Renewable links with Isles move a step closer

Last week the abundant renewable energy potential of the Scottish Isles and Islands took a step closer to being unlocked.

A report published last week for the Scottish and UK Governments by consultancy group Xero Energy has highlighted the actions which will need to be taken to ensure that the renewable resources available in areas such as the Shetland and Orkney Islands are available to the mainland. Much work will need to carried out to ensure that grid infrastructure is improved.

The key findings of the report are to considered by the intergovernmental Scottish Islands Renewables Group. These meetings are part of an ongoing collaborative process between the two governments to ensure that both Scottish and UK Renewable Energy 2020 targets are reached. Some of the reports key findings are as follows; certainty has to be provided for developers around the longevity of support from government which underpins the business case for sub-sea grid development,  the stability of grid charges, loan charges, and research funding support for grid connections for marine technologies such as tidal turbines.

One of the proposed sub-sea cables would stretch 50 miles (80 kilometres) from Gravis on the Isle of Lewis to Ullapool on the North-Western coast of Scotland. This cable would then link up to Beauly to Denny powerline. Great strides have been made on the Isles to unlock their renewable resources (work in which we at Intelligent Land Investments (Renewable Energy) have been involved in) but grid connections have to be improved to allow power to be exported to the mainland.

Commenting on the publication of the report Scottish Energy Minister Fergus Ewing commented:

“I welcome the publication of the Xero report, which will help us to address the critical remaining barriers to new transmission connections for the Western Isles, Orkney and Shetland Islands.

“The three island groups share significant challenges in getting grid connections off the drawing board in time to access support within the timeframe of the first Electricity Market Reform Delivery due to long lead-times and high costs for sub-sea connections – typically, upwards of four years to achieve approval and to build. The findings from this report will help us deal with these issues.

“There is wide acknowledgement across both the Scottish and UK Governments that the Scottish islands hold huge renewable energy potential, which could make a substantial contribution to both governments’ 2020 renewable energy targets and longer-term climate change ambitions.

“Our collaborative approach is based on this shared understanding, and through the work of the inter-governmental Scottish Islands Renewables Group, we will continue to build momentum towards delivery of these vital connections.”

UK Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change Ed Davey also released a statement:

“This report will play an important part in the next stage of our partnership work for renewable energy from the Scottish islands. We have already made more progress in the last year than for many years, after the UK Government announced last December additional support for onshore wind projects, with a special higher Scottish Islands strike price. While that initiative itself should unlock much potential green energy, I’m determined to tackle remaining issues despite the complexity involved.”

Last week also saw the publication of the Scottish Government’s Good Practice Principles for Community Benefits from Onshore Renewable Developments following an extensive period of consultation. These Principles have been designed to ensure that communities benefit from renewable energy developments in their area. The Scottish Government has already established a register of community benefits to allow communities to make sure they receive an appropriate  level of community benefit.

The key principle which has been unveiled is the promotion of a national community benefits package rate equivalent of at least £5,000 per Megawatt per year – index linked to inflation for the operational lifespan of developments. This would mean that, for example, a 20 Megawatt wind would generate a community benefit of at least £100,000 per year. At this point we are pleased to tell you that all of our developments at ILI (RE) already meet these requirements. All of our onshore wind developments have always included a community benefit which is directed to our local charity partners to ensure that communities benefit from our developments; even at the time when community benefits were not required by either national or local authorities.

Another key proposal of the new guidance is to encourage developers to to submit information on community benefits at the earliest possible stage of development. This is to allow communities to consider any proposals and develop ideas as to where such funding would be directed. Again we at ILI (RE) have always been proud of our community benefits and charity partnerships and have always sought to make local authorities aware of these.

Speaking at the fifth annual Scottish Highland Renewable Energy Conference Scottish Energy Minister Fergus Ewing launched the publication of the Principles:

“Community benefits from renewable energy offer a unique and unprecedented opportunity to communities across Scotland. Today, I can confirm that there is now around 285 megawatts of such capacity operational across Scotland. That puts us well over half way towards the target, and represents an increase of 40 per cent on the previous year’s figure.

“The Good Practice Principles is a landmark moment in encouraging developers to invest in community benefit schemes arising from renewables development and overall contribute to our target.

“This Guidance has drawn mainly on experience from the onshore wind sector but the Scottish Government would like to see community benefits promoted across all renewables technologies.

“This document details good practice principles and procedures promoted by Scottish Government, and is intended as a practical guide to the process but also, through examples of what is already being achieved, as a showcase to inspire success.

“Featured schemes include the Allt Dearg Community Wind Farm, which, through partial community-ownership, generated £130,000 for the Ardrishaig Community Trust in the first nine months of operation to September 2013, and which is expected to generate £100,000 in annual income to the Trust.

