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.

 

 

New UK Wind Energy Record Set

Last week the National Grid announced that a record amount of clean energy was generated from wind power on the 29th of November. Over 6 gigawatts of renewable electricity was fed into the National Grid over the half hour period between 2:30 pm and 3:00 pm- generation levels are measured by the National Grid in half hour intervals hence why figures are not supplied in gigawatt-hours.

From 2:30 to 3:00 pm an average of 6,004 megawatts (or 6.004 gigawatts) was fed into the National Grid solely by wind power. This level of generation represents 13.5% of the electricity demand at that time. Furthermore 6 gigawatts of renewable energy is enough to power over 3.4 million UK homes. These figures demonstrate the sizable amount which wind power alone (other forms of renewable energy generation such as hydro-power also made large contributions) is contributing to the UK’s energy needs. 6 gigawatts of wind power also represents 6 gigawatts worth of fossil fuels that did not have to be burned and a sizable amount of carbon dioxide which was not emitted into the atmosphere.

The previous record for wind power generation was set on the 15th of September when 5,739 megawatts was generated in one half hour period. It should be noted, however, that this record was broken several times on the 29th of November – the 6,004 megawatt figure released by the National Grid merely represents the peak of generation. Indeed, over 13% of the UK’s energy demand was being met by wind power frequently throughout the day. This demonstrates the consistency of supply which can be produced by wind energy.

Industry trade body RenewableUK‘s Director of External Affairs Jennifer Webber commented on the setting of a new record:

“Wind energy is consistently setting new records and providing an ever-increasing amount of clean electricity for British homes and businesses. We’re generating from a home-grown source which gives us a secure supply of power at cost we can control, rather than leaving ourselves exposed to the global fluctuation in fossil fuel prices which have driven bills up. Wind gives us a way to make a smooth transition from old-fashioned fuels to a new low-carbon economy.

“We’re also generating tens of thousands of green-collar jobs for people now working in the fast-growing British wind energy industry”.

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 – neither on the day or within that specific half hour period. There are a large amount of wind turbines in the UK, particularly within the small to medium scale (the scale at which we at Intelligent Land Investments (Renewable Energy) specialise in) which do not feed power into the National Grid. Such turbines will be supplying power locally or on-site. The owners of such developments are not required to supply real time output data to the National Grid and as such will not have been included in their figures.

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

In other news this week the UK Government announced that it is expecting around £40 billion of additional investment to be made in renewable energy generation projects by 2020. It is claimed that figure represents a large amount of progress to the country’s 2020 renewable energy generation targets.

Currently the UK has over 20 gigawatts of operational renewable energy generation capacity. Furthermore there are 11 gigawatts worth of onshore and offshore wind developments which have acquired planning consent and are awaiting construction. As of today there are also 16 renewable generation projects, representing a further 8 gigawatts of capacity if successfully developed, which have reached the next stage of the Final Investment Decision Enabling for Renewables (FIDeR) process. According to a statement released by the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) these 16 projects would contribute “around 30% of the new renewables generation we need by 2020”. The statement went on to say that “the UK is now on track to meet that target”.

The level of importance that is being placed upon reforming the UK’s energy grid can be seen in the fact that 58% of the total infrastructure spending laid out in the Government’s National Infrastructure Plan is to be directed towards energy. Given that 10-12% of the UK’s current generation capacity is due to come offline over the next decade we can both the need for new generating capacity and the role that renewable energy generation, and particularly wind generation given the relative maturity of the technology, can play in meeting that need.

The level of investment being predicted by the UK Government is sufficient to generate enough renewable energy to power a further 10 million homes across the UK and reduce CO2 emissions by 20 million tonnes. Such amounts of renewable energy generation will also serve to increase the country’s energy security, reduce significantly our reliance upon international fossil fuel markets and, according to figures announced by DECC, support up to 200,000 jobs. We can see then the huge advantages that a committed push for renewable energy development will bring to the country as a whole.

Energy and Climate Change Secretary Greg Davies made the following statement at the release of these figures:

“This package will deliver record levels of investment in green energy by 2020. Our reforms are succeeding in attracting investors from around the world so Britain can replace our ageing power station and keep the lights on.

“Investors are queuing up to express their interest in these contracts. This shows that we are providing the certainty they need, our reforms are working and we are delivering ahead of schedule and to plan.

“With sixteen new major renewable projects progressing in our “go early” stage we are delivering ahead of schedule and are able to begin the move to the worlds first low carbon electricity market faster than expected.”

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.

