UK Government announces backing for 8 major renewable energy projects

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

UK public greatly favours onshore wind over fracking

A new poll, published this week by You Gov, has revealed the strong and continuing support which the British public has for onshore energy wind energy.

In total 2,061 people were surveyed to gauge public support and preference for differing forms of electricity generation; in this case onshore wind energy and shale gas fracking. 62% of those polled confirmed that they would prefer to see an onshore wind farm in their local council area than a shale gas fracking development. In contrast only 19% stated that they would be more comfortable with having a shale gas fracking development in their area. Public support for shale gas fracking consistently remains in a minority according to every poll published on the subject. This is despite much campaigning for the technology from some parts of the print media and promotion from some senior political figures. Despite attempts to portray support for different forms of energy generation as party politics the You Gov poll has revealed that support for either shale gas fracking or onshore wind and other forms of renewable energy does not correlate with voting intentions.

The poll was commissioned by green energy company Ecotricity and has produced a number of interesting findings about public support for onshore wind. For example the poll has revealed that shale gas fracking is far less popular with women than it is with men (not to say that a majority of men supported shale gas fracking over onshore wind). Only 9% of women polled preferred the idea of fracking for energy over onshore wind generation. More men were in favour but still only a minority of 29%. A majority of both sexes were in favour of further onshore wind developments; 68% of women and 56% of men offered this opinion. Interestingly onshore wind generation is also more popular with the young than it is the old. Only 12% of those who stated that they supported fracking developments over onshore wind were aged between 18 to 24. In contrast 29% of those who gave that opinion were over 60. This suggests that support for fracking may diminish further in the future.

The results of the You Gov correspond with the UK government’s own findings. The last published results (from Feburary 2014) of the government’s ongoing attitudes survey which found that 64% of the public support further onshore wind developments compared to only 28% who support shale gas fracking. Indeed the various quarterly publications of the attitudes survey suggest only that the British public is rather unmoved by the regularly occurring campaigns against renewable energy from some arms of the media.

Given that electoral campaigning for the 2015 general election has begun in earnest if not in name it is very interesting to note that based upon the data collected by You Gov there exists no majority of any political persuasion who prefers shale gas fracking to onshore wind energy. For example, of those polled who indicated their preference to vote Conservative: half expressed a preference for further onshore wind developments; only a third preferred shale gas fracking. Significant majorities of Liberal Democrat and Labour voters (78% and 76% respectively) favoured onshore wind. Support for shale gas fracking was very much a minority pursuit (14% and 9% respectively). There were even more UKIP voters in favour of onshore wind than shale gas fracking (41% compared to 36%). This is despite frequent portrayals of the party as being composed of extremists. The fact that voting intentions simply do not correspond with opinions of renewable energy suggest that energy policy is considered to be a domain for facts rather than party politics.

This week also saw the publication of the United Nation’s third Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (composed of a panel of 200 leading scientists) report ‘Mitigation of Climate Change’. The report has outlined in the strongest possible terms that it only through greatly increased use of renewable energy and a corresponding reduction in the burning fossil fuels that a climate change disaster can be averted

The leading minds of the age have stated that a tripling or even quadrupling in the use of renewable energy generation will be needed to prevent carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere rising above the critical level of 480 ppm (parts per million) before the middle of this century If carbon dioxide levels were to surpass this level then the worst effects of climate change become unavoidable.

The report also highlights the importance of onshore wind to achieving these aims, particularly in countries such as the UK. Given the limited potential of such renewable technologies as solar power in a climate such as ours, and the currently noncommercial nature of technologies such as marine and tidal turbines, then it is logical that wind energy generation has a key part to play in the drive for enough renewable capacity and carbon dioxide emission reductions. Furthermore, given that onshore wind energy is one of the cheapest forms of renewable generation (cheaper for example than offshore wind) it is clear that onshore wind capacity will have to increase dramatically. This was a point made by trade body RenewableUK’s deputy chief executive Maf Smith:

“When it comes to taking practical action against carbon emissions, the most useful tool in the kit is wind energy. It’s the most developed renewable technology we have, providing more than half the low-carbon electricity we generate in the UK. We’ve now installed more than 10 gigawatts onshore and offshore – that’s enough to power more than 6 million homes, saving more than 11 million tonnes of carbon emissions a year.

