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.

 

UK renewable generation soars

Last week the Department of Energy and Climate Change published the latest statistics on renewable energy generation in England, Scotland and Wales.

The statistics are available here. They demonstrate dramatic growth in renewable energy generation across all renewable generation technologies and regions of the UK.

These statistics are published quarterly and the latest figures account for the second quarter of 2013. 12.8 TWh (terawatt hours) of renewable electricity was generated over the three month period. As such renewable energy generation was responsible for 15.5% of the total electricity generation in the UK in this time period. This represents a dramstic increase from the same period of 2012 in which renewables contributed 9.7% of total electricity generation. This is proof positive of the dramatic strides that the renewable energy industry is taking in the UK.

The statistical analysis broke the increased renewable generation capacity by technology type. This revealed that wind has seen the most dramatic growth of any form of renewable generation technology with an increase in generation of 62% compared to the same quarter in 2012. Further reading also reveals that onshore wind generation increased by 70%  between the two quarters. This is the biggest increase in generation for any technology type and demonstrates not only the strides being taken by the onshore wind industry but also the suitability of the UK itself for further onshore wind generation.

Additionally, solar, wave and tidal generation saw an increase of 22% whilst hydro power saw a 29% increase in generation. It should perhaps be noted that in the case of hydro power this leap may represent a difference in weather between the two years as much as it does an increase in capacity.

DECC’s analysis also broke down the number of renewable generation sites in England, Scotland,  Wales and Northern Ireland respectively. At the end of the second quarter of 2013 England had 3,752 non-PV (photovoltaic i.e non-solar sites),Scotland had 2,648 non-PV sites, Wales had 493 non-PV sites and Northern Ireland had 203 non-PV sites. The difference between the countries was far more marked in the figures for Photovoltaic sites: England had 311,192, Scotland had 24,360, Wales had 27,173 and Northern Ireland 531. In terms of solar sites much of the difference can be explained by the more clement climate to be found in England, particularly in the South, making solar panels more  attractive to developers and consumers.

The figures also reveal that as of the end of the second quarter of 2013 England had 29% more renewable electrcity capacity than Scotland. However DECC’s own analysis attributes this to the fact that the vast majority (88%) of the UK’s total biomass capacity is to be found in England. This concentration of biomass capacity can be explained by the conversion of the Tilbury B to dedicated biomass in 2011.

The total renewable energy capacity of the United Kingdom as of the start of June 2013 stood at 19.5GW. This represents an increase of 38% compared to June 2012 indicating that the growth of the renewable energy industry  continues apace. Furthermore 48% of the total amount of renewable energy generated in the second quarter of 2013 came from wind power. An indication that the wind industry and companies such as ourselves are working hard to ensure that the UK meets its renewable energy targets.

The Deputy Chief Executive of RenewableUK, Maf Smith welcomed the news with the following comment:

“This confirms what we have been seeing for some time, which is renewables steadily becoming more important in meeting our electricity needs, and wind being responsible for the lion’s share of the progress. That this period coincided with one of the coldest Springs on record means that wind was providing this power at a crucial time.

“The fact that we have seen the record for renewables generation broken twice in the space of a few months shows for itself the progress being made in the race to decarbonise our economy and secure our future electricity supply.”

In further good news this week saw Scotland’s biomass capacity increase! Sky cut the ribbon on four new biomass boilers at its customer contact centre in Livingston. This is the latest renewable energy generation scheme to be completed by Sky following the installation of a wind turbine at the company’s headquarters in Heathrow. The company has publicly committed to reducing its carbon emissions by 25% and improving its energy efficiency by 20%.

The new biomass boilers are expected to provide enough heat and hot water for the sites 2500 staff. Fuel is to be sourced from local forestry offcuts ensuring that carbon emissions as a result of transporting fuel to the site are kept to a minimum. The boilers are expected to reduce the Livingston sites carbon output by approximately 500 tonnes per year.

The publication of these DECC statistics reveals that the UK’s renewable energy industry is continuing to grow; creating jobs and increasing energy security all across the country.

Wind, wave and tidal employment soars in the UK

A report published last week by the industry trade body RenewableUK has revealed that the number of people employed in the United Kingdom’s wind, wave and tidal sectors has soared over the last three years.

The report, entitled ‘Working for a Green Britain and Northern Ireland’, is an update of a report previously produced in 2010. It was produced, jointly,  by RenewableUK and Energy & Utility Skills, and compiled by Cambridge Econometrics in partnership with IFF Research and the Warwick Institute for Employment Research.