 

SSE Launches £50 Million Community Fund for Highlands

Last week Scottish and Southern Energy (SSE) launched their new community benefit fund. The launch took place in Bonar Bridge in the Scottish Highlands. The launch of this fund follows on from a change to the level of community benefit provided by the company’s onshore wind developments; last year the commitment was made that £5000 per megawatt of power per year would be devoted to community benefits. The most commonly used turbine model in SSE’s onshore wind developments  has a capacity of 2.5MW (megawatt) meaning that each of their turbines could be expected to provide around £12,5000 in community benefit every year.

The new fund could potentially provide up to £50 million of support to community groups and projects in the Highlands over the next thirty years. This year will mark the first round of funding and £1 million  is available to interested groups (specifically community groups and charities) which meet the funding criteria. The funding award committee is being chaired by former Scottish First Minister Jack McConnell.

Three priority areas have been developed by SSE and several local stakeholders to receive funding Firstly, job creation and skills training: the funding of apprenticeship schemes, training programs and similar projects to increases peoples chances of entering into employment or progressing further in their careers. Secondly,community energy: the funding of schemes to increase the level of community ownership of renewable energy developments which could create environmental, economic or social benefit. Thirdly, projects which enhance the area’s natural and built environment: schemes for the benefit of the local population and schemes to bring in more visitors to the Highlands are both considered to be priority areas.

A spokesperson for SSE commented at the launch and explained that it was taking place in Bonar Bridge “because we want to feature the success of the SSE Kyle of Sutherland apprenticeship fund, which is fully supported by community benefit from the SSE Achany wind farm.

“The apprenticeship scheme fits in with the criteria of the Sustainable Development fund and we believe it is a great example of how communities  use the funds they receive – for hosting a wind farm – in a sustainable way.

“ In the last three years, seven small businesses and young people from the Ardgay, Criech and Lairg areas have been supported through the scheme.

“We have two apprentices and two business owners coming along to the event, including Moray Munro, owner of WM Munro plumbing in Ardgay and Calum Smart, who is in the final year of his apprenticeship with the firm.”

The closing date for applications for the first round of funding is on the 15th of February 2014.

Of course, it should be remembered that it is not only SSE that operates a community benefit fund, nor is it only full scale wind farms which generate such funding. We here at Intelligent Land Investments (Renewable Energy) have been operating such schemes for some time. Our Community Benefits pre-date both the recently published Community Benefit Guidelines and the establishment of the Community Benefit Register itself.  We, at ILI (RE) have entered into partnerships with Local Authorities and Charities across Scotland. In areas such as South Lanarkshire where the Local Authority operates its own Community Benefit program we have been contributing more than the required amount for all of our completed developments in the area. More information on the Community Benefit Scheme in South Lanarkshire and information on how to apply for funding can be found here. In areas in which there is no Local Authority led Community Benefit Scheme we have entered into partnerships with local charities such as East Renfewshire Good Causes to ensure that such essential work can continue.

In other news week a new report produced by consultancy firm GlobalData has predicted that the small scale wind market is expected to undergo a sustained period of dramatic growth. As of 2012 the global small scale wind market was worth $609 million, by the end of the decade the market is now predicted to increase in size to over $3 billion. This represents an almost five-fold increase in market size in eight year or alternatively a Compound Annual Growth Rate of 22% up to 2020.

As of the end of 2012 there was just over 728MW of installed small scale wind energy worldwide. By 2020 GlobalData is predicting that there will 4,644MW of small scale wind energy installed worldwide. This represents an even more startling Compound Annual Growth Rate of over 26%. At the end of 2012 over 80% of small scale wind power was installed in China, the USA and the UK: 266MW were installed in China, 216MW in the USA and 118MW in the UK. As one would expect given the size of the country and it’s energy needs China is expected to remain a world leader in this sector through the decade. However, it should be noted that the GlobalData report also highlights the UK as an area which can expect significant growth in small scale wind throughout the decade despite the relative maturity of the UK small scale wind sector. Indeed in 2012 the UK was ranked the world’s fastest growing small-scale wind market with over 50MW of new small scale wind developments being installed in one year.

It is our hope that the launch if SSE’s community benefit fund will help to make the public more aware of the good work that the UK’s wind industry is contributing to- on a variety of scales. And regarding the GlobalData report we would say that a bigger small and medium scale wind industry means more community benefit funding.

 

Scotland’s Renewables generating £20 million a year

New figures released this week by industry trade body Scottish Renewables have demonstrated that renewable energy generation is providing almost £20 million of annual revenue to businesses, farmers, landowners, public sector organisations and homeowners across the country.

