The cost of Wind Power continues to fall

Like all new technologies when they first enter the commercial market, wind turbines were costly and therefore the cost of generating electricity from them was higher than the more established methods. Over time the cost started to fall as the technology became more widely used and more widely understood and this pattern continued as more turbines were installed throughout the country.

However certain factions continued to claim that the cost of generating electricity via wind was high, particularly in relation to other more traditional methods of generation.  They had their reasons for perpetuating this false claim but such was their influence that when discussing our industry with those on the outside we were often asked ‘isn’t that very expensive?’ and ‘doesn’t that mean higher costs for consumers?’

This myth however was shattered this week in a new round of CfDs (Contracts for Difference) for the energy sector in which two energy companies proposed to build offshore wind farms and generated electricity for export to the grid for a guaranteed price of £57.50 per megawatt hour.

In comparison the proposed new nuclear power plant Hinkley Point C has secured a guaranteed price of £92.50 per megawatt hour.

Emma Pinchbeck, from the wind energy trade body Renewable UK, speaking to the BBC about the latest figures said they were “truly astonishing”.

“We still think nuclear can be part of the mix – but our industry has shown how to drive costs down, and now they need to do the same.”

The nuclear industry unsurprisingly agree and state that due to the intermittency of wind power and the winding down of carbon intensive generation nuclear is needed now more than ever.

Tom Greatrex, chief executive of the Nuclear Industry Association (NIA) also speaking to the BBC, said: “It doesn’t matter how low the price of offshore wind is. On last year’s figures it only produced electricity for 36% of the time.”

EDF, which is building the Hinkley Point C nuclear plant, said the UK still needed a “diverse, well-balanced” mix of low-carbon energy.

“New nuclear remains competitive for consumers who face extra costs in providing back-up power when the wind doesn’t blow or the sun doesn’t shine. There are also costs of dealing with excess electricity when there is too much wind or sun,” a spokesperson for the multinational said.

They also stated that like wind, energy from nuclear power will become less expensive as markets mature however history has taught us that this isn’t the case as the cost of generating electricity via nuclear power has continued to rise since the 1950s.

Also both EDF and the NIA conveniently forgot to mention the rise of battery storage which in its many forms is tackling the problem of intermittency head-on without the production of dirty nuclear waste and the potential threat of meltdown.

Dong Energy were one of the two companies to successfully bid for the contract for phase two of what will become the world’s largest offshore, the 1.4 gigawatt Hornsea project.

Dong is currently building the first phase of the Hornsea project, which has a capacity for 1.2 GW and was guaranteed a price of £140 per MWh. Phase two of the project, which will be built 89 kilometres off the Yorkshire coast, will produce enough energy to power over 1.3m UK homes. It is expected to be operational from 2022.

“This is a breakthrough moment for offshore wind in the UK and a massive step forward for the industry. Not only will Hornsea project two provide low cost, clean energy to the UK, it will also deliver high quality jobs and another huge boost to the UK supply chain,” said ​Matthew Wright, managing director for Dong Energy UK.

Dong has already started the consultation process for Hornsea project three which will add more jobs and income to the UK economy and if completed along with the first two phases will generate enough power for 3.6million homes.

The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy’s figures were released after an auction for subsidies, in which the lowest bidder wins. In 2015, offshore wind farm projects won subsidies between £114 and £120 MWh meaning that in the two years since offshore wind subsidies have fallen by at least 50% with the reductions attributed to the downturn in the oil and gas sector, the availability of larger turbines and a more competitive supply chain leading to lower costs across the renewable sector.

Lawrence Slade, chief executive of energy industry body Energy UK, called on ministers to build on the UK’s lead in renewables.

He said: “This (auction) shows what can be achieved by providing the necessary certainty for investment, which drives down the cost of decarbonisation, benefits customers and the wider economy, and creates highly skilled jobs and stimulates growth in rural economies.”

Caroline Lucas, the co-leader of the Green Party, said the figures achieved should be the “nail in the coffin” for new nuclear; “While clean, green wind power has the potential to seriously cut people’s bills, the Government’s undying commitment to new nuclear risks locking us into sky-high prices for years to come.

“The Government should now commit to this technology – and scale up investment in offshore wind so that it becomes the backbone of British energy.”

I don’t think even the most pro-nuclear power campaigner can say that these figures are good news for their industry. Hinkley, still not built will now receive subsidies for the next 35 years at least 60% more costly than offshore wind.

New nuclear power plants in Suffolk and Wales are expected to be less than Hinkley but even then it is highly unlikely to be less than £80 per MWh, still much more expensive than the most recent offshore wind figures.