The report has revealed a 74% increase in the number of people employed, both directly and indirectly, by the UK’s wind, wave and tidal sectors. The figure now stands at over 34,300. Directly the  three sectors employ 18,365 full time staff. 15,908 people are also in full time employment due indirectly to these sectors. Many of these staff work, for example, providing goods and services to the UK’s renewable industry in fields such as gearbox component manufacture. It is worth noting that 91% of the 34,300+ people employed due to the UK’s renewable industry are UK citizens. This demonstrates the importance of the renewables sector to creating jobs within the UK and belies many newspaper articles presenting the opinion that the use of renewable energy in the UK is only creating jobs abroad.

It is also worth making the point that many of these jobs have been created in areas of the UK which suffer from high unemployment. For instance the onshore wind sector is creating large amounts of jobs in the Scottish Highlands and Islands; areas of the UK in which unemployment of the UK has remained stubbornly high for many years but also contain some of the best renewable energy resources in Europe.

The geographic spread of the UK renewable energy industry’s job creation can also be seen in the growth of the offshore wind sector. The offshore wind sector has seen the highest level of job creation of any part of the energy industry. In three years the sector has doubled; from 3,151 full time employees to 6,830 full time employees.

Renewables are also helping to bring more women into the energy industry. Women make up 20% of full time employees in the renewable energy sector. This is proportionately higher than the UK’s energy industry as a whole. Renewables, therefore, can be seen to be bringing women into one of the country’s most important industries.

Another interesting point that the report raises is the number of small and medium enterprises which are involved in the UK’s renewable sector. More than 80% of the full time staff in the wind, wave and tidal sectors work for companies which have less than 250 employees. Furthermore 56% of these companies have less than 25 employees. Small and medium enterprises are at the heart of the UK’s renewable energy industry and have been a major factor in its growth. The renewable energy industry is a functioning example of the rhetoric deployed across the political spectrum; of an economy largely made and driven by flexible, dynamic small and medium companies.

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

“Today’s report clearly demonstrates how the wind, wave and tidal industries are creating jobs and growth for the economy. There are tens of thousands of people employed in skilled jobs the length and breadth of the country building a world-leading industry in the UK and providing clean, reliable energy.

“Industry and Government need to work side by side to back this workforce and the growth they generate. If the UK gets this right, our wind, wave and tidal industries could employ more than 70,000 people over the next decade. The offshore wind sector alone could be employing nearly 45,000 workers in the 2020s. As an industry we are truly creating jobs out of fresh air.

“The scale of the opportunity is massive, but success is not guaranteed. To really harness the economic benefits of our technologies we must ensure that there is certainty for industry. Certainty on future levels of deployment of wind, wave and tidal energy over the next decade will enable firms to invest in the right people and the right skills, and ensure we maximise the number of green collar jobs we create as we transform our electricity system. We want to ensure offshore wind is given the same opportunity to prosper as the North Sea oil and gas industries had in their heyday”.

It was also announced today that the World Energy Council considers the UK to have one of the sustainable national energy systems in the world.  The Council was announcing the establishment of a new ranking system for national energy systems. The UK was one of only five countries to obtain a triple-A rating; the other countries were Denmark, Spain, Switzerland and Sweden. The rankings are obtained by assessing the manner in which a country balances the three key issues involved in energy systems; energy security, environmental sustainability and energy equity.

The UK scored particularly highly in the environmental sustainability of its national energy system. The World Energy Council praised particularly the UK’s drive for wind energy, which is serving to create security of supply and to shield the UK from price fluctuation on the international gas markets. However the Council did note that perhaps more could be done to ensure closer partnerships between the public and private sectors.

These two pieces of news demonstrate that the UK’s renewable energy industry is not only creating tens of thousands of full time jobs across the country but is also gaining the country international praise for the direction in which it has taken it’s energy industry as a whole.

Europe’s largest tidal array granted planning consent

This week it was announced that the Scottish Government has granted planning consent to what will be Europe’s largest tidal array energy project.

The go ahead for the project was announced by Scottish Government Energy Minister Fergus Ewing, earlier this week, saying;  “Today we have granted consent to MeyGen Limited to develop the largest tidal turbine array in Europe and the first commercial project off these shores.”