“We installed nearly 5 gigawatts between 2000 and 2010, showing that at a time when global carbon emissions were rising fast, the UK was expanding its wind energy fleet rapidly to play its role in mitigating the effects of climate change. That’s why the Department of Energy and Climate Change said last month that the UK’s carbon emissions fell between 2012 and 2013 – and they cited our switch in electricity generation away from fossil fuels as the key factor driving that change.

“It’s also worth remembering that onshore wind is the lowest cost clean source we have in abundance – cheaper than other renewables and new nuclear. Wind ticks all the boxes in terms of affordability and low-carbon credentials, as well as providing us with home-grown energy security”.

Given the crucial nature of increasing onshore wind capacity it is fortunate that the British public remains strongly in favour of the technology. We at Intelligent Land Investments (Renewable Energy) intend to play our part in helping the UK achieve it’s renewable energy goals.

 

 

Gamesa unveils new anti-ice tech

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

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

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

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

Gamesa’s Chief Technology Officer Jose Antonio Malumbres commented:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

UK renewable energy at record high

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

New UK Wind Energy Records Set

Last week it was announced by industry trade body RenewableUK that the month of December 2013 had seen several wind power records being broken. The announcement followed the publication of electricity generation statistics for December by the National Grid. Despite the high-winds experienced in the UK over the course of December it should be noted that the setting of new records does not simply represent a particularly blustery month but rather the continuation of an upwards trend.

The first record which was broken was the amount of wind power generated in a single month. December saw 2,481,080 MWh (Megawatt hours) of electricity being generated from wind power. This level of generation is enough to power 5.7 million British homes at a time of year which traditionally sees an increase in power usage and demand. The previous record was set in October 2013 when 1,956,437 MWh of electricity was generated from the wind. Crucially, however, this increase in generation led to an increase in the use of wind power by the UK. In December 2013 10% of the UK’s total power demand was sourced from wind power. In comparison, October 2013 saw 8% of the UK’s total energy demand being sourced from wind.

Records were also broken for the amount of electricity generated from wind power over the course of a single week and a single day. The week beginning Monday the 16th of December saw 783,886 MWh of electricity being produced from wind power. This level of power generation represented 13% of the weeks total electricity demand. The 21st of December was the day on which the single day generation record was broken. 132,812 MWh of electricty was generated from wind power representing a notable 17% of the days total electricity demand. The single day generation record had set as recently as the 29th of November. The regularity with which new records are being set reveals the progress that the UK’s wind industry is making in increasing capacity and reducing the country’s dependence upon fossil fuel imports. Indeed around 500 Megawatts of new wind capacity was installed and connected into the National Grid between June and November 2013.

Maf Smith, Deputy Chief Executive of RenewableUK made the following statement whilst announcing the new records:

“This is a towering achievement for the British wind energy industry. It provides cast-iron proof that the direction of travel away from dirty fossil fuels to clean renewable sources is unstoppable.

“In December, we generated more electricity from wind for British homes and businesses than during any other month on record – and we also hit weekly and daily highs.

“This gives us a great sense of confidence for the year ahead, when we will continue to increase the amount of clean power we generate from wind, onshore and offshore.

“As we do so, we are lessening our dependence on excruciatingly expensive imports of fossil fuels which have driven people’s fuel bills up. British wind energy is providing a better alternative – a stable, secure, cost-effective supply of home-grown power”.

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

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

In other news, figures released by Spain’s national grid operator have revealed that wind power has become the country’s dominant electricty source in 2013. Red Electrica de Espana (REE) published a report which revealed that for the very first time wind power contributed more to meeting electricty demand within the country than any other source. Over the course of 2013 wind met 21.1% of Spanish electricity demand. This was enough to produce more than Spain’s fleet of nuclear plants which met 21%. In total 53,926 GWh (Gigawatt hours) of electricity was produced from wind power in 2013. This represents an increase of 12% over 2012.