Wind farms are also much cheaper to build than nuclear plants and can be developed in stages. They are also constructed much quicker with UK wind farms boasting an excellent record of on time completion. Yes, there is intermittency but as alluded to above, new storage solutions added to smart grid technologies are expected to negate these issues in the near future.

Wind is proving to be an inexpensive modern viable energy option while nuclear trails somewhere far behind. With the government due to publish a major review on the cost of energy next month our hope is the wind is very much on their expansion agenda whilst at the same time we see an end of new nuclear power plants.

We believe that clean inexpensive renewable energy is the best option for everyone, economically and environmentally it makes sense.

Scotland’s Electric Future

Scotland’s longest road, the A9, is to be fitted with electrical charging points its entire length from Falkirk in central Scotland, through Inverness and on to Scrabster Harbour in the very north of the country. At the launch of the project First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said the road will show that electric vehicles can offer important advantages to motorists in rural as well as urban settings.

Speaking at the launch she said “Over the next few months we will set out detailed plans to massively expand the number of electric charging points in rural, urban and domestic settings. We will make the A9, already a major infrastructure project, Scotland’s first fully electric-enabled highway.

“This is an exciting challenge and one I hope all members and the whole country will get behind. It sends a message to the world – we look to the future with excitement, we welcome innovation and we want to lead it.”

The policy which is part of the Climate Change Bill also includes the phasing out of new petrol and diesel cars and vans and promoting ultra low emission vehicles by 2032, eight years earlier the current UK Government proposal.

Scotland currently has more than 1,800 charge points – around 15% of the UK total and the highest of any UK region with further plans to expand Scotland’s EV charging infrastructure right across urban, rural and domestic areas between now and 2022, with promises of financial support for local solutions and small-scale research into challenges surrounding charge points, particularly in domestic tenement properties.

The government also plans to transform public sector car and van fleets by the mid 2020s and commercial bus fleets by the early 2030s.

A Transport Scotland spokesman said: “The A9 already has a number of fast and rapid chargers at strategic locations. We recognise that as electric vehicle driver numbers increase so must our charge point numbers to ensure that drivers have the support and confidence to travel the country without experiencing ‘range anxiety’.

“To support our ambition of phasing out the need for petrol and diesel cars and vans by 2032, we will continue to work with each of our delivery partners to further develop the A9, making it Scotland’s first electric highway.”

Friends of the Earth Scotland director Richard Dixon welcomed the plans as “the greenest programme for government in the history of the Scottish Parliament.

“The Scottish Government has put improving and protecting the environment at the heart of their legislative and policy programme. Promises here will reduce climate change emissions, save people from air pollution and help Scotland become a leading example of a low carbon country. This package is a very significant step towards a fossil-free Scotland.”

Scottish Renewables deputy chief executive Jenny Hogan welcomed “recognition of the economic, environmental and social value of renewable energy.

“The announcement of £60million to deliver cutting-edge low-carbon energy infrastructure like electricity battery storage and sustainable heating systems will build on the success of projects already announced under the Low Carbon Infrastructure Transition Programme and further enable our shift to a cleaner, greener economy.

“A focus on ultra-low emission vehicles, and particularly a drive to encourage their uptake by public bodies, will help move our transport system to one powered increasingly by renewables. A new Climate Change Bill which will toughen Scotland’s statutory 2050 greenhouse gas emission target will provide a context for the further development of our industry, enabling renewables to continue to reduce emissions and drive sustainable economic growth.”

While the Scottish Government is planning our carbon free future a new offshore wind farm, which will provide a slice of the clean energy required is according to the University of Strathclyde, expected to contribute £827.4 million to the country’s GDP.

The 450MW Neart Na Gaoithe project could see capital expenditure of up to £2 billion, with around £510 million of this to be spent in Scotland. Operational expenditure is expected to total around £1.7 billion over the project’s 25-year life, with around £610 million of this to be spent within the country.

The wind farm will also support around 13,900 jobs over its construction and operation. The majority of the jackets and piles that make up the turbine structures and half of all maintenance will be procured within Scotland. The facility is expected to go into operation during 2021.

Jenny Hogan, Director of Policy at Scottish Renewables, said: “These new figures show the huge potential offshore wind offers to Scotland’s economy, in addition to the key role it has in tackling climate change.”

With Scotland producing record amounts of clean renewable electricity it makes sense to promote clean use policies. Our transport energy use is one of the largest contributors to our carbon emissions so an increase in charging points along with a constant reduction in new petrol and diesel cars will greatly reduce our overall emissions.

The definitive reduction targets as part of the Paris climate deal will not be easy to meet but it is our obligation to do so. Government policies like those above are therefore necessary for us to achieve these targets.

We will one day all be driving electric cars that much we can now be sure about. The pace of uptake has pleasantly surprised us and as the technology continues to improve, particularly covering the issue of range, we expect this to increase further.