Revenue is being produced by generating electricity on site and then feeding it into the national grid. Precisely £19.3 million was earned in this fashion over the last year.

Of course this figure is fully expected to increase in the future as more renewable energy developments are completed and more energy is fed into the grid. This upward trend can be seen in the fact that the amount of renewable energy being generated ‘on-site’ (i.e. on  business premises or farm land) has tripled over the past five years. A vast variety of renewable energy technologies are being utilised in this fashion; rooftop solar arrays, onshore wind turbines and heat pumps are just a few examples of the technologies being used.

Stephanie Clark, Policy Officer for Scottish Renewables, commented on the news:

“It’s not just big companies who are building renewable energy projects, but more and more private individuals and businesses are taking their energy needs into their own hands by looking to renewables.

“We’ve seen farmers use wind power to generate electricity to make ice-cream, universities using biomass boilers as a heat supply and minibuses powered by biodiesel. In all of these examples they are managing to do three things; lower their energy costs in the future, reduce their carbon footprint and potentially generate income.”

At Intelligent Land Investments (Renewable Energy) we have been helping farmers, landowners and public sector organisations to obtain their own renewable energy developments and realise the potential of their land for several years. With particular emphasis on small and medium scale wind developments and Scotland’s agricultural industry we have erected wind turbines for individuals across the country.

Scotland’s agricultural industry has come under increasing financial pressure over the last few years due to several factors including reforms to the European Unions Common Agricultural Policy payments but predominately due to ever rising energy costs. According to DECC (Department of Energy and Climate Change) statistics  the average annual prices for gas and electricity  for non-domestic customers have increased by 121% and 93% respectively. The use of ‘on site’ wind generation of the scale suitably appropriate for the average Scottish farm provides access to the UK Governments FiTs (Feed-in Tariffs); a significant and much needed revenue stream. In the past few years experience we have built up here at Intelligent Land Investments (Renewable Energy) we have gained an insight into how much of a difference this can make. Several of the farmers we have helped to progress and complete development  stated to us that the wind turbine we delivered was the game-changer that would allow them to continue to operate their business. It was a service we were delighted to give them

Of course, as we have discussed on this blog before, the owner of the land on which a renewable energy development sits is not the only beneficiary from the revenue it brings in. It has long been company policy here at Intelligent Land Investments (Renewable Energy) for all of our renewable energy developments to provide a community benefit to the area in which it is situated. This Community Benefit has generally taken one of two forms. In cases when the Local Authority in which a development is sited operates its own Renewable Energy Fund we turn funding over to the Local Authority to allocate as it sees fit. In many of the Local Authority Areas in which we completed developments the contribution they required was less than the standard amount we provide for our own Community Benefits. In all these cases we provided our full and usual amount. In cases in which the Local Authority has no Renewable Energy Fund (and frequently no requirement for a Community Benefit at all) we entered into partnership  with a local charity operating within the Local Authority boundaries. We have agreements with several community charities across Scotland with groups such as East Renfrewshire Good Causes; who provide expertise, support and funding for those in need within the local authority. Here at Intelligent Land Investments (Renewable Energy) our charity partnerships are very much a source of pride.

It should be emphasised that small and medium scale wind turbine developments are not just the preserve of Scotland’s farmers. For example, Stewart Tower Dairy in Stanley, Perthshire, has installed a single wind turbine which has been operational since January. It has already helped the business – which makes ice cream for Harvey Nichols and Gleneagles, among others – offset rising energy costs.

Owner Neil Butler said: “Making ice cream uses a lot of power, for fridges, freezers, compressors, and as we are on a plateau – about 300ft up with good wind speeds – a turbine seemed to make sense.

“The benefit for us is not selling power into the grid, but the offset; we are providing almost half the power we need using the turbine and that is saving us enormous amounts when power bills are rising around 10 per cent a year. When you look at that kind of price rise, on-site renewables look very attractive.”

Scotland’s renewable energy industry has achieved much in a short space of time and we at Intelligent Land Investments (Renewable Energy) have played our part in that process but there is still so much more that can be achieved.

 

Scottish Renewables publish new guidelines for Community Benefits

This week the industry trade body Scottish Renewables launched a new protocol for onshore wind developments and community benefits in Scotland. The protocol outlines a series of guidelines  for community benefits stemming from new onshore wind developments.

This is the first protocol of this kind to be used in Scotland.

