Gamesa launched a new and innovative solution to ice formation on turbine blades.

The new system, known as ‘Bladeshield’, is a paint based solution, featuring the usage of nano-materials, which is designed to combat the issue of ice formation experienced in colder climates.

Whilst solutions are already available for this issue, ‘Bladeshield’ is the first technology to not simply reduce ice formation and erosion but to help prevent it. An additive is dissolved and applied to the paint base before being applied to turbine blades. The new paint is expected to improve, even double, the durability of turbine blades.

The new solution has been under development for the last three years as a part of the Azimut project for the development of new offshore technologies. The Azimut project is a collaborative project between a number of Spanish renewable energy companies to develop technologies used in both onshore and offshore wind with the intended aim of producing a new 15MW turbine model. The Azimut project works in collaboration with Spain’s Centre for the Development of Offshore Technology. It should be noted, however, that Gamesa has already confirmed that the new paint solution will be used in their line of 2.0MW – 2.5MW turbines for both onshore and offshore use.

Gamesa’s Chief Technology Officer Jose Antonio Malumbres commented:

“Although Gamesa already had blade de-icing systems, it has developed this innovative solution in anticipation of the emerging needs of our increasingly sophisticated and demanding customers. Most of the anti-icing solutions on the markets studied within Azimut project reduce blade paint´s resistance to erosion. Gamesa has attempted to remain one step ahead, using nano-materials to create a system that not only prevents ice formation but also improves anti-erosion performance.”

Gamesa has already unveiled a number of other technical innovations including two separate, custom designed, systems for detecting and removing ice from the blades of their 2MW and 2.5MW turbines. An additional ice prevention system is currently being designed for the company’s range of 5MW turbines in partnership with Finnish technology provider VTT.

The development of wind turbine systems for cold and extreme climates is moving apace. The EWEA (European Wind Energy Association) has forecasted that 40 to 50 gigawatts of wind energy will be built in cold climates by 2017. This would represent an increase of 72% on the amount of wind energy capacity installed in cold climates in 2012. Technical innovation is pushing the expansion of wind energy into frontiers and climates.

In other news this week, potato supplier Greenvale announced that a 15MW turbine is to be constructed at their potato packaging plant (the largest in the UK) in Cambridgeshire.

The 100 metre tall turbine is expected to be constructed and generating power by the end of the year. Once completed it is anticipated to generate up to 60% of the electricity used on the site. This will serve not only to significantly reduce the plants costs and overheads in the short term but also safeguard the company from price rises in the future.

Trevor Dear, operations director of Greenvale, said: “The wind turbine will secure a reliable energy supply for our packing site, generate jobs within the region, and reduce our impact on the environment. This is a key part of our environmental policy, which aims to reduce our CO2 output by 20 per cent by 2015.”

Funding for the project was supplied by Santander and Tridos Renewables. This marks the 13th project in Tridos Renewables Investment’s portfolio. The group now has a combined clean energy portfolio of 60MW. The Greenvale turbine underlines the benefits which small and medium scale wind can bring, not just to landowners, but to companies and businesses across the UK. On-site power generation not only means reduced bills in the short term but also reduced CO2 emissions and protection from energy price spikes and fossil fuel volatility in the future. Small and medium wind will also be crucial to ensuring that Scotland’s and the UK’s renewable energy and CO2 emission reduction targets are met.

It should be remembered that wind energy does not simply mean large scale wind farms but also individuals and businesses taking their power needs into the own hands and reaping the benefits. We at Intelligent Land Investments (Renewable Energy) are delighted to have helped people across Scotland reduce their overheads, open up new revenue streams, diversify their businesses and brought much needed sustainability.

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.

 

Construction begins on £1bn Grid Link

Construction work has begun this week on the new £1 billion grid link between Hunterston in Ayrshire and Connah’s Quay in Wales. This marks the commencement of what is expected to be the first of several major grid upgrade projects which are to be carried out across the UK.