It should be noted that other forms of renewable energy also saw an increase in their output. Hydropower generation soared to 32,205 GWh; a 16% increase on the historic average helped by high levels of rainfall. Solar energy also contributed more due an increase in capacity. In 2013 173 MW of  new wind power capacity was introduced into the grid, 140 MW of solar PV and 300 MW of solar thermal capacity were also added to the system. These increases mean that renewable technologies now account for 49.1% of installed Spanish capacity.

The success of the Spanish embrace of renewable power can also be seen in the reduced output of more traditional forms of electricity generation. Output from traditional gas fired power plants dropped a dramatic 34.2%. Output from coal fired plants dropped 27.3% and even nuclear output dropped  by 8.3%. These reductions combined with a 2.1% drop in total power demand and increased use of renewable power has meant that the greenhouse gas emissions produced by the Spanish power sector are estimated to have dropped an incredible 23.1% last year to 61.4 million tonnes. These figures demonstrate that an electricity supply system based upon renewables not only works for end users but also serves to increase energy security and reduce carbon emissions.

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

RenewableUK unveils solution to issue of Other Amplitude Modulation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

UK Wind Capacity Increases 25%

A new report published this week by trade-body RenewableUK has revealed that once again the UK wind energy industry has seen another record breaking year of dizzying growth.

RenewableUK published its annual report ‘Wind Energy in the UK’ yesterday. The report examines developments within both the onshore and offshore sectors of the UK wind industry.

Firstly, the report revealed that the UK’s installed offshore wind capacity increased by a staggering 79% over the period between July 2012 and June 2013. At the start of July 2012 there was 1,858 Megawatts (MW) of operational installed offshore wind capacity in UK waters. By the end of June 2013 this figure had increased to 3,321 MW  of operational installed capacity. Interestingly, there were four major offshore wind projects which began generating electricity and feeding it into the National Grid within this time frame:Greater Gabbard (off the coast of Suffolk), Gunfleet Sands III (off the coast of Essex), Sheringham Shoal (off the coast of Norfolk) and the London Array (in the Thames Estuary) – which is the currently the worlds largest offshore wind farm with an installed capacity of 630 MW. The completion of these four major projects demonstrates the observed trend of offshore wind projects increasing in scale. This trend can be partially explained by a reduction in costs and also improvements in technology.

The UK’s more mature onshore wind industry also underwent a period of impressive growth. 1,258 MW of new onshore wind capacity was installed between July 2012 and June 2013.  This brings the total level of installed onshore capacity in the UK up to 6,389 MW by the end of July 2013 and the end of the period covered by the report. This represents an increase of 25% in total installed onshore capacity. However it should be noted that RenewableUK estimated that at the end of June 2013 there was a further 1,571 MW of onshore capacity under construction, 4,804 MW of capacity which had been approved  but construction had not yet begun on and 7,743 MW live within the planning system. This demonstrates that there is a significant amount of growth which will occur within the UK onshore wind industry in the near future.

The period July 2012 to June 2013 also marked the first time in which more offshore wind capacity was installed than onshore wind capacity (1,462 MW compared to 1,258 MW). Of course it should be remembered that the onshore wind market is more more mature than the offshore wind market. In total, across both sectors, 2,721 MW of new capacity was installed. This brought the UK’s total installed wind capacity to 9,710 MW from 6,389 MW and represents growth of 40% and enough new installed capacity to power five and a half million homes. This level of new capacity also brought in £2 billion into the UK economy; clearly demonstrating the positive economic benefits which wind energy is creating for the UK economy.