The protocol outlines four key commitments for onshore wind developments in Scotland. Firstly, developers are committed to providing a yearly community benefit of £5000 per megawatt (or equivalent) for all wind farm developments with a generating capacity of 5 Megawatts or over. Secondly,developers are required to support and follow the forthcoming Community Benefit Good Practise Guidance. This Guidance is currently being developed by a number of bodies in partnership. These bodies include the Scottish Government, Local Energy Scotland (LES), Scottish Renewables, Foundation Scotland, Consumer Futures as well as other industry partners, communities and local governments. Thirdly, all new onshore developments are to signed up to the Scottish Government’s Community Benefit Register. Lastly, developers are committed to exploring the potential of community ownership of renewable infrastructure as well as cooperating with the Scottish Government in producing further good practise guidance. It should be noted that this guidance does not apply for developments which already have community benefit agreements in place or those developments for which a final planning decision has been made.

Scottish Renewables Chief Executive, Niall Stuart, made the following statement at the launch of the new protocol:

“We want to clearly state our industry’s commitment to delivering local benefits from every new wind farm in Scotland.  The protocol will also ensure a consistent approach to the development of community benefit agreements.

“According to the Scottish Government’s online register, community benefit has topped £5 million per year and we’re keen to build on that success as new projects are developed.

“To date we’ve seen major changes being brought about thanks to community benefit funding, for example, energy efficiency measures, college bursaries, investment in local museums, cycle paths and tracks, and even funding for community transport schemes.”

Mr Stuart added: “As the most mature of renewable technologies, the benefits from onshore wind stretch far beyond the local area. Wind power meets the equivalent of more than 20 per cent of our electricity demand, tackles climate change, is responsible for attracting more than £1.3 billion of investment into the Scottish economy and employs thousands of people too.

“There are a number of examples across the country such as Earlsburn and Neilston where local communities have a financial stake in the wind farm by owning individual turbines or entire projects. By encouraging our members to explore community ownership as a possibility, we hope to strengthen the relationship between developers and local people to maximise the benefits onshore wind can bring.”

Scottish Government Energy Minister Fergus Ewing also commented:

I welcome today’s announcement by Scottish Renewables of the first set of standards that have been developed by the Scottish onshore wind industry that will ensure commitment on community benefits standards.

“The Scottish protocol goes further than those adopted in other parts of the UK in that, as well as the baseline rate, developers will be committing to consider the scope for direct community investment in their schemes, as well as to adhere to our forthcoming Good Practice Guidance and to use our public Register.

“Scotland is continuing to lead the way on community energy, and this commitment to a baseline level of community benefits of at least £5k per MW continues to set the pace. This protocol is an important step in the right direction as we move towards a position where as many new wind farms as possible, even small scale developments, are able to sign up to these commitments.

“In light of recent announcements regarding the renewable sector in Scotland these set of standards not only show strong leadership from Scottish Renewables, but also the huge investment opportunities still to come make it even more vital that DECC think again about the level of support being proposed through Electricity Market Reform.”

It should be stated that we at Intelligent Land Investments (Renewable  Energy) provide a community benefit for every single one of our consented developments (whether one is required or not – as had previously been the case). Often this takes the form of an annual contribution to charities operating at a local level. In other cases we enter into partnership with local authorities and allow them to direct the funding (as is the case with many of the community benefits stemming from large scale wind farms) using their local knowledge to  direct funding to where they think it is most needed. We at ILI (RE) are extremely proud of the help we are able to provide to worthy causes up and down the country.

In other news it was announced last week that the Scottish island of Gigha will be the site for testing of new battery storage systems. The island is already home to several wind turbines which are supplying power locally as well as feeding into the grid on the mainland. However, there is a limit to how much power the island can export to the mainland. Currently any excess is going unused. The new battery systems will allow power to be stored at times of excess generation and will mean that less power will have to be imported from the mainland. The scheme is supported by the Department of Energy and Climate Change and will use large-scale batteries containing 75,000 litres of sulphuric acid. Such battery systems, if tested successfully, could be used across isolated regions of the country and help to achieve the renewable energy targets laid out at both UK and Scottish Government levels.

The new Community Benefit protocol laid out by Scottish Renewables will serve both developers and communities. Communities will know exactly the level of funding they should be expected to receive and developers will benefit from increased awareness of the Community Benefit Programme.

Small and medium wind sees dramatic growth in 2012

Last week industry trade body RenewableUK published a new report examining the condition of the UK’s small and medium wind industry.

The report, entitled ‘Small and Medium Wind UK Market Report 2013′ which can be found here, revealed that the industry is in a very healthy position.

