A renewable target

A renewable target

In a report published last week entitled Switching on; how renewables will power the UK; Friends of the Earth predict that with falling energy costs and advances in storage technology renewables could provide 75 per cent of the country’s power by 2030.

The report estimates 65% of the UK’s power will come from renewable sources such as wind and solar by 2030 with a further 10% coming from less variable sources, like tidal, hydro and geothermal.

Also in the report Friends of the Earth state the UK has gone from 7% renewable electricity generated to 25% in six years with no blackouts, a warning claimed  by those that oppose renewable energy claimed would be a regular feature of our new supply.

They also warn new nuclear facilities are unlikely to be built in time and along with large-scale biomass “has significant environmental issues and so should be minimised and phased out”.

Alasdair Cameron  of Friends of the Earth and the report’s author “It’s increasingly recognised that renewables like wind and solar are among the cheapest options for generating power in the UK, and it is also clear that they can be the foundation of a stable and reliable energy system.

“If we get this right, we should be able to provide at least three quarters of our electricity from renewable sources by 2030, decarbonising our power supply