The 260 mile (418 kilometer) long undersea electricity transmission line is expected to be fully operational by 2016. The project will directly support 450 jobs during the construction period. This is a joint venture between Scottish Power and the National Grid. The new link, the first sub-sea link between Scotland and the rest of the United Kingdom, could increase the capacity of electricity moving between Scotland and England by 2,000 megawatts. This represents enough electricity to power more than 4 million British homes.

The inter-connector, known as the Western Link HVDC (high-voltage direct-current) project is intended to open up the potential for Scottish wind energy to be supplied to areas of high population density, high-energy demand and low renewable generation potential found over the border. Such a move not only creates a bigger market and more demand for Scottish wind power but it also helps both the UK and Scotland meet their renewable energy targets. A similar project is being planned for the East Coast.

Announcing the commencement of construction Scottish Power’s chairman Ignacio Galan commented:

“We are pleased to mark the start of construction on this hugely ambitious sub-sea electricity connection project.

“Our engineers are currently delivering some of the most important upgrades to the electricity network for more than half a century, with billions of pounds being invested and thousands of jobs being supported and created.

“The Western Link project will act as a benchmark for similar developments around the world, as the deployment of this technology at such a large scale has never been undertaken before.

“This will help to increase energy security across the UK, and will benefit the people of Scotland, England and Wales.”

UK Energy Minister Michael Fallon also stated:

“The western link is a perfect symbol of the single energy market, of which Scotland is part. It will enable English and Welsh consumers to access Scottish renewables and enable Scots to benefit from base load power when the wind doesn’t blow. This world leading, billion pound under-sea connector shows the strength of our current integrated system.”

The Western Link project is a part of Scottish Power Energy Network’s wider £2.6 billion investment plans for their transmission network covering the 8-year period from 2013 to 2021. The plans are intended to deliver the following; direct creation of up 1,500 new jobs, facilitation of offshore and onshore wind generation in Scotland of around 11 GW (enough to power over 6 million British homes), reduced carbon emissions of 45 million tonnes of carbon dioxide, replacement of over 800 km of overhead power lines and an increase in export capacity from Scotland to England of nearly 4 gigawatts. Such an ambitious investment program demonstrates both the potential of Scotland’s renewable energy resources and the commitment to realizing them.

In other news this week, data published this week by Eurostat (the European Union’s statistics office) revealed that renewable energy met 14.1% of total energy demand within the European Union in 2012 (these are the most recent figures available). This represents an increase of 5.8% compared to 2004 when renewable energy met 8.3% of the Union’s total energy demand.

During this time every single member state of the Union has increased their renewable energy capacity. Perhaps somewhat startlingly, several member states have already reached and went beyond their binding 2020 renewable energy targets.

Sweden, Austria and Denmark were the three countries which underwent the largest growth in renewable energy capacity between 2004 and 2012. Sweden, which in 2004 derived 38.7% of its power from renewables, lifted that to 51% in 2012. In Denmark, the share of renewables rose from 14.5% to 26%, while in Austria it jumped from 22.7% to 32.1%. Three countries have already met their individual 2020 targets; Bulgaria, Estonia and Sweden. These three countries had 2020 goals of 16%, 25% and 49%, respectively. At the end of 2012 they had achieved respective renewable energy shares of 16.3%, 25.2% and 51%. Of course it should be re-iterated at this point that the figures published by Eurostat do not cover the year 2013 – a period of remarkable growth in UK renewable energy capacity, particularly wind generation capacity. It should also be remembered that several countries, particularly Sweden, started with far, far higher initial renewable energy capacities than the UK due to abundant hydro-generation resources.

We at Intelligent Land Investments (Renewable Energy) are delighted to see ambitious and extensive upgrades being carried out to the electricity transmission network, particularly given our own efforts in this field. Such work not only improves the country’s infrastructure but also allows Scotland’s renewable energy potential (the envy of Europe in this regard) to be fully realized. Long range energy transmission also serves to reduce instances of renewable energy generation technology having to be turned off at times of low demand. Finally it helps to further reduce the United Kingdom’s reliance upon fossil fuel imports at a time when the vulnerability of such markets could not be clearer.