Maygen is a joint venture between the investment bank Morgan Stanley, GDF Suez, International Power, and Atlantis Resources Corporation (a developer of tidal energy technology). A 25 year lease has already been agreed with the Crown Estate for 1.4 square miles of fast flowing water between the north-eastern tip of the Scottish mainland and the Island of Stroma. Planning consent has been granted for the development of around 86 1 MW (Megawatt) turbines. This would generate up to 86 MWs of electricity, enough to power 42,000 homes or 40% of the homes in the Highlands according to Scottish Government sources.

However, development is scheduled to occur in phases. With construction happening up until 2020. The first phase of the development is the installation of 9 of the 1 MW turbines to act as a demonstration of the successful commercialization of the technology. Each turbine stands 22.5 metres tall (73 feet), weighs 1,500 tonnes, and has a rotor diameter of 18 metres (59 feet) The site within the Pentland Firth could eventually yield up to 398 MWs of power.

Tidal and marine energy generation are considered by both the UK and Scottish Governments to have a huge role to play in the fulfillment of the countries renewable energy commitments. Improvement and refinement of the necessary technology will continue in the coming years but the development of the Pentland Firth array will act as both a milestone for the technology itself and also for Scotland’s world leading marine energy industry. The Carbon Trust has estimated that wave and tidal technology could provide 20% of the UK’s electricity demand if our resources are fully developed.

News of the granting of planning consent was met favourably by both industry and environmental bodies. A spokesperson for WWF Scotland commented:

“Scotland is well placed to lead in developing the technologies to turn this potential into a reality while create thousands of green jobs at the same time,

“However, as there is little point in generating huge amounts of marine renewable energy on Scotland’s islands if it cannot also be got to the mainland, we now need UK and Scottish Ministers to find a way forward that enables us to harness the full potential of this clean energy source.

“With careful planning we can harness Scotland’s huge wave and tidal energy to help cut our climate emissions, while safeguarding the nation’s tremendous marine environment.”

Scottish Renewables Policy Manager Michael Rieley stated:

“Scotland has just been given another reason to be proud of its burgeoning marine energy industry now that Europe’s largest tidal stream energy project will be calling Scotland home. This is by far one of the most important milestones for the tidal energy sector to meet.

“This latest announcement to come from the marine industry is further proof that all the hard work to win the global energy race is paying off. Not only will new projects like this mean a step further towards meeting our renewable energy targets, but it will also lead to further jobs being created, increased investment, and a significant contribution towards tackling climate change.”

In regards to onshore wind generation, UK Energy Secretary Ed Davey announced this week that onshore wind developments on the Scottish Islands are to be incentivised through the use of “strike prices”; higher subsidy payments than such developments would receive on the mainland. It was stated that the new price of £115 MW/h (megawatt hour) has been set to reflect the unique circumstances and potential of carrying out such renewable energy developments. The “strike price” does not apply for any other form of power generation than onshore wind. Often suitable sites on the Isles are subject to higher wind speeds than would be encountered on the mainland. However, costs can be far higher due to the potential difficulties and extra costs associated with connecting into the electricity grid. This is the first time that the UK Government has set a higher strike price for a specific region of the UK.

Mr Davey commented:

“This is good news for the future of renewables in Scotland and this unique solution will pave the way for more investment in green energy.

“An independent report showed that the specific circumstances of the Scottish islands required a different approach that breaks the mould of the wider UK strike price mechanism, and we are delivering that.

“This was possible because of a strong partnership between Westminster, Holyrood and the island councils.

“Thanks to consumers across the whole of the United Kingdom, we can offer this special higher strike price, so Britain gets more green energy, so consumers’ bills in Scotland are kept affordable and so the green economy of the islands grows.”

From the news announced this week we can see the central role that Scotland, and in particular the Scottish Islands, have to play in not only increasing the UK’s energy security, meeting renewable energy generation targets, and reducing carbon emissions but also in the development of a world class industry capitalising on the natural resources of the country.

Island Interconnectors would qualify for Green Bank funding

Aside

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Majority of UK Public Support Renewables

A survey published last weekend in the Sunday Times has revealed that public support for renewable energy remains strong across the political spectrum. Support for renewable energy continues to outstrip support for shale gas developments despite a concentrated and sustained media campaign by shale gas companies.

The survey, carried out by YouGov, polled 1,952 people, establishing their political preferences and asked them if they were in favour of financial support for a variety of energy generation technologies. The poll revealed that a majority of all four political parties supporters were in favour of continued funding for renewable technologies such as wind and tidal power.