“The Scottish Government is very keen to see other communities get the chance to invest in local developments like this, and that is why as part of the Principles we have set up a short-term industry working group to develop guidance to encourage community investment in commercial renewables schemes.”

Finally, this week saw the publication of the Department of Energy and Climate Change’s latest (and ninth) quarterly Public Attitudes Tracker. The survey was conducted in over 2,000 UK households in late March and has allowed the government to keep track of public opinion and support for renewable energy. The results of the survey have revealed that public support for renewable energy has remained strong.

Indeed, 80% of respondents stated that they “supported the use of renewable energy to provide the UK’s electricity, fuel and heat”. Public levels of support have remained strong over the two year period in which these surveys have been carried out. This is despite the anti-renewables line taken by some mainstream media outlets over the course of this period. A majority of 59% of respondents stated that they would be happy to have a large scale renewable energy development in their area. This is a 4% increase compared to the survey published in March 2012 perhaps suggesting that more and more people are realizing the necessity of increasing the UK’s renewable energy capacity and the benefits which a renewable energy development can bring to an area.

It is also interesting to note that public support for individual forms of renewable energy generation have been unaffected by negative coverage in some parts of the media. Public support for onshore wind energy has reached an all time high of 70% indicating the public desire for more onshore wind developments. Both solar and offshore wind also saw record levels of support of  85% and 77% respectively.

One reason suggested for the entrenchment of public support for renewable energy is the increasing level of concern about climate change. According to survey climate change and energy security are now the joint fourth “biggest challenges facing the UK today”. The link between renewable energy and concern about climate change was illustrated by the publication of a report by the United Nations a few weeks ago; which outlined in the strongest possible terms that it is only through greatly increased use of renewable energy that disastrous climate change may be avoided.

With the media’s role in shaping public opinion on matters of energy generation under the spotlight it is extremely interesting to read the survey results on shale gas fracking. Some aspects are hugely in favor of shale gas fracking and have promoted it accordingly. Public awareness of the process of fracking has increased. In March 2013 48% of survey respondents were unaware of the process; this has now decreased to 25%. But, increased awareness has not translated into increased support. Under 30% of respondents supported shale gas fracking; very much a minority and very much in contrast to the majority support received by renewable energy.

Reading the news this week one can see the image of a renewably powered UK beginning to take shape. With a majority of the public in favor, community benefit guidelines being established and moving a step closer to unlocking the renewable potential of the Scottish Isles one can see the direction in which we are heading. We at ILI (RE) look forward to playing our part in realizing this.

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.

UK renewable energy at record high

New figures published last week by the UK Department of Energy and Climate Change in it’s ‘Energy Trends‘ document have revealed that the amount of electricity being produced from the country’s renewable energy infrastructure has increased dramatically over the course of 2014.

The figures revealed that in 2013 a record 14.8% of the UK’s overall electricity production came from renewable sources. In total 52.8 terrawatt hours of electricity was produced from renewable sources in 2013.  In the same period the UK’s renewable energy capacity increased by a quarter to 19.4 Gigawatts. These headline grabbing figures underline the great strides which the UK’s renewable energy industry made in 2013 and the promise of further great leaps forward in the future.

Indeed the further progress which renewable energy is making was underlined by the fact that from November 2013 to January 2014 renewables met approximately 18% of the UK’s electricity demand. Given the high wind speeds experienced in the country over this period one would be correct in assuming that this increase of around 3% of electricity demand met by renewables was powered by wind energy.

The record increase in renewable energy generation capacity was largely driven by the UK’s wind energy industry. Huge progress was made by both the onshore and offshore sectors. In 2013 onshore wind produced 16.5 terrawatt hours of electricity. This is an increase of over 36% compared to generation figures for 2012. Offshore wind generation increased by almost 46% to 10.9 terrawatt hours. An impressive and understandable increase given the relative maturity of the onshore sector.

Industry trade-body RenewableUK’s Director of External Affairs Jennifer Webber made the following comment shortly after the publication of the figures:

“At a time when we needed it most, wind delivered. Onshore wind generation was up 64% compared to the previous year, and wind as a whole delivered over 10% of the UK’s total power needs across the quarter, proving it’s a force to be reckoned with.

Wind energy’s generation was the equivalent of power for 7.86 million homes for the full quarter.

By developing our wind resource we ease our reliance on costly imported foreign fuels and reduce the amount of polluting COin our atmosphere.

In addition by using our natural resources we’re creating thousands of jobs, like the ones Siemens announced just this week.

The UK has a choice – stay in hock to foreign powers for our energy or invest in secure, clean renewables and build tens of thousands of jobs for British workers”.