 

 

 

 

Wind Turbine Lifespans Surpass Expectations

Last week a report published by the Imperial College revealed that the operational lifespan of wind turbines may be longer than had been previously believed.

The new study demonstrates that wind turbines remain productive in generating electricity for at least 25 years. Previously it had been claimed by some that it would be necessary to upgrade installed wind turbines to allow them to continue generating power for a quarter century. This belief formed the basis of the argument that wind turbines had a limited lifespan of use compared to other forms of renewable energy generation technology.

The United Kingdom currently has over 500 wind farms installed across the country as well as a significant number of smaller scale turbine developments. This capacity base is already meeting a minimum of 7.5% of the country’s energy demand. From this installed base the Imperial College’s Business School analyzed data from 4,246 turbines across the country. Analyzing this information together with wind speed data provided by NASA (collected over a twenty year period) demonstrated that wind turbines are more than capable of lasting their full 25 year lifespan without requiring any upgrade work.

The study also revealed that the oldest operational wind turbines in the United Kingdom, installed in the mid-1990’s, are still producing  three quarters of their original output despite having been in use for that last nineteen years. The three quarter figure is almost twice the level of output which these turbines had previously been assumed to be capable of at this point in time. These 19 year old wind turbines are fully expected to continue generating power for at least the next six years, meeting the promise of a twenty-five year lifespan and making such already outdated wind turbine models comparable in lifespan to the gas turbines found in conventional power plants.

Given that more modern wind turbines inevitably make use of improvements in both design and technology, and as such perform better in age, the report argues that modern wind turbines can be expected to have an operational lifespan beyond twenty-five years without requiring any upgrade work. The researchers and scientists who produced the report emphasised that their findings strengthened the case of wind turbines being a strong long term investment.

Dr Iain Staffell,  research fellow at the Imperial College’s Business School and co-author of the report commented:

“Wind farms are an important source of renewable energy. In contrast, our dwindling supply of fossil fuels leaves the UK vulnerable to price fluctuations and with a costly import bill.

“However, in the past it has been difficult for investors to work out whether wind farms are an attractive investment.

“Our study provides some certainty, helping investors to see that wind farms are an effective long-term investment and a viable way to help the UK tackle future energy challenges.”

Professor Richard Green, head of the Business School’s Department of Management and co-author of the report stated:

“There have been concerns about the costs of maintaining ageing wind farms and whether they are worth investing in. This study gives a ‘thumbs up’ to the technology and shows that renewable energy is an asset for the long term.”

Whilst other studies have been published in this area previously the Business School report made use of far more accurate and specific data than any previous attempt. The wind speed data provided by NASA was gathered over a twenty year period and allowed researchers to calculate precise wind speeds at individual wind farm sites. Previous studies were limited by their use of average estimated national wind speeds and as such have now been superseded.

In news this week it has been revealed that a proposed wind farm in Perthshire will bring significant ecological and conservationist benefits if it is successful in gaining planning permission.

Developers behind the proposed Bandirran Wind Firm have laid out a series of ecological improvement measures which will be carried out in the event of gaining planning consent. Firstly a series of ‘nectar margins’ around the site. These flower rich areas provide an ideal habitat and breeding ground for a variety of insect species including bees and butterflies. Secondly wooded areas near to the wind farm development would be enhanced and enlarged according to Forestry Commission guidelines. Thirdly 260 meters of new hedgerows would be created through the planting of species such as hawthorn, hazel, dog rose and blackthorn. Hedgerows are a vital habitat for a diverse range of species but one that is becoming increasingly reduced in modern times. Fourthly, the restoration of heather to the development sites surrounding moorland. And lastly the creation of a dedicated area for curlew; a species of wading bird which has been granted conservation status. This area would be an ideal habitat as well as breeding area and developers have pledged to monitor breeding numbers for a period of at least five years.

Mark Bates, director of Ecology at Heritage Environment Ltd. led an extensive survey of the development site who determine the best course of action to take to enhance the area’s plant and animal life remarked:

“The measures we have identified will actually improve, diversify and add to the habitats currently on the site and provide direct and indirect benefits to a wide range of wildlife. They will also help in achieving both local and national biodiversity targets.”