Regardless of political opinion, a majority of 65% were in favour of continuing support for the wind industry. This was a strong result given the continuing campaign against the industry in some parts of the media. 76% of those polled were in favour of financial support for the embryonic tidal power industry and 79% were favourable to continued support for solar power. These poll results seem to indicate that a consensus exists among the public in regards to renewable energy generation. Nearly two-thirds of those polled are of the opinion that renewable energy is the solution both to rising energy prices and climate change. This is reflected in the poll results for fossil fuel use. Only 40% of those polled were in favour of financial support for shale gas despite the optimistic estimates made in some parts of the media about it’s potential impact upon the domestic energy market. This belief in renewable energy was also seen in the fact that only 49% of those polled were in favour of financial support for nuclear support. This is despite the fact that new nuclear power generation will not be able to go ahead in this country without very heavy financial support from the government.

Shale gas has rapidly become a concern for many people within the UK; as demonstrated by the anti-fracking protest groups which are springing up across the country. Such concerns are reflected in the polling data. For example, 47% of those polled considered shale gas extraction (fracking) to be damaging to the environment. Only 31% believed that this was not the case. Furthermore, 43% of people felt that shale gas development would be harmful to their local area. Only 25% of people would be happy to see fracking proceed in their locality.

The fact that UKIP were included as one of the political party preferences demonstrates their growth; particularly in England. The party has often been perceived as an extremist (in some regards) offshoot of the Conservative party. One would expect therefore their supporters to be strongly anti-renewables. However, 51% of polled UKIP supporters were in favour of financial support for wind power and 76% in favour of support for marine energy. These results correlate with an earlier survey which found that voters favour politicians who actively support wind power. Public support for wind energy generation continues to be strong.

RenewableUK‘s Director of External Affairs, Jennifer Webber released the following statement about the poll results:

“Poll after poll shows that voters value low carbon technologies such as wind and tidal power. This latest poll shows that there’s not a single age group or voting demographic where a majority of people don’t want financial support for wind. It’s clear that for politicians, whether they’re UKIP, Conservative, Liberal Democrat or Labour that further development of our natural wind and marine resources is the way to go.

“With a recent study from Cardiff University showing that over 80% of people are worried about becoming overly dependent on energy from other countries, it’s important that confidence is retained for domestic low carbon producers. Wind provided enough power for the equivalent of 4.5 million homes last year and needs to play an increasing role in our electricity provision. If we press strongly on, as supporters of all political parties are urging, we can also build on our offshore and marine supply chain to create tens of thousands of jobs over the next decade”.

In other news, several major turbine manufacturers are collaborating together on solutions to reduce bird fatalities caused by turbine blades. The project is being led by Energy Norway, includes contributions from Statoil, Vatenfall, Trønder Energi Kraft, NVE and NINA, and is supported by the Research Council of Norway. Although research has demonstrated that turbines have no long term impact on bird populations and indeed cause less fatalities than traffic or domestic cats bird deaths remains an issue for some members of the public. This new pilot scheme will test whether painting some parts of wind turbines black (for instance one of the turbine blades or part of the tower) can increase their visibility to bird species and reduce collisions. The use of ultraviolet paint (which is invisible to the human eye) is also being explored. Trials are to be carried out at the 68 turbine Smøla wind farm in Northern Norway. Whilst any step which can be taken to reduce collisions is welcome it should be remembered that the most significant steps taken to avoid harming bird populations are carried out at the planning stage. Stringent planning requirements exist in Scotland (and the wider UK) to ensure that turbines are placed in areas in which they will have a minimal impact on protected species, large populations and migratory routes. However, if such schemes can further minimise bird deaths then they be welcomed by both the wind industry and the public.

Wind power continues to receive the support of the British public. But the result of this fact must not be complacency.The wind power industry must continue to get it’s message across. And programs such as that being trailed in Norway can only help to do so.

SSE to carry out £200 million grid upgrade in Argyll and Bute

It was announced this week that Scottish and Southern Energy (SSE) is to carry out over £200 million worth of upgrades to the electricity transmission network between Argyll & Bute and North Ayrshire. Much of the investment will be directed towards a new subsea link between Kintyre and Hunterston.

The announcement was made after SSE’s plans received approval from industry regulator Ofgem. However, spokespeople for SSE have revealed that pre-construction work on the network upgrade has already commenced. The project is estimated to be completed by 2016.