The government policies will also speed up use and as our carbon emissions reduce everyone will benefit.

Geothermal Energy In Scotland

A new survey carried out by WWF Scotland has revealed that the Scottish public want strong policies in the Climate Change Bill to help cut emissions and become more energy sustainable.

75% of those polled think that the government should invest more in improving the energy efficiency of homes across the country, up from 67% last year. Around 68% of people want to see higher investments to reduce emissions, like cleaner public transport and low carbon heat networks, another significant rise from the 2016 figure of 59%.

Renewable energy also received a boost with 71% stating that more electricity should be generated from renewable sources a rise of 10% from 2016.

The WWF said the results should encourage the Scottish Government to use the forthcoming Climate Change Bill to implement the policies and investments the public want to see happen.

Sarah Beattie-Smith, Climate and Energy Policy Officer at WWF Scotland, said: “We believe the forthcoming Climate Change Bill is can help to create jobs, improve public health and reduce poverty at home, whilst also ensuring Scotland plays its part in helping the poorest people in the world cope with the effects of climate change. These survey results should give politicians of all parties the confidence to be ambitious and take the steps needed to make Scotland a fairer, more prosperous society.”

While the Scottish public wants more investment in energy efficiency and renewable energy The British Geological Survey (BGS) and the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), the UK’s main funding body for earth sciences, have unveiled plans to investigate the true scope of recovering heat from water trapped deep underground in abandoned mines in a pioneering new project that will be based either in the east end of Glasgow or in Rutherglen, South Lanarkshire.

Glasgow and neighbouring South Lanarkshire both have a long history of coal mining and while that industry is long gone the remnants of it remain throughout the region with a network of disused mine shafts still in place. It’s these that experts believe could hold the key to what is a potentially substantial resource of green energy sourced from geothermal energy. Geothermal has advantages over other renewable energy sources as it is able to provide baseline power since it doesn’t rely on the sun shining, the wind blowing or the tide going in and out.

Two small-scale experiments using ground source heat pumps to tap warm water collected in defunct mines in Shettleston in Glasgow and Lumphinnans in Fife have already proved successful.

The proposed Glasgow Geothermal Energy Research Field Site is one of two such schemes being put forward as part of the £31 million UK Geoenergy Observatories Project the other being in England.

The BGS archive hosts extensive records of mining and oil and gas exploration and with the addition of new information garnered from these new projects will help those involved better understand the impact of exploiting geothermal energy in this way and to establish whether it can be a viable, cost-effective and sustainable addition to the renewables sector.

One of the proposed projects, in Glasgow’s Clyde Gateway area, involves the creation of a number of boreholes of depths up to 170m that will allow scientists to explore the area’s geology and underground water systems. Water temperature, movement and chemistry will be tested, with data continuing to be monitored and assessed over the next 25 years. Studies will also be carried out to determine whether gathering geothermal energy could potentially cause earthquakes, as has happened with fracking, or lead to water pollution.

Also on the agenda is testing whether the mine network is linked and whether tapping water at one site might affect supplies contained in a shaft elsewhere. If the project gains all the necessary planning consents, drilling work is expected to begin at the chosen site next year.

The West of Scotland is littered with disused mines, particularly in the Lanarkshire and Glasgow areas. Along with shipbuilding it was once one the prominent industries of the area. To create a positive clean energy use for some of the sites would be a wonderful addition to the country’s growing renewable energy portfolio.

Projects like these will go a long way in securing the renewable energy and energy efficient future that the Scottish people crave. However there is potential for more and as the machinery and materials required for these types of developments become both less expensive and more efficient we can hopefully expect more innovation in the future.

It is our hope that one day we reach a point where we do not need more renewable energy developments because we have reached a point where we are generating enough for everyone with a surplus to sell on. We are not there yet, but who says we can’t achieve it.

From Whisky to Biofuel

Scottish Energy Minister Paul Wheelhouse this week announced investment of £1.5 million in a project aimed at boosting offshore wind which it is hoped will help move renewables towards self sufficiency.

The Carbon Trust which runs the project – called the Offshore Wind Accelerator (OWA) – has stated the work the project is currently carrying out will help end the need for subsidies in the industry.

Carbon Trust director Jan Matthiesen said the funding showed real confidence in the ability of the project to drive down costs and make development and deployment more viable adding “This signals continuing support and investment into a programme that has helped to reduce the costs of offshore wind and helped to pave the way towards a subsidy-free energy source.”

The Scottish Government provided the same amount in 2016 and Paul Wheelhouse made the announcement for this year’s investment at a visit to Burntisland Fabrication yard in Methil, Fife.