It should be noted that it was not just wind energy that took great strides in 2013. For example solar energy produced 2 terrawatt hours of electricity; an increase of almost 70%  of 2012’s total. Bioenergy generation also saw an increase of 22.8% demonstrating the growth experienced in all renewable energy sectors in the UK.

The renewable energy industry’s success in Scotland or rather Scotland’s success with renewable energy was particularly notable. Scotland has managed to begin to harness the power of it’s renewable resources and is outpacing the rest of the UK in moving to a low carbon energy sector. Around 32% of the UK’s renewable energy generation in 2013 was carried out in Scotland. 46% of Scotland’s total electricity consumption was met by renewable sources. This puts the country well on track to meet the 2020 target of 100% renewable energy and leaves the interim 2015 target of 50% renewable energy as something of a formality. We at Intelligent Land Investments (Renewable Energy) are delighted to have been able to contribute to such success. The revealing of such Scottish success was met enthusiastically by government and industry. Scottish Energy Minister Fergus Ewing released the following statement:

“These figures show that renewable electricity in Scotland is going from strength to strength, showing that 2013 was a record year for renewable generation in Scotland. Scottish renewable generation made up approximately 32 per cent of total UK renewable generation in 2013 – showing that Scotland has some of the best natural resources.

“The Scottish Government’s target is to generate the equivalent of 100 per cent of Scotland’s gross annual electricity consumption from renewable sources by 2020, as part of a wider, balanced, energy mix. These figures show that renewable generation in Scotland was at a record high last year, meeting around 46 per cent of our electricity demand, and helping keep the lights on across these islands at a time when Ofgem are warning of the ever tightening gap between peak electricity demand and electricity supply.

“Investment in Scottish renewable energy continues to grow. Between January 2010 and April 2013, the industry announced £13.1 billion of investment and over 9,000 associated jobs. Scotland leads the world in the development of marine energy technologies. There are more different wave and tidal power devices being developed and tested in Scotland than there are in any other country in the world.

“Independence will allow Scotland to pursue the opportunity to maximise the benefits from our energy wealth, including our potential for further developments in renewable energy. We can build on our existing success in this area and work to encourage the development of a wide range of renewable technologies, which will help enhance a reliable and secure energy supply and help Scotland meet its ambitious climate change targets.

Joss Blamire, Senior Policy Manager at Scottish Renewables, said:

“Even today, many people do not realise the massive contribution renewables make to powering our homes and businesses and reducing our carbon emissions.

“These UK Government figures show that, alongside nuclear, renewables are the biggest provider of electricity in the country, with 2013 our best-ever year.

“The report goes to show what can be achieved when industry and government work together towards our ambitious 2020 renewable energy targets.

“However, at a time of some change and uncertainty, government and industry must remain focused on these shared goals if the sector is to continue to provide increasing economic, environmental and social benefits to Scotland.”

In other news last week,  a report published by consultancy group Pöyry and Cambridge Econometrics has revealed the impact that wind energy could have upon the Irish economy.  If 5.4GW of new wind capacity is installed by 2030 then around €8.3 billion of new investment would be delivered to the Irish economy.

The report, entitled ‘Value of Wind Energy to Ireland’ goes on to reveal that the net annual GDP impact of new wind capacity will be between €350m and €490m a year to 2020. This figure would then be expected to increase to between €646m and €769m a year during the 2021 to 2030 period. Such a drive for wind energy could also create over 20,000 jobs in the country by 2030. Additionally it could eliminate the need for spending around €700 million a year on fossil fuel imports. The publication comes at a time in which Ireland’s dependence upon fossil fuel imports is coming under the spotlight due to geo-political uncertainty in Eastern-Europe. The success which has been found in the UK can only increase the desire for an Irish drive for wind.

The release of the DECC report has highlighted what successful 2013 the UK’s renewable energy experienced. ILI (RE) is proud to have done it’s part but attention must now turn to the future and the successes of 2014.

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.

 

Wind energy save EU €2.4 billion worth of water a year

A report published last week by the European Wind Energy Association (EWEA) has highlighted the cost to the union of non-renewable forms of electricity generation.

The report, entitled ‘Saving Water with Wind Energy’, has revealed both the amount of water which is used for energy generation within the European Union each year and the amount of money which this costing taxpayers and consumers across the continent.

It should first be noted that wind energy generation is saving Europe around €2.4 billion every year. This figure represents the cost of the water which would have been incurred had the electricity generated from wind power had been generated in more traditional ways. This figure was for the year for 2012. Given the strides that wind power has made across Europe it can be concluded that this figure has risen since then and shall continue to do so.