The news is significant for both the local and the renewables sector. 150 Megawatts of capacity will be devoted to renewable energy developments. Renewable energy is an industry which has long been considered to have significant potential for economic growth within Argyll & Bute. However, some renewable energy developments in the area have been constrained by a lack of available grid capacity. Whilst investment in the area’s transmission has long been mooted now both local businesses and renewable energy developers can now proceed with certainty.

The network upgrade is good news for other reasons as well. Parts of both Argyll & Bute and North Ayrshire suffered from prolonged power outages earlier this year due to extreme weather conditions. The work to be carried out by SSE will serve to increase the local grids resiliance and make such events far less likely in the future.

SSE’s Director of Transmission, David Gardner commented:

“The announcement from Ofgem signals another significant step in our plans to reinforce the transmission infrastructure throughout Scotland.

“Along with completion of key projects within our approved budget of £1.4bn, this project demonstrates that we are gaining momentum on our capital expenditure programme which will connect significant amounts of renewable energy to the grid; contributing to energy security, economic growth and decarbonisation of electricity generation.”

The work to be carried out in Kintyre is only one small part of the £5 billion investment SSE intends to make into Scotland’s energy transmission network. Such levels of investment will provide a huge boost to Scotland’s renewable energy industry. There are currently developments across the country which are being delayed by a lack of available grid capacity.

However, in some cases, smaller renewable energy projects such as the medium scale wind developments carried forward by ourselves at Intelligent Land Investments (Renewable Energy) can make use of alternative solutions to a lack of grid capacity.

Ofgem’s approval of this grid upgrade work is the first to be issued under their new Strategic Wider Works (SWW) programme. SWW was introduced to consider funding for specific major transmission projects on a case by case basis in a timely fashion. A large number of transmission network uprgade programmes are being considered. We at Intelligent Land Investments (Renewable Energy) and within the wider renewable energy industry look forward to further approvals.

World’s first wave energy farm to be constructed in Scotland

Last week, at the AllEnergy Conference it was announced that the Scottish Government had granted consent for a 40MW wave farm to be constructed off of the North-West coast of the Isle of Lewis. This will be one of the first developments of this type and scale seen anywhere in the world.

It is intended that the wave farm will be connected to an onshore hydroelectric power plant on Lewis which was granted planning consent by the Western Isles Council last year. It is intended that the Oyster wave power machines will be installed over the course of the next few years once the necessary upgrades to the area’s grid infrastructure are completed.

Between 40 and 50 of the Oyster machines will be deployed at depths between 10 and 15 metres of water and will have enough capacity to power around 30,000 homes. Fergus Ewing announced the Scottish Government’s decision with enthusiasm:

“I am delighted to announce that Scottish Ministers have granted a Licence to Aquamarine Power to develop the largest commercial wave array in the world…

“The development of up to 50 Oyster wave devices off of the North-West coast of Lewis, when  operational,  will have the power to produce 40 MW of renewable electricity.

“This is another significant milestone for Scotland’s wave sector. With 10 per cent of Europe’s wave power potential and 25 per cent of it’s offshore wave and tidal power, the opportunities for Scotland are enormous.”

Reactions to the Scottish Government’s decision were almost universally positive. Niall Ferguson, Chief Executive of Scottish Renewables made the following statement:

“This is a fantastic milestone for the Scottish renewables industry and this project will make a significant contribution to our energy mix once it begins generating.

“It’s further proof that we have become home to a world leading marine energy industry that is delivering jobs and investment to communities across Scotland.

“However, we can’t forget that this is the kind of prize that could be lost unless costs for projects on the islands are set at a competitive level.”

RenewableUK‘s Chief Executive Maria McCaffrey observed:

“This is a big step forward for the marine energy sector in the UK and especially in the Scottish Islands, which have a first-rate marine energy resource. Just last week we were told by a Government report that more needed to be done to reap the benefits that could be generated by marine energy projects in the Scottish Islands. Today’s announcement shows the interest industry has in the area, and we hope Government and industry can work together to overcome challenges and take forward renewables in the Islands.”

David Krohn, RenewableUK’s Wave and Tidal Development Manager commented:

“The Scottish Government’s announcement provides a substantial boost for the wave energy sector, in which the UK leads the world. This […] will help to accelerate growth and generate further private investment in a technology which has enormous potential, as 50% of the total European wave energy resource is in UK and Irish waters. By kickstarting a further expansion of the wave sector, we can ensure that costs come down as quickly as possible, so that we can capitalise on our global pre-eminence.”