Indeed the report revealed the fact that 2012 was a record year for the sector. 2012 was a record year in a number of ways. Firstly, the number of new small and medium turbine installations in 2012 represents an all time high for the industry and is a dramatic increase on the level of installations carried out in 2011. Secondly, the export market for small and turbines manufactured in the UK grew dramatically. Thirdly, job creation in the industry continued to accelerate. And fourthly a record amount of electricity was generated and fed into the national grid.

By the end of 2012 over 23,500 small (turbines of a capacity below 100 kilowatts) and medium(turbines of a capacity between 100 and 500 kWs) scale wind turbines were installed across the UK. The vast majority of these developments took place on farm land or rural properties. This is significant for a number of reasons. It demonstrates that small and medium scale wind generation is one of the most accessible forms of renewable energy generation. Small landholders and business operators are able to access the revenue which renewable energy can bring in. This is in opposition to many other forms of renewable energy generation where development costs and the need for large properties (such as those required by large scale wind farms) make development prohibitive for many. Additionally, small and medium wind generation is making a large contribution to the UK’s fragile rural economies. For instance agriculture is coming under increasing pressure on a number of fronts – spiralling  energy costs due to price increases in the international fossil fuel markets, reduced subsidies from the European Union, and poor yields due to bad weather. Small and medium wind developments (such as those undertaken by Intelligent Land Investments (Renewable Energy)) not only open up new and much needed revenue streams but can also serve to reduce energy bills particularly in energy intensive sectors such as dairy farming. This point was emphasised by several in the industry including  Gaia Wind CEO Johnnie Andringa:

“Energy Secretary Greg Barker’s ‘people energy revolution’ will in part, be built on “Local Wind Energy”. With retail electricity prices rocketing, energy generated largely for use on site, in rural homes, farms and businesses, delivers exactly what is being called for. A farm scale turbine is a world away from the wind farm: it can be the difference between a rural business being feasible or not.”

Steve Milner, Managing Director of UK company Earthmill made a similar point:

“More farmers are looking beyond traditional enterprises to survive and the financial benefits of wind turbines for farms are becoming more widely known.

“Over the last quarter, we have seen an increase in demand of over 150% for single-turbine surveys and power evaluations from working farms…It is giving farmers the motivation to look at renewables as an additional source of revenue, especially those in dairy, pig and poultry farming where large amounts of electricity are consumed.”

Exports of small and medium turbines manufactured in the UK have also dramatically increased. Indeed, more (almost 25,000) turbines of this scale were exported from the UK than were installed within the country in 2012. Growth has been so dramatic that the UK’s export market for turbines of this scale almost doubled in size in 2012 alone. Indeed the export is now worth over £100 million to the UK economy.

The growth in the manufacturing and export sector has also increased the industry’s employment levels and is building up the UK’s skill base. The small and medium scale wind sector saw the greatest increase in employment of any part of the UK’s wind and marine energy industries. A four-fold increase in jobs from 2010 to 2012. By the end of 2012 the wind and marine industries directly employed 18, 465 full-time staff. The last survey of this type was carried out in 2010 and reported 10,600 directly employed full time staff. This represents an impressive increase of 70% but the impact of this is offset by the far more dramatic growth of the small and medium wind sectors.

The level of electricity being generated from small and medium scale wind installations also saw extremely encouraging growth. 21% more capacity was installed in 2012 than in 2011. By the end of 2012 102 Megawatts of small and medium scale wind was installed across the UK.  This figure is of course outweighed by the amount of small and medium wind power which is currently progressing through planning departments across the country. Indeed the Glasgow Herald revealed last week that there are currently 500 live planning applications across the UK for small and medium scale turbines on farm land.  2012 saw an increase of 58% in electricity generation from and small and medium scale wind. The recorded generation level for the year represents 106,851 tonnes of carbon dioxide which was not emitted. An impressive figure and one which is predicted to dramatically increase year on year.

RenewableUK’s report also outlined some potential growth scenarios for the sector in the next few years. Indeed the report noted that the medium wind sector is predicted to grow dramatically in the years 2013 and 2014 even under the ‘least optimistic assumptions’. 2013 is expected to bring a four-fold growth the medium wind sectors installed capacity. The market for small and medium scale wind is expected to increase by 48.78% in 2013 and by the end of the year a cumulative capacity of 171.33MW is expected to have been installed across the country.

RenewableUK’s Chief Executive, Maria McCaffrey made the following statement upon the publication of the report:

“With about 20% of our population living in rural areas, it’s vital that we find ways of powering the rural economy, and wind is doing exactly that. This technology brings over £100 million into the rural economy and in the past couple of years we have seen the market almost double in size.”

We at Intelligent Land Investments (Renewable Energy) are doing everything in our power to realise the hopes of our landowners and help the UK to achieve the level of growth that the small and medium wind industry is capable of.