Speaking of the new investment he said “The Scottish Government’s decision to invest a further £1.5m into the OWA is a ringing endorsement of the great potential of this programme to help Scotland to utilise the full potential of offshore wind, and to ensure that we make it as affordable as possible.

“The Carbon Trust have done a fantastic job so far in reducing the costs of offshore wind, as well as encouraging collaboration across the public and private sectors to improve the industry as a whole.

“The potential benefits of offshore wind energy in Scotland are enormous, which is why the Scottish Government is committed to its development. By continuing to invest in it, not only are we stimulating economic change for the better, but we’re also helping to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in Scotland and helping to fight the impacts of climate change.”

Lindsay Roberts, of industry body Scottish Renewables, said: “Scotland has huge amounts to gain from offshore wind and it’s an incredibly exciting time for the industry.”

While wind energy remains the country’s most productive form of renewable energy one of the country’s most traditional industries, whisky distilling, is also now lending its support to renewable energy in the form of a biofuel called biotanol.

Biotanol, a direct replacement for traditional fuel, is produced from draff, the sugar-rich kernels of barley which are soaked in water to facilitate the fermentation process necessary for whisky production.

It is normally discarded following the distillation process however Scottish Company Celtic Renewables believe it could be refined using a groundbreaking process to be used in vehicle transport.

Tullibardine Distillery have teamed up with Celtic Renewables to produce the fuel for commercial purposes. Professor Martin Tangney, the company’s founder and President, commented “This is the first time in history that a car has ever been driven with a biofuel produced from whisky production residues.

“ It is fitting to do this historic drive in Scotland, which is famous not just for its world-renowned whisky but also for being a powerhouse for renewable energy. Celtic Renewables is playing its part in sustainability by taking this initiative from a research project at Edinburgh Napier University to, what we believe will be, a multi-billion-pound global business with the opportunity to turn transport green.”

With over £8 million of funding support from the Scottish government and private investors, the company plans to open a factory in 2018 able to produce 500,000 litres of the fuel per year.

Tullibardine distillery manager John Torrance added: “Right from the outset when Celtic Renewables approached us we could see the game-changing potential of a new fuel created from our by-products. We’re a forward thinking distillery and we’re happy to support what promises to be a groundbreaking first for renewable energy, for transport and for the Scottish whisky industry alike.”

Putting together two of Scotland’s greatest exports, whisky and renewable energy, looks like a perfect match up. Although the current distillation process is a very modern one the industry itself is one of Scotland’s most traditional.

Renewable energy is very much in the modern category but with the resources we have it was always an industry that was going to thrive here, given the correct strategy.

Up until recently it has done but with changes to government strategy it may not for too much longer. Therefore it is important that projects like the Offshore Wind Accelerator can show a sustainable model without the need for subsidy.

If projects like this are successful they will attract further private investment which in turn should lead them to be even more sustainable and less reliant on government investment.

However while we believe wind energy will provide the majority of our renewable energy for many years to come we must not be completely reliant on it. Other traditional sources of renewable energy such as solar and hydro will also provide a large percentage of our requirements but other newer innovative projects will go a long way to securing a 100% renewable future.

This is where new projects such as Biotanol are vital. Scotland produces a lot of whisky approximately 99 million cases were exported in 2015. Should the Celtic Renewables / Tullibardine Distillery project prove to be commercially viable then there are 114 other distilleries that no doubt will look to get in on the act.

That could mean over 60 million litres of high quality biofuel produced each year in Scotland without the need of any additional plant growth or land use. Something that we believe is worth getting excited about.

Scotland’s first floating wind farm

Scotland is once again leading the way with renewable energy technology as this week the initial phase of the world’s first full scale floating wind farm commenced. The project, named Hywind, off the coast of Peterhead in Scotland’s north east when fully developed will host five giant turbines which will provide electricity for up to 20,000 homes.

Manufacturer Statoil says output from the turbines is expected to equal or surpass generation from current ones, “This is a tech development project to ensure it’s working in open sea conditions. It’s a game-changer for floating wind power and we are sure it will help bring costs down,” said Leif Delp, project director for Hywind.

Due to the nature of the turbines they can be located in waters far deeper than conventional offshore turbines, in this case 15 miles from the mainland. This could allow the wind farm to take advantage of stronger wind currents, allowing it to generate more electricity and funnel this power back to the mainland. The project could also herald a new era for the wind energy space, where turbine technology is advancing at an accelerated rate.

One turbine has so far been installed with the four to follow currently being stored in Norway. It is expected that all five will be in place by the end of August. The operation to raise the turbines includes a number of tug boats, incredibly strong and thick cables and remote-controlled submarines, used to check for obstacles.

While the turbines are currently very expensive to make, Statoil believes that in the future it will be able to dramatically reduce costs in the same way that manufacturers already have for conventional offshore turbines.