It has been noted that the size of offshore projects is increasing but it is also the case that the size of onshore projects is decreasing. Several reasons have been put forward to explain this trend. As mentioned previously in the offshore sector costs are coming down and technology is improving. In the onshore sector the decrease in project size has been attributed to, amongst other things, the success of the UK Governments feed-in tariff scheme which incentivizes the development of smaller scale projects. Additionally the sub-5 MW market developed considerably. Indeed it has accounted for two-thirds of all onshore wind planning submissions between July 2012 and June 2013. The reduced availability of sites suitable for large scale wind farm development has also been put forward to explain the reduction in onshore project size. We could also argue that this reduction in project size vindicates the approach of ourselves at Intelligent Land Investments (Renewable Energy) as our primary focus has always been on small and medium scale developments.

RenewableUK’s Chief Executive, Maria McCaffrey commented on the publication of the report:

“We’ve smashed another record in the past year with more offshore wind installed than ever before – the 79% increase in capacity within 12 months is a terrific achievement. With onshore expanding by 25%, the wind industry as a whole has proved that it has the tenacity to achieve substantial growth.

“It’s tangible proof of the dedication of thousands of Britons who are working tirelessly to generate electricity from a clean, home-grown source at a cost that we can control, increasing the UK’s energy security.

“Tens of thousands more will be joining the industry over the rest of this decade as we build out the rest of the projects in the pipeline – as long as Government policy is supportive and provides the right framework for one of this country’s greatest modern industrial and environmental success stories to reach its full potential”.

The publication of a separate study this week further vindicated the increasing focus on smaller scale onshore developments. The study, carried out by analytical firm Verdantix and commissioned by energy consultancy Utilyx, suggests that on-site renewable energy generation could save UK businesses  up to £33 billion between 2010 and 2030.  The report forecasts that the capacity of onsite waste-to-energy plants, wind turbines, anaerobic digestors, and solar panels, as well as combined heat and power and tri-generation facilities will increase 130 per cent to 17GW by 2030. The proper development of such on-site technologies could account for 14% of all UK generating capacity by 2030 and would also bring the additional benefit of reducing carbon dioxide emissions by 350 million tonnes.

The development of such technologies would be hugely beneficial to UK businesses allwoing them to no longer have to rely on volatile international gas markets and could considerably reduce costs, particularly in the long term; not just from reduced energy bills but from reduced payments of the UK ‘carbon tax’ or carbon floor-price. Mark Stokes, director at Utilyx commented:

Traditionally businesses and organisations have focused on one aspect of energy management – typically procurement or energy efficiency.

“The report reveals the need to look at the bigger picture and adopt a joined up approach including considering on-site energy generation. In a climate of volatile and rising energy prices, decentralized energy can help businesses save money, reduce carbon, and provide energy security.”

The publication of these reports reveals not only the progress made by the UK wind industry but also the huge benefits it can still bring to the UK’s economy. We at Intelligent Land Investments (Renewable Energy) will be playing our part in delivering that.

New radar system could mean boon for onshore wind

Last week a new and potentially revolutionary 3D radar system was tested in Scotland. The new system is designed to eliminate interference in radar systems from wind turbines.

Current radar systems can be subject to interference from wind turbines. When spinning and generating power turbines in areas covered by aviation radar systems can potentially confuse or ‘clutter’ radar. Whilst there are some limited solutions available to turbine developers the scale at which these can be used is limited. Existing aviation radar systems can be ‘patched’  to reduce any potential for ‘clutter’ on radar screens however this must be done on an individual basis and it is generally the case that one patch can be used in a 2.5 kilometre radius. Additionally patches are not always available. These limitations have meant that many potential onshore wind developments have been unable to progress despite them meeting all other criteria for development in terms of environmental and landscape impact,grid capacity, visual impact etc. The trade body RenewableUK has estimated that approximately 6.2 GW (Gigawatts) worth of onshore wind developments have been held up due to such aviation issues. However, this figure is likely to be higher due to developments being dropped early or never progressed with due to expectations of such issues down the line.