$75 billion to be invested in global hydropower by 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Island Interconnectors would qualify for Green Bank funding

Aside

Mike Mackenzie, MSP for the Highlands and Islands region, has confirmed with the UK’s Green Investment Bank that projects involving the installation of interconnectors  to Scotland’s Islands would fit their funding criteria.

The installation of interconnectors would offer several benefits to both residents of the islands and the mainland. Interconnectors would allow for renewable energy which is being generated on the islands to be transmitted to the mainland. This would open up a a large amount of renewable energy capacity to the UK’s electricity grid. Some of the country’s most suitable sites for renewable energy development, particularly in the marine and offshore wind sectors, are to be found in the isles. However the relative lack of energy demand on the islands acts as a hindrance to such developments. The installation of interconnectors would not only help to provide additional energy security to the UK’s electricity consumers and help to keep energy prices down it would also provide inward investment to the people of the islands.

The Green Investment Bank, which was launched in 2012, was established to provide funding to projects which would “accelerate the UK’s transition to a  green economy”. Already funding has been provided to a wide variety of projects including offshore wind farms, several biomass projects and hospital energy efficiency schemes. Interconnector projects, which would open up so much potential energy generation, would very possibly fall under the umbrella of offshore wind or marine energy projects which are at this time considered to be a priority by the Green Investment Bank.

An example of the projects which could proceed given the installation of interconnectors would be the proposed Beaw Field wind farm on the isle of Shetland. It has already been confirmed that the proposed project, which could produce up to 100 megawatts of power, will only proceed if an interconnector is installed between Shetland and the mainland. The installation of an interconnector itself is dependant upon another develoment on the isle proceeding – the 457MW Viking Energy wind farm which has been granted planning permission. The nature of these two schemes also demonstrates the onshore wind potential of the Islands.

Confirmation was gained by Mr Mackenzie at last week’s meeting of the Scottish Governments Economy, Energy and Tourism Committee, which was taking evidence from the Green Investment Bank’s Chairman, Chief Executive and Operation’s Director. When asked by Mr Mackenzie if the Bank would consider investment in interconnector projects Sean Kingsley, Chief Executive, responded that he felt this to be a “great idea”.

Following the conclusion of the committee Mr Mackenzie made the following comment:

“This is fantastic news for the Highlands and Islands. I am pleased to see that there is a possibility of investment from the Green Investment Bank and I will be following up today’s exchange in the committee with a letter to the bank to try and help turn those words into action.”

“Renewable energy projects, both large and small, on Scotland’s Islands are currently disadvantaged because they are unable to transport their energy to the grid. Because of their great natural resources their potential is massive – as the recent Scottish Islands Renewable Report illustrated –New submarine cables [interconnectors] are urgently needed to transport the significant amounts of renewable electricity which can be generated on Scotland’s islands to mainland consumers, so these interconnectors would be a great low-risk investment for the bank.

“I sincerely hope that this investment possibility is followed up by the bank, and I look forward to hearing further from them on this matter.”

Additionally, last week the BBC carried out an energy survey as part of Radio Five Live’s Energy Day. Energy Day saw an entire day’s worth of programming transmitted from a temporary studio powered entirely by renewable energy. Energy was generated from a variety of sources including solar panels, onshore wind turbines and even exercise bikes!

The survey, which interviewed 1035 adults, found that a significant majority of the public would be happy to see renewable energy developments take place in their local area. 67% of those surveyed would be happy to see more wind farms and 84% gave their approval to more solar developments.This is in stark contrast to shale gas fracking which found support from a minority of only 33% of the population.

Dale Vince, founder of British green energy company Ecotricty remarked; “The fact 67% of people support having more wind farms in their area is not a surprise at all – every public survey for the past two decades has come back with the same result.”

The survey also revealed the existence of  a generation gap in feelings towards renewable energy. Whilst a majority of 54% of those aged over 65 said they would be happy to see more wind energy developments in their local area this figure rose significantly to 82% of those aged between 25-34. It has often been said that renewable energy is the future. Demographics would seem to support this opinion.

The UK has some of the best renewable energy development potential in the world and the Scottish Islands have some of the best renewable energy development potential in the UK.  The installation of interconnectors between the Islands and the mainland would unlock a large amount of this potential. Providing energy security for all and much needed  inward investment to some of the country’s most isolated communities.

 

Wind power market expected to quadruple by 2030

This week one of the key figures within the renewables industry predicted that a massive and rapid expansion in the use of renewable energy generation will occur over the next two decades.