Startlingly, 44% of the water used within the European Union is used in power generation. It should be noted that the vast majority of this 44% is used in traditional power plants. For example nuclear and coal plants which require vast amounts of water for cooling. Energy production is by far the biggest use of water within the European Union. In comparison agriculture only represents 34% of water demand, the public water supply only 21% and industry accounts for only 11%. In total 4.5 billion cubic meters of water are used by nuclear, coal and gas firing plants every year.

Given that demand for water is increasing due to population growth and density increase as well as pressures placed upon the environment by climate change water efficiency will become an increasingly important issue in the coming years. Already at least 11% of European Union citizens are affected by water scarcity – for example in the South East of England were droughts and hose-pipe bans are now an annual occurrence. Using huge amounts of water to produce electricity only exacerbates these issues.

Renewable forms of energy generation require far less water to operate than more traditional and large scale technologies. Nuclear power uses the most water to produce power; on average 2.7 cubic meters of water are needed to produce a single megawatt hour. Coal is slightly less intensive requiring 1.9 cubic meters of water for every megawatt hour and gas is further less intensive requiring 0.7 cubic meters per megawatt hour. However in comparison the amount of water required to produce a megawatt hour of wind power is minimal. Wind turbines only require water for infrequent blade cleanage and generator cooling.

Indeed the EWEA report estimated that usage of wind turbines in 2012 reduced the EU’s energy industry’s water usage by 1.2 billion cubic meters – the annual water usage of 4% of the EU’s population. Again these figures will have increased given the increase in wind capacity seen throughout the EU’s member states. 1.2 billion cubic meters saved represents €2.4 billion saved. Furthermore given the consensus existing among many economists that water is heavily undervalued the true savings could be far higher.

The EWEA’s head of policy analysis Ivan Pineda commented at the publication of the report:

“Water equivalent to over three Olympic size swimming pools is consumed every minute of every day of the year to cool Europe’s nuclear, coal and gas plants. Increasing our use of wind energy will help preserve this precious resource far more effectively than any ban on watering the garden– while saving us money”.

The report projected that by 2030 wind energy will save the EU between 4.3 and 6.4 billion cubic meters of water per year. This would represent a financial saving of between €11.8 and €17.4 billion per year. Given the expectation that water usage and efficiency will become an increasingly part of resource management governments across the European Union are being urged to factor such considerations into energy policy. Industry trade body RenewableUK’s Director of External Affairs Jennifer Webber commented:

“Water is a very precious resource – water restrictions were imposed in the UK in the summer of 2012 in areas hit by drought. One of the many benefits of wind energy is that it requires hardly any water to keep generating. This report is a timely reminder of the environmental impact of other technologies which use vast amounts of water for cooling. When Governments set energy policy, they should take this into account – it’s not just the carbon footprint that matters, but also the water swallowed up by these other thirsty generators”

In other news, this week SSE exported power from it’s offshore wind testing facility to the National Grid for the first time. The facility, sited on the North Ayrshire coast is the UK’s first, and currently only, onshore test site for offshore turbines. The site was established with support from both the UK Government’s Department of Energy and Climate Change and Scottish Enterprise.The Ayrshire site has similar wind conditions to those found offshore. The currently operational turbine is a 6MW Siemens 154 direct drive machine, some 177 meters high. Work has already begun to install the site’s second turbine; a 7MW Mitsubishi model. This is expected to be operational by the autumn.

The commencement of power exportation has been enthusiastically greeted. Clark MacFarlane, Managing Director, Siemens Wind Power Offshore UK&I said:

“We are delighted with the news of first power for our 6MW turbine at Hunterston. This is another important milestone for our next generation wind turbine technology. The SSE and Siemens team has worked extremely hard to get to this point and should feel proud of their achievement in delivering this important clean energy project.”

Ian Flannagan, SSE’s Project Construction Manager, said:

“It’s great to see the Siemens wind turbine generating electricity for the first time which is testament to the hard work and commitment shown by everyone involved in the project.

“We are busy preparing the site ahead of the second turbine, a Mitsubishi SeaAngel 7MW offshore wind model, arriving in a few months time.”

UK Energy and Climate Minister, Greg Barker said:

“SSE Renewable’s test site for offshore wind turbines is an exciting and innovative project. It will help the country take another step towards delivering £110 billion investment into our energy sector while helping to support local jobs.”

The success of the offshore turbine testing site is good news for the UK’s wind industry ensuring that it’s world leading position is maintained.

The report published by the EWEA serves to underline the many benefits which wind energy generation has; increasing both energy and water security, reducing CO2 emissions and combating climate change and helping to keep energy bills down by reducing reliance upon fossil fuel imports. We at Intelligent Land Investments (Renewable Energy) are proud to be doing our part to increase the UK’s wind energy generation capacity.

New UK Wind Energy Records Set

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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.