Colin Anderson, development director at Banks Renewables, made the following statement:

“We have worked closely with groups, businesses and residents in the area to ensure our wind farm would deliver real financial and social benefits, supporting good causes and creating jobs and training opportunities.

“On top of that, it is fantastic to know that if our plans are given the go-ahead then we’ll be doing a massive amount of work to restore some of the most precious aspects of the countryside.

“Most people know that wind energy will help give Scotland a clean, green, secure and sustainable source of energy that we rely on in every aspect of our lives, which is hugely important to our future.

“But they probably don’t realise how we will actually be making huge inroads to protect and enhance very fragile habitats which are under threat right now.”

These two pieces demonstrate not just the value that wind turbines can bring to investors but also the environmental benefits which they can also bring. Just as studies of offshore wind farms have revealed that large numbers of marine and bird species use them as habitat. The benefits of wind turbines are many.

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

New poll reveals support for renewables

Yesterday the Department of Energy and Climate Change published it’s eight quarterly public attitudes survey.

The survey is carried out every three months to monitor the public’s attitudes to the government’s energy policies. Face to face interviews were carried out at 2,110 households in mid December. The published results confirm that the public’s support for renewable energy remains widespread.

77% of those polled stated that they supported or strongly supported the continuing use and expanding development of the UK’s vast renewable energy resources.

This represents a 1% increase on the level of public support recorded in the previous survey. This is despite the long running campaign against renewable energy being carried out by several mass media publications. Not to mention the campaign for shale gas extraction being carried out by several of the same publications. Despite this more than three quarters of the Great British public support the continued and further use of renewable energy technologies.

51% of those people polled signaled that they “support” the use of renewable energy technologies. A further 26% of those polled responded that they “strongly support” the use of renewable energy technologies. In dramatic comparison only 4% of those polled gave the opinion that they opposed the exploitation of renewable energy resources. A further 1% “strongly opposed” the use of renewable energy. This comparison demonstrates that in reality anti-renewable energy sentiments are very much a minority, if not fringe, concern. This contrasts sharply with the picture presented in some avenues of the mainstream press which seek to portray such opinions as being held by the majority of people in this country.

The survey broke down support levels for individual forms of renewable energy generation: 81% stated their support for solar energy, 71% for wave and tidal energy, 72% for offshore wind generation, 64% for onshore wind generation and 60% for biomass. Additionally the levels of “strong support” given for each technology type stands consistently between one quarter and one third of respondents. It has been suggested that the reason  wave and tidal and offshore wind have polled so highly is due their relatively low visual impact as opposed to their cost effectiveness; a standard in which other technologies such as onshore wind rank far higher.

The survey also demonstrated that public awareness of shale gas and shale gas extraction has increased significantly in the last few years. When these quarterly surveys were first carried out two years ago 58% of respondents were unaware of shale gas. As of now this figure has decreased to 30% of respondents. Over the same time scale respondents “who know something” about shale gas have increased from 32% to 52%.

However increased awareness has not translated into increased support. This quarterly survey was the first to gauge public support for shale gas. Despite much coverage in the media and strong messages of support from some senior political figures only 27% of respondents stated that they would support shale gas development. 21% stated that they would not support shale gas development. It is also worth making the point that despite much lobbying in those parts of the UK which have been proposed as areas suitable for shale gas exploration, or fracking, have seen widespread and organised protests against the proposals.

Also this week it was announced that Glasgow City Council is to become the first local authority in the UK to switch to low energy LED (light-emitting diode) street lighting after securing a loan from the Green Investment Bank.

Glasgow City Council intends to convert over 70,000 street lights to LEDs in an effort to reduce costs, energy consumption and light pollution. Street lighting costs Local Authorities in the UK  £300 million a year and produces 1.3 million tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions annually. For some Local Authorities street lighting can account for up to 40% of their energy usage. The Green Investment Bank has voiced it’s hopes that other Local Authorities will follow Glasgow City Council in participating in such schemes.