“I think eventually we will see floating wind farms compete without subsidy – but to do that we need to get building at scale,” said Mr Delp. The company have already confirmed that should this project be a success they plan cash in on a boom in the technology, especially in Japan and the west coast of the US, where waters are deep.

The Hywind project is being run in collaboration with the Abu Dhabi firm Masdar. The £190m cost was subsidised by bill-payers under the UK government’s Renewable Obligation Certificates. However with the cost of conventional offshore wind projects falling by 32% since 2012 it is hoped that this new technology will soon follow suit.

Scotland has been for some time a well established leader in the wind energy industry and continues to invest heavily in it. Over the next few years some of the largest offshore wind farms are expected to be built of our coast. With the advent of this new floating wind farm we are again placing ourselves at the forefront of cutting edge renewable energy technology.

While we always maintain that a diverse mix of renewables technology is required to safeguard our energy future we also know that generating energy from wind is one of the most proven, reliable and cost effective methods for doing so. New techniques to harvest this energy, like the Hywind floating wind farm, creates a new way of tapping an established source in areas thought impossible only a few years ago.

As more efficient and consequently less expensive methods come onto the market we will eventually be able to reduce our carbon based fuel reliance to next to nothing. In turn this will reduce our emissions and go a long way in protecting our environment which ultimately is our goal.

Scotland’s renewable fuel

The results of recent analysis into the new SSE and Beatrice Offshore wind farm has shown that the £2.6 billion 84 turbine project will add £530 million to the Scottish economy. The Outer Moray Firth development was consented in March 2014 and research on the social return on the investment (SROI) shoes the £2.6bn investment is expected to add £1.13bn to UK GDP and support full-time employment in the UK.

Paul Cooley, SSE head of generation development, said: “As a UK-based energy company we strongly believe that our investment in much-needed energy infrastructure can benefit the wider society.

“The findings of the report show that our spending on the project will not just benefit the wider UK supply chain, but also the Scottish supply chain and the local communities near the wind farm.

“This research offered SSE their first chance to understand the social return on investment of the community fund, and we were thrilled to see that the fund should help create more value for the community.

” The foundations are being put into place for the project, which will be fully operational in 2019 SSE says the farm’s 84 wind turbine being assembled at Nigg Energy Park will be able to generate enough energy to power up to 450,000 homes.

Scottish Government Minister for Business, Innovation and Energy Paul Wheelhouse said: “On a national scale, the Beatrice project is set to inject £530 million into the Scottish economy, as well as providing clean energy to thousands of homes.

“The significant benefits to the Highland and Moray regions will be felt for a long time to come, as those areas are set to benefit from over £6 million in community projects, as well as the creation of over 800 jobs during the construction phase, including assembly work at Nigg Energy Park, and around 90 long-term jobs during the operations and maintenance phase, which will produce a particular boost to employment at Wick harbour.”

There was more good news this week for Scottish wind power as new data from WWF Scotland showed another new record for the renewable source for the six months of 2017. The analysis showed that wind turbines generated 1,039,001MWh of electricity in June, enough to supply the electrical needs equivalent to 118 per cent of Scottish households.

In the first six months of 2017 enough power was generated to supply more than all of Scotland’s national demand for six days. Turbines generated 6,634,585MWh of electricity which analysts say could on average supply the electrical needs of 124% (approximately 3 million) of Scottish households. The figures for the first six months this year show an increase of 24% compared to 2015.

Scotland’s total electricity consumption including homes, business and industry for first six months was 11,689,385MWh meaning wind generated the equivalent of 57 per cent of Scotland’s entire electricity needs.

Dr Sam Gardner, acting director of WWF Scotland, said: “The first six months of 2017 have certainly been incredible for renewables, with wind turbines alone helping to ensure millions of tonnes of climate-damaging carbon emissions were avoided.

“Scotland is continuing to break records on renewable electricity, attracting investment, creating jobs and tackling climate change.

“If we want to reap the same rewards in the transport and heating sectors, we need the Scottish government to put in place strong policies on energy efficiency and transport in the forthcoming Climate Change Bill.

“That’s why we’re calling on people to act for our future and tell the First Minister they want a strong climate bill that will deliver a fairer and healthier low carbon Scotland.”

Karen Robinson, of WeatherEnergy, said: “It’s great to see this data confirm that Scotland is knocking it out of the park on wind power with total output for June in particular up on the same period compared to the past two years.

“There’s no doubt renewables are helping households increasingly avoid fossil fuels for their electricity needs.”

Scotland’s energy minister Paul Wheelhouse said: “It’s great to hear renewable electricity generation in Scotland has reached a new record high. In the first quarter of this year, generation was up by 13 per cent compared to the same period last year, there was also a 16 per cent increase in capacity, and more than half of all gross electricity consumption in Scotland continues to come from renewables.