Lang Banks, Director of WWF Scotland stated:

“This announcement is a fantastic boost to Scotland’s marine renewables sector and will put Lewis firmly on the world map when it comes to wave energy. However, if Scotland is to rule the waves when it comes to marine renewables then it’s vital we quickly resolve the issues of grid connection and transmission costs to the Scottish islands.

“Alongside energy saving measures, wave power and other renewables have a critical role to play in helping Scotland reduce climate emissions, create jobs and generate export opportunities. With careful planning we can harness the waves and tides while safeguarding the nations’s tremendous marine environment.”

The granting of planning consent for the wave farm is good news for the Scottish renewables industry. It demonstrates synergy between government and industry and the potential of generating further electricity from Scotland’s water resources.. Scottish Renewables have the power to create jobs across the country and we at Intelligent Land Investments (Renewable Energy) are proud to be contributing to this with recently received     planning consent for the first of our own hydro-power developments.

Renewables receive Royal Seal of Approval: Marine Turbines Installed at Windsor Castle

On the 7th of September two 40 ton Archimedes marine turbines were installed on the River Thames at Romney Weir, just a few miles from Windsor Castle. The marine turbines will be used to generate power for the Royal Palace and is expected to reduce the Royal Household’s carbon footprint by 790 metric tonnes per year. This renewable development is expected to be the just the first step in a drive to de-carbonise the Royal Family’s home life.

Marine turbines such as these were based on technologies developed over 2000 years ago by the Ancient Greeks (specifically in this case by Archimedes of Syracuse) to allow irrigation of land at the top of slopes.

Plans to install renewable electricity generators at Windsor Castle have been in the pipeline for a number of years. The Royal Household had initially been approached by Southeast Power Engineering Ltd. (otherwise known as SEPIEL) in 2007 but it is only now that the project has reached the stage were marine turbines could be installed. The delay was attributed to the particularly thorough scrutiny that the Environment Agency placed the proposals under. Issues such as local wildlife and riverbank ecology had to be placed under especial scrutiny as the Environment Agency had, before this, never granted a Weir lease to a private company let alone a development such as this which would always attract far more media attention than could be usually expected.

Barry Russell, the Environment Agency’s hydropower project leader released the following statement:

“This is a great opportunity for developers and community groups to get involved in generating clean, green electricity in an environmentally sustainable way.

Marine Turbines must fulfill their potential

“Weirs are an untapped source of energy and the Environment Agency is keen to ensure that hydropower fulfills its potential as a small but useful renewable energy source, whilst protecting the environment.”

The marine turbines are expected to be operational and providing power to Windsor from November but it is as yet unclear whether the installed marine turbines will be sufficient to fully power Windsor Castle from entirely renewable sources. Royal household sources have indicated that they fully expect full green power to be achieved by 2012. A Spokeswoman for Buckingham Palace commented: “I can confirm that the royal household now has an agreement in place to purchase the energy generated by the hydro scheme, implemented by SEPIEL.

“We have been looking at this for a number of years. It is one of a number of green initiatives introduced at royal residences by the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh.”

Friends of the Earth UK‘s director of policy and campaigns, Craig Bennett issued the following comment:

“This is exciting news – we urgently need to develop clean and safe energy to tackle climate change and build a greener economy and it’s great that the royal family is showing leadership in doing so.

“It’s not just the royals who can take advantage of the UK’s huge potential for renewable energy on and off shore – from our wind and sun to our waves and river weirs. The Government should get on with the job of greening all of our energy supplies and ensure communities are properly supported to produce their own clean power.”

The installation of marine turbines at Windsor Castle has not been a project without its problems. SEPIEL encountered difficulties in securing a bank loan to fund the project. In fact they were unable to secure a loan which would have allowed for the marine turbines to be manufactured within the UK. A problem vocalised at the time by the company’s director David Dechambeau: “I have got a local company that would be willing to build the turbines, but we are finding it difficult to find the financial support needed to build the Archimedes-type pump for the first time.”

As a result of this reliance upon bank finance the marine turbines have now had to be sourced from the Netherlands at a cost of around £700,000 each. The example of SEPIEL indicates the problems that a renewable scheme can run into, and the compromises that may have to be made, when it has to deal with the problem of bank finance (particularly in these days of banking hesitance and caution), projects get delayed, costs are raised and the project itself can be potentially compromised. It is clear to see then, the advantage a company such as ours, which does not rely on securing finance from banks, has.