Indeed to that end the Bank is offering similar loan packages to that given to Glasgow City Council to other Local Authorities. To fund LED street lighting conversion schemes the Bank is offering low, fixed rate loans over a period of up to 20 years. Repayments will be taken from energy bill savings. The Bank is advising Local Authorities that LED switching delivers pay-back within 5 to 15 years. Following this Local Authorities can expect bills to drop by up to 80%.

The securing of the loan was announced with enthusiasm from all parties. UK Green Investment Bank chief executive, Shaun Kingsbury, stated:

“Bad lighting does not come cheap, it carries an electricity bill which can be cut by up to 80 per cent with a move to low energy, LED lighting.  Making the switch saves councils money, increases community safety and dramatically reduces the UK’s carbon footprint.”

“The GIB Green Loan is essentially a corporate loan facility that covers the set-up, capital investment and installation costs of lighting upgrades to LED, with repayments being made from within forecast savings.  Put more simply, local authorities borrow money from the Green Investment Bank, but repay the loan entirely through the money they save by changing their lighting.”

Business Secretary, Vince Cable said:

“Once again the UK Green Investment Bank (GIB) is leading the way in the green revolution. Street lighting across Britain tends to be very costly and energy inefficient, emitting the same amount of carbon dioxide each year as a quarter of a million cars on the road. This investment by GIB into new LED technology could make big strides in saving money for local councils and reducing our carbon footprint. I urge councils across the country to follow Glasgow City Council’s lead and GIB’s new Green Loan can help speed up the take up of this streetlighting.

“So far through the Green Investment Bank – the first of its kind in the world – we have invested more than £750 million in energy projects which are driving innovation and our plans for green growth. For every £1 the bank has invested, £3 has been raised from the private sector for projects in areas ranging from offshore wind to waste to energy efficiency products.”

Councillor Gordon Matheson, Leader of Glasgow City Council, said:

“My vision is to make Glasgow one of Europe’s most sustainable cities. It is our goal to improve energy efficiency, cut carbon emissions and generate savings for the public purse. Glasgow City Council is not only creating a digital and low carbon route out of recession with social justice at its heart, but also ensuring Glasgow is one of Europe’s most sustainable cities.

“Glasgow is leading the way in meeting existing challenges head on to become a smarter, more intelligent city. One of our current measures is set to see us become the first local authority to receive a Green Investment Bank loan as we work towards further embracing low energy streetlighting.”

Support for renewable energy and energy-saving schemes such as that announced in Glasgow yesterday remains widespread in the UK. It is our hope that we at ILI (Renewable Energy) can do our part to increase it.

 

Google continues move to 100% renewables

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Energy and Climate Change Minister Greg Barker also commented:

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Good 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

RenewableUK unveils solution to issue of Other Amplitude Modulation

This week industry trade body RenewableUK published new research on the subject of wind energy acoustics. The study was produced to explore the issue of Other Amplitude Modulation’ – this is a phenomenon which affects a small minority of wind turbine installations.

The research was carried out in partnership with  the University of Salford, the University of Southampton, the National Aerospace Laboratory of the Netherlands, Hoare Lea Acoustics, Robert Davies Associates and DTU Riso in Denmark. The aim of the research was to determine the causes behind Other Amplitude Modulation and to investigate solutions to the issue.

Firstly it should be noted that Other Amplitude Modulation is entirely different to Normal Amplitude Modulation. Normal Amplitude Modulation is the sound commonly heard from wind turbine installations – the ‘swishing’ sound generated as the turbine blades spin through the air. Other Amplitude Modulation is a  far more infrequent and uncommon sound which lasts for a few minutes.

The research reveals that Other Amplitude Modulation is caused by sudden and unexpected variations in both wind speed and direction. When this occurs the wind hits different parts of the turbine blade at different speeds causing momentary stalling of the turbine blades and a ‘whooshing noise’.

At this point it should be emphasised that the research has revealed that Other Amplitude Modulation is no louder than the more commonly occurring and accepted Normal Amplitude Modulation. Both cause noises at a level of around 35-40 decibels it is, however, the case that Other Amplitude Modulation occurs at a deeper pitch. The sound produced by these sudden variations of wind speed and direction has been likened to the noise produced by a single-carriage A-road at a distance of 1 kilometer.