“Scotland’s total installed renewable capacity, that’s the amount of renewable electricity we are capable of producing, now stands at 9.3 GW – four times what it was only a decade ago. These statistics reinforce our country’s reputation as a renewable energy powerhouse and are a vindication of the Scottish government’s energy policy.”

The new offshore venture mentioned above along with the last of the new onshore wind projects should bring Scotland’s renewable capacity up to 10Gw in 2017. For a small country this a great achievement and places us above many other European countries of a similar size. However when you compare us to the Scandinavian countries of Denmark, Norway, and Sweden we lag behind  – in the cases of Norway and Sweden by multiple factors.

Both Norway and Sweden have considerable hydro-power networks compared to Scotland which does offer some explanation however Denmark comfortably beats us on wind power capacity as does Sweden. Considering Scotland is officially the windiest country in Europe this simply is not good enough.

A lack of government subsidies has meant the onshore wind capacity is unlikely to make any great gains in the future unless a change in policy is brought about. With new evidence suggesting that the cost of wind power is now low enough to maintain a new lower level of subsidy we hope that a shift in policy to support new developments is not too far away.

Geothermal Energy in the UK

The first geothermal plant in the UK could be a reality as soon as 2020 if a multimillion-pound fundraising drive for a pioneering project to produce power from hot rocks several kilometres under the ground in Cornwall succeeds.

The £18million United Downs Deep Geothermal Power project near Redruth has already secured £13m in public funding, £10.6m from the European Regional Development Fund and £2.4m from Cornwall county council.

A £5million bond has therefore been set up to raise the remainder via a crowdfunding platform.

Ryan Law, managing director of Geothermal Engineering Ltd, the UK company behind the project, said: “The big problem is because nothing has been done in the UK before, it’s quite high risk. Finding funding for that risk is extremely difficult.”

Investors can expect a 12 per cent return on the bond, which has an 18-month term, and will have their capital returned to them if the geothermal plan does not go ahead.

Geothermal plants involve deep holes drilled to reach underground hot rocks. Water is then pumped down, heated and returned to the surface to generate electricity or provide heating. Cornwall’s extensive granite means it has long been seen as the most promising part of the UK for the technology.

Drilling should begin in the first quarter of 2018 and take around five months as Geothermal Engineering Ltd drill a well 2.5km down, followed by a second deeper one of 4.5km, creating a circuit for water to be pumped down the shorter well and return up the other. If all goes as planned, the Redruth operation could be operational in 2020.

The amount of power the wells are expected to produce will be small, at a capacity of 1-3 megawatts (enough to power 1,500-4,500 homes), similar to a single onshore wind turbine, however geothermal has the advantage of being able to provide constant power if needed.

Chris Goodall, an energy expert and author, said “Energy independence for Cornwall is a realistic, cost-effective objective for the county council. This is a first-rate project.”

Tony Batchelor, known as the grandfather of geothermal in Cornwall for his test research and drilling in the county during the 1970s and 1980s, told the Guardian: “This £18m is basically our chip in the game. Then we look at delivering bigger and better projects.”

Ultimately, geothermal could provide as much as 1,000 megawatts of capacity, said Batchelor, an adviser to Geothermal Engineering Ltd and chairman of Earth sciences consultancy Geoscience. While not a huge amount nationally, it would be significant for Cornwall.

However, Goodall cautioned that this latest effort at making geothermal work in Cornwall was by no means guaranteed.

“Pretty much everyone agrees there is a lot of heat down there. But one of the reasons projects have struggled to get funding is that it’s highly fractured and it’s not a given [that it will work]. No one has yet been prepared to put in the highly risky capital to do this,” he said.

Bob Egerton, a Cornwall councillor, said he was sceptical about how big the resource actually was but that it was important to try to exploit it.

“It is a bit of a gamble, but ultimately we hope it will pay off,” he said. “The more we can produce from these sorts of resources rather than hydrocarbons has got to be a good thing.”

Active Geothermal plants would be a wonderful addition to our energy mix providing clean energy and in particular heat energy to local communities. Although the initial cost is quite high for the energy return the path this could set us on is worth the risk.

As the aim to move further away from energy via hydrocarbons and actively seek to reduce our carbon emissions projects such as these play an important part in expanding our energy mix. No one source would be able to completely replace hydrocarbons and it would be folly to pursue such an ideal even if we could.

We require a range of clean renewable sources as well as suitable storage to ensure we all can benefit from a secure energy future.

More corporations commit to a greener future

With the American government recently stating it was withdrawing from the Paris Climate Agreement it is reassuring to know that many large corporations are still committed to helping create a greener future.