Markus Tacke, Chief Executive of the German Multinational Siemens’ wind power division predicted that the global wind power market will more than quadruple in the years through to 2030, with the majority of this growth occuring in the Asian Pacific. Speaking at a renewable energy conference in Berlin Tacke commented that “the market will shift away from Europe significantly.”

Europe is currently the world’s largest market for wind power. So it is inevitable that other regions have more room for industry growth. The Asian Pacific was highlighted due to many nations in the region shifting their energy focus to renewables with wind power generation given particular attention due to the technology’s proven track record and falling costs. Wind power is expected to play a particularly strong role incountries such as Japan, which is moving away from nuclear power to renewables following the Fukishima Disaster, and China, which has large amounts of steppe land suitable for onshore wind farms and a desire to reduce the country’s reliance upon imported coal. Indeed a recent report produced by GlobalData has demonstrated that China doubled it’s installed wind capacity year on year from 2006 to 2011.

As of 2012 there were 273 Gigawatts (GW) of installed renewable capacity across the globe. By 2030 this capacity is expected to increase dramatically to 1,107 GW. As stated previously Europe is the world’s biggest market for renewable energy generation. Along with the Middle East the region accounts for 40% of the world’s renewables market. Currently the Asian Pacific accounts for 34% of the world’s market share. By 2030 this market share is expected to grow to 47%. Obviously this demonstrates huge growth in Asian renewables but it should be noted that the European market will also continue to expand. Despite such aggressive Asian growth European and Middle Eastern market share is only expected to drop to 34%. This indicates the huge amount of renewable capacity which will be constructed in Europe over the next twenty years.

This can be seen in other news announced at the same conference at which Markus Tacke was making his comments. The Norwegian Ministry for Oil and Energy has granted 8 licences for offshore wind farms which when completed are expected to have a combined capacity of 1.3 GW. This is just one of the steps being taken by the Norwegian Government in order to meet their target of having 67.5% of their power being generated from renewable sources by 2020.

Another report on China, this time by Bloomberg New Energy, fully lays bare the monumental amount of growth expected to occur in the Chinese renewables market. They predict that over half of all new generation capacity in China through to 2030 will come from renewable sources. To place this in context, over this timeframe, Chinese power capacity (regardless of how said power is generated) will more than double.

The Bloomberg report covers several different scenarios. One in which progress in clean energy technology is slower than expected, two in which the barriers to rapid takeup of renewable energy technology are removed and what is billed as the most likely scenario; the “New Normal”.

In the “New Normal” scenario over 1,500 GW of generation capacity will be constructed in China by 2030. Such development will be driven by investment of over $3.9 trillion. This level of investment will result in the creation of 88 GW of new capacity annually. To place this in prespective 88 GW represents the entire generation capacity of the United Kingdom!

China’s reliance upon coal power has often been cited as one of the major stumbling blocks towards the world achieving internationally agreed greenhouse gas emission reduction targets. In Bloomberg’s “New Normal” coal’s share of China’s energy mix is expected to drop from it’s current level of 67% to 44% in 2030. This demonstrates the trans-formative potential of renewable energy.

Michael Liebreich chief executive of Bloomberg New Energy Finance echoed Markus Tracke in his assessment of Chinese energy generation:

“It is hard to underestimate the significance of China’s energy consumption growth and its evolving generation mix,” he said. “The impacts will reach far beyond China and have major implications for the rest of the world, ranging from coal and gas prices to the cost and market size for renewable energy technologies – not to mention the health of the planet’s environment.”

The predictions and comments made this week demonstrate the huge potential of both the wind generation industry and the wider renewable energy industry. Renewables surely represent one of the world’s biggest growth markets.

UK’s first large-scale grid battery connected in Orkney

Last week a new type of storage battery was connected to the local electricity distribution network on the Isle of Orkney.

The new battery has the potential to be hugely important to the UK’s renewable energy ambitions as it could allow for far easier management of energy demand and would address the issue of power intermittency in renewables.

The battery was installed by Scottish Hydro Electric Power Distribution (SHEPD). The two megawatt lithium ion battery was installed at Kirkwall Power Station and represents the first use of a large scale storage battery anywhere in the UK. The battery was provided by Mitusbishi Power Systems Europe and Mitsubishi Heavy Industry after extensive trials in Japan. A similar piece of technology has been in constant use in Nagasaki for the last two years. Additionally similar battery technology, on a smaller scale, has been taken up by the electric car industry and has begun to enter the UK market. The battery will be operated by Scottish and Southern Energy (SSE). The level of cooperation involved in this trial is worth noting. Domestic energy companies, overseas developers and manufacturers, government and regulators have all been involved in this project. This demonstrates the importance with which storage and smart grid technology is being taken. Such technologies could be key to Scotland and the wider UK achieving their renewable energy targets and are being pushed hard at all levels.