Interestingly the research also revealed that Other Amplitude Modulation affects only around 3% of wind turbine installations in the UK. Very much a minority. These findings were based upon a 2007 research paper produced by the University of Salford. This paper found that only 4 of 135 turbine sites (as were installed in the UK as of 2007) were affected by Other Amplitude Modulation. From this the RenewableUK study concluded that 15 of 521 (currently operational) turbine sites would be affected by Other Amplitude Modulation. Other Amplitude Modulation could be then rightly described as affecting a very small minority of the United Kingdom’s wind turbines. However that does not stop it from being an issue that the UK’s wind industry is keen to address.

As such RenewableUK also published the solutions to the issue of Other Amplitude Modulation which were identified by their research. A software solution is sufficient to deal with the issues involved. Software systems already present in wind turbines can be adapted to change the angles of turbine blades at times when Other Amplitude Modulation could occur. This would avoid the problem of turbine blades momentarily stalling entirely.

Additionally RenewableUK has also entered into partnership with the Institute of Acoustics to produce planning conditions and guidance for the issue of Other Amplitude Modulation. This would ensure that occurrences of Other Amplitude Modulation would be minimized. It would be up to developers to measure instances of Other Amplitude Modulation and set a threshold in decibels above which they would be required to act immediately to change blade angles to minimise the noise. This would occur as part of the planning process. Given the already low level of Other Amplitude Modulation occurrences such planning procedures could virtually eliminate the issue entirely.

Speaking at the publication of the research, RenewableUK’s Deputy Chief Executive Maf Smith commented:

“It’s right that the wind industry should take the lead in investigating issues like this when they arise. As a result of the in-depth research we’ve commissioned, we’ve identified the causes of OAM, and, most importantly, the industry has identified a way to deal with it effectively.

“On the limited and infrequent occasions when OAM occurs, we can address it by using software to adjust the way turbines operate, changing the angle of the blades.

“Beyond that, the industry has worked with members of the UK’s leading acoustics institute to develop a planning condition for local authorities to use, which we’re publishing today alongside this work. This states that if OAM occurs, it’s up to the wind industry to resolve it.

“We’re proud to have commissioned this ground-breaking research as it pushes the boundaries of our knowledge of wind turbine acoustics considerably further forward. It’s a tangible example of the wind industry acting in a responsible manner, demonstrating that we’re continuing to be good neighbours to the communities who host wind farms in the UK”.

In other news this week UK company Blade Dynamics announced it’s plans to move forward development of a ‘very long’ and highly efficient turbine blade. This follows the successful completion of the design stage.

The project is receiving support from the UK Government, the industry-supported Energy Technologies Institute (ETI)  and the wind turbine manufacturer Siemens. Blade Design will now proceed to the prototype stage of the project and hopes to begin testing the new 80 metre long turbine blade before the end of 2014. The blade will be lighter, longer and more efficient than those currently in use.

News of the commencement of the next stage of the project was greeted enthusiastically.  Henrik Stiesdal, chief technology officer at Siemens Wind Power commented; “Subject to successful conclusion of the tests it is clear that the potentials of the split-blade technology of Blade Dynamics would be expected to become even more interesting as we move to even larger turbine platforms.”

Andrew Scott, program manager for offshore wind at the ETI stated:

“The ETI’s vision is to support the development of next-generation blade technology because improved rotor performance is fundamental to achieving the goal of reducing the cost of offshore wind energy.

“We greatly appreciate the ongoing commitment of Siemens to this project with Blade Dynamics. As leaders in this field, this partnership for the development of next-generation rotor technology has the potential to have a huge impact on the cost of offshore wind energy in the future.”

These two announcements indicate the progress which is being made by the UK wind industry. Whether it be the development of new and more efficient technology or the addressing of existing (if extremely infrequently occurring) issues it can be seen that the UK’s wind industry is ending 2013 as it began it; with an eye to the future.