The RE100 initiative from international non-profit The Climate Group, in partnership with not-for-profit charity CDP (formerly the Carbon Disclosure Project) announced this week that AkzoNobel, AXA, Burberry and the Carlsberg Group had joined its ranks, taking the number of companies committed to 100% renewable power to 100.

Dutch paints and coatings business AkzoNobel has set itself the target of being carbon neutral and using 100 percent renewable energy by 2050, while insurance giant AXA has targeted 100 percent renewable electricity by 2025.

Meanwhile, fashion business Burberry wants to procure 100 percent of electricity from renewable sources by 2022. Brewing powerhouse the Carlsberg Group will turn to 100 percent renewable electricity at its breweries by 2022, and aims to be carbon neutral by the year 2030.

Helen Clarkson, CEO of the Climate Group, welcomed the new members. “By championing the compelling case for business action, we have reached 100 members three years earlier than expected,” she said. “Changes in the market such as the falling cost of renewables have also worked in our favour.”

Andre Veneman, AkzoNobel’s corporate director of sustainability, said the company had put, “considerable effort into learning how to source renewable energy in a cost competitive way and the opportunities for our business are huge.”

“We’re convinced that embracing renewable energy is an excellent way to create both short- and long-term value that will enable a true business transition,” Veneman added.

While these corporations act towards making positive environmental decisions Turkey recently through further doubt onto the Paris Climate Agreement with President Erdogan stating that the U.S. decision to pull out of the Paris climate agreement meant they are less inclined to ratify the deal because the U.S. move jeopardizes compensation promised to developing countries.

Erdogan was speaking at the G20 summit in Germany where leaders from the world’s leading economies broke with U.S. President Donald Trump over climate policy, following his announcement last month that he was withdrawing from the accord.

Erdogan said that when Turkey signed the accord France had promised that Turkey would be eligible for compensation for some of the financial costs of compliance.

“So we said if this would happen, the agreement would pass through parliament. But otherwise it won’t pass,” Erdogan told a news conference, adding that parliament had not yet approved it. “Therefore, after this step taken by the United States, our position steers a course towards not passing this from the parliament.”

The importance of the Paris Climate Agreement cannot be understated and the U. S, decision to pull out looks to have started a negative domino effect. While we at ILI Energy are not at the doom and gloom levels like those reported in the recent New York Magazine article we believe that urgent action is required to reduce our carbon emissions substantially before we reach the point of no return.

All that we have done before has helped put us the correct path, and recent evidence has shown that we are making a positive difference, albeit slowly, but we all need to be in this together and pulling in the same direction to make it work. Losing a huge contributor like the USA from the Paris Agreement not only damages our overall changes, it can, as shown above send out the wrong message and have others wondering if it is worth the effort.

This week an iceberg with a land mass of approximately 6,000 square km broke off from Antarctica. It wasn’t unexpected but is a good indicator of the damage we have already done. Only by working together to reduce our carbon emissions can we ensure that such an event does not happen again.



2017 shaping up to be another good year for UK renewables

In the first three months of 2017 renewables set another new record by generating a quarter of all electricity used in the UK according to official records published last week

New data from the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) revealed that renewables powered 26.6 per cent of the UK’s electricity needs between January and March 2017, a one per cent rise on last year’s figures and the highest ever level for quarterly production.

Onshore wind led the charge, with production up an impressive 20% on last year thanks to increased capacity, although offshore wind saw production dip by two per cent due to lower wind speeds. Hydro production fell 15 per cent due to low rainfall levels, but solar soared 16% to 1.7TWh which like onshore wind has seen an increase in capacity in the last year.

Understandably the renewable energy industry was buoyant when the news of another record broken was circulated.

“Renewable energy is a mainstream technology, which is cheaper and more advanced than ever,” RenewableUK’s executive director Emma Pinchbeck said in a statement. “Our innovative industries have matured to the point where we now reliably provide over 25 per cent of the UK with clean, sustainable power.”

Scotland in particular boasted a strong performance. Generation rose 13 per cent compared to the same period last year to hit record levels, while capacity soared 16 per cent.

“Scotland’s total installed renewable capacity – that’s the amount of renewable electricity we are capable of producing – now stands at 9.3GW – four times what it was only a decade ago,” Paul Wheelhouse, the Scottish government’s Minister for Business, Innovation and Energy, said in a statement. “These statistics reinforce our country’s reputation as a renewable energy powerhouse and are a vindication of the Scottish government’s energy policy.”

The increase in capacity for traditional renewable technologies will start to plateau now due to reductions in subsidies so these records are likely to hold for longer than they have been over the past few years.