The battery has been integrated with Orkney’s Active Network Management scheme. This network, or smart grid, has been in place since 2009 and was also delivered by SHEPD. Indeed, it was a world first. The Active Network Management scheme was implemented due to the relatively high level of intermittent renewable energy generation which existed on Orkney. Of course the level of renewable energy developments on the isle has only increased since then. The scheme allows the grid operators greater flexibility in managing and balancing loads and grants quicker access to back up power. This scheme has also proven highly beneficial to renewable energy developers as it has allowed them cheaper and quicker access to the grid following the completed development of a renewable energy project.

Reaction to the installation was universally positive. SHEPD’s Head of Commercial Mark Rough commented:

“This exciting trial will provide valuable research into the viability of using batteries for electricity storage. This is likely to become increasingly important to help balance the variable output from renewable forms of generation as we move to a largely decarbonised electricity generation mix.

“Although the installation of the battery will not provide an immediate solution to the current constraints on the Orkney distribution network, it is hoped that in the long term the result of the studies will help demonstrate that batteries could provide a cost effective way of freeing up capacity on the network to help facilitate new connections of low carbon generation.”

Scottish Government Cabinet Secretary for Finance, Employment and Sustainable Growth John Swinney remarked:

“Today’s announcement by SSE reinforces that Scotland is leading the way when it comes to developing and testing new ideas that may help us meet the electricity and energy needs of the future.  Smart grid technologies such as these being pioneered in Orkney are increasingly important as we move to a low-carbon economy.

“Scotland has an incredible wealth of energy resources from a range of generating technologies, capable of both meeting our energy needs and significant exports to parts of the UK and Europe.  We have a responsibility to make sure our nation seizes this opportunity.”

MSP for Orkney Liam McArthur stated:

““This is an exciting initiative and I am delighted to see Orkney leading the way in the development of energy storage options.  “Our islands have huge potential for generating renewable energy, but a lack of sufficient grid capacity is a growing problem. The active network management system has freed up capacity to allow many local projects to be connected to the grid in recent years, but new solutions now need to be found if Orkney is to realise its full potential in renewables. “I am certain that battery storage has an important role to play in ensuring we make best use of the resources at our disposal. While it is not a short term solution, the work being undertaken as part of this initiative could deliver significant and long-lasting benefits to Orkney and more widely.”

Peter Clusky, Senior Manager Renewables and Head of Government Relations for Mitsubishi Power Systems Europe said:

“We are delighted to be working with our strategic partners SSE to bring this globally significant R&D project to Orkney. We are confident that this Orkney-based project will make a significant contribution to the further development of Lithium-ion battery technology. Mitsubishi is grateful for the ongoing support of SSE, NEDO, and Ofgem.”

The battery project was funded by industry regulator Ofgem through their Low Carbon Network’s fund. Through this vehicle Ofgem has provided funding for several storage and smart grid projects across the UK. Again, it is worth re-emphasising the level of cooperation that has been involved in this scheme. It gives a very strong indication that the UK continues to view renewable energy as the future. Smart grid and other storage technologies will be key to realizing it.

This can also be seen in two other pieces of recent news. Firstly, UK Power Networks has announced it’s intention to trial a six megawatt battery system at  the Leighton Buzzard substation in Bedfordshire. When completed, which is expected to occur in 2016, this will be the largest battery system in Europe. Secondly, last week, UK Business Secretary Vince Cable announced the creation of a new Catapult Centre (centre for technology and innovation).The Energy Systems Catapult is expected to begin operation in 2015/16 and is intended to help accelerate the commercialization of smart grid and storage technologies, serving to reduce costs. Mr Cable gave the following comment:

” By committing to investment in new technologies now, we are laying the foundations for the high-growth businesses of the future. This will allow them to grow, take on more employees and keep the UK at the forefront of global innovation.”

The various developments which have occurred in this field over the last few weeks have demonstrated the commitment that the UK and Scottish Governments have to renewable energy technologies. Smart grid and storage technologies, such as the battery system currently being trialed in Orkney, will be key to unlocking the full potential of the UK’s renewable energy resource. The more energy which can be stored the more renewable energy developments can be utilized and less baseload backup will be required. Recent research produced by Imperial College London has estimated that large scale use of energy storage technologies could save the country £3 billion a year in the 2020s.