The new 3D holographic radar system was successfully tested at Prestwick Airport last week by the systems developer Aveillant. The new 3D radar system was successful in differentiating between spinning turbine blades and flying aircraft. The turbines at Millour Wind Farm which is nearby to Prestwick Airport were used to conduct the tests. It should be noted this this windfarm is located in an area which does not cause any potential safety risks to the existing radar system at Prestwick Airport.

The new radar system has also been succesfully tested recently in the United States; at Indian Mesa Wind Farm in West Texas. In both tests the system was completely successful in pinpointing the location of all turbines and aircraft (as part of the test information about the flight-paths and altitudes of aircraft passing over and near to the turbines was not made known in advance) without any interference. Following the US tests it was announced that American civil and military surveillance requirements were successfully met. Gordon Oswald, Aveillant’s Chief Technology Officer stated:

“We don’t know exactly what was flown overhead – we’re talking about the most sophisticated government in the world here, and they will be out to test us – but we can confirm that several different types of aircraft were detected above and around the wind farm, and that our radar easily distinguished between wind farms and different types of aircraft.”

It is worth noting that the radar system was safely and successfully installed for the US test in less than a day. Developer Aveillant has announced that provided further, more detailed, tests are successful then the radar system could be in commercial operation by the end of this year.

David Crisp, chief executive at Aviellant made the following statement after the completion of the test at Prestwick:

“This is the first live demonstration of the radar [in the UK] and it has gone fantastically well.

“We have had very good feedback from wind farm developers and the Civil Aviation Authority, and will be doing more detailed risk assessments to meet the CAA’s standards.

“It’s an interesting thing to demonstrate because we are basically showing that there is nothing to see. Normal radar sweeps around once every four seconds. Holographic 3D radar is the next generation technology, going round four times per second, or 16 times faster.

“The first aim was to prove that the 3D radar can differentiate between aircraft and turbines, which was clearly demonstrated. The second aim was to show that the holographic radar can be integrated with airport radar, which happened seamlessly.

“If all those objections shown in the RenewableUK data last year were removed you could almost double the amount of wind farms in the UK. This will have a huge impact in Scotland, which is, quite rightly I think, very committed to wind power and has a very good wind climate compared to England.”

Several major players in the onshore wind industry have invested in the development of this new radar system through the Aviation Investment Fund Company Limited (AIFC).Currently AIFC has invested £500,000 in the development. Their chairman Simon Heyes was present at the test in the UK and made the following comment to the press:

“To see what we have heard so much about has been really good. It certainly takes us a step forward to our goal of getting wind farms constructed where they currently are held up by objections from airports.”

Industry body Scottish Renewables has estimated that around half of all wind turbine applications which have ran into aviation issues are in Scotland. From this then we can see the contribution the roll-out of such new radar systems could make not just to Scotland’s onshore wind industry but to our country’s targets in renewable energy generation, carbon emission reduction and to increasing our energy security.

Scottish Renewables’ senior policy manager Ross Blairmie reacted to the successful testing:

“For a number of years the industry has been working extensively to understand how wind farms interact with radars used by the aviation industry … This has resulted in major investments being made to find innovative solutions to tackle the issue.

“Scottish Renewables welcomes the new research and technology being tested by Aveillant and hopes to work with companies like them, along with the Scottish Government and the aviation industry, to find a solution to remove this significant barrier to the development of onshore wind in Scotland.”

It is worth noting that the issue of radar interference has not just affected the development of large scale wind farms but small and medium scale developments such as those carried out by ourselves at Intelligent Land Investments (Renewable Energy). Whilst much of the media attention has focused on wind farms, as is often the case, there are landowners and farmers in many areas of Scotland who have been unable to progress with their developments due to aviation concerns. The successful commercial deployment of new 3D radar systems represents an opportunity for many farmers and landowners to progress with onshore wind developments. Meaning that much needed revenue streams can be accessed in what are difficult times for many in the agricultural industry. Additionally the progression of such developments would also mean more funding for community contribution schemes such as we at ILI (RE) operate.

We eagerly await further news on this front.