There are very few new developments in the pipeline so although 2018 may see more increases due to 2017 new installations after that we can expect stagnation at best. At present alternative technologies do not yet boast the large scale capacity increases that onshore wind and solar can, nor has the costs seen the reduction those two more mature technologies have.

Without a plan to combat this we are facing a period of uncertainty as we are obliged to reduce our carbon emissions but without further growth in renewables meeting such targets will be very difficult.

The most obvious answer is to stimulate the onshore wind and solar industries but even at today’s lower costs that will require new subsidies. With that unlikely other projects, policies and ideas must be implemented as quickly as possible so we can achieve our targets and more importantly create a safer environment for all of us to live in.

Renewables Research

Swedish company Vattenfall announced this week a £3 million renewable energy study programme based in Scotland designed to shed new light on how the offshore wind industry impacts the lives of dolphins and other sea life.

Adam Ezzamel, EOWDC project director at Vattenfall, said: “The announcement of these successful projects including three in Scotland is an exciting one, with each having the potential to unlock fascinating new insights into the offshore wind environment and determine influencing environmental factors.”

Three out of four projects sharing the £3 million fund are based in Scotland at the firm’s European Offshore Wind Deployment Centre (EOWDC) in Aberdeen and include schemes run by The River Dee Trust and Marine Scotland Science, SMRU Consulting and the University of St Andrews as well as MacArthur Green. Oxford Brookes University was the other successful recipient.

It is believed to be the largest-scale offshore wind research programme of its kind and will “put Scotland at the industry forefront” of research and development, according to Vattenfall.

The individual projects will be carried out at by different consultants with the final data collated by Vattenfall. SMRU Consulting and the University of St Andrews are working towards improving the understanding of bottlenose dolphin movements along the east coast of Scotland. MacArthur Green, based in Glasgow, will focus on reducing uncertainty in the future of auk seabirds near offshore wind farms. The River Dee Trust and Marine Scotland Science study looks at the interactions between salmon and sea trout with offshore wind technology. Finally Oxford Brookes will investigate the socio-economic impact of the energy source on the human environment.

Paul Wheelhouse, Scottish Government minister for business, innovation and energy, said: “The research will strengthen our scientific understanding of the potential environmental impacts of offshore wind generation and their socio-economic impacts too.

“It is very positive news that three of the four successful project bids were from Scottish organisations, which underlines Scotland’s expertise in providing robust science which can protect and enhance the biodiversity of our seas and also aid our understanding of offshore wind projects on communities and our economy.”

Almost 100 applications were submitted for the research programme, with a shortlist of 16 selected by a specialist scientific panel which included representatives of Vattenfall, Aberdeen Renewable Energy Group, Marine Scotland Science, Scottish Natural Heritage, the Scottish Environment Protection Agency, RSPB Scotland, the Joint Nature Conservation Committee, Whale and Dolphin Conservation, and The Crown Estate.

In other Scottish renewable energy new it has been revealed by industry group Scottish Renewables that Scottish sewers produce enough discarded and natural heat to warm a city as big as Glasgow for over four months per year according to new research.

They claim  that 921 million litres of wastewater and sewage were flushed down toilets and plugholes in Scotland daily and with the water in the sewers potentially as warm as 21 degrees Celsius, the environmental group said capturing and using its warmth could be the equivilant of 10,000 tonnes of CO2 entering the atmosphere via carbon based heat.

Figures produced for Scottish Renewables by Scottish Water Horizons showed how the energy potential of sewers could be captured using technologies such as heat pumps and waste water recovery systems.

“These new figures show the enormous scale of the energy we are literally flushing away every day,” Scottish Renewables’ policy manager, Stephanie Clark, said in a statement.

“Water which is used in homes and businesses collects heat from the air around it, as in a toilet cistern, or is heated, as in dishwashers and showers,” Clark added.

“That’s in addition to the energy that it gains from the sun when stored in reservoirs. Technology now exists which allows us to capture that energy, and waste heat can play an important role in helping us reach our challenging climate change targets.”

Scottish Water Horizons’ business development manager, Donald MacBrayne, said that water flushed down the drain at homes and businesses represented a significant source of thermal energy.

“Usually, this heat is lost during the treatment process and when treated effluent is returned to the environment,” he said. “By tapping into this resource using heat recovery technology we can provide a sustainable heating solution which brings cost, carbon, and wider environmental benefits.”

The innovative idea of using waste-water to help heat our homes is the type of project we must be aiming to implement if we are to reach our carbon emission reduction targets. As the onshore wind industry is no longer producing new developments on the scale seen previously we must think out of the box in order to come up viable new projects.

Using waste water which would ordinarily be well wasted is one such idea however the technology required in order to establish such systems will not come cheap. That is why industry and government alike must all be pulling in the same direction if such projects are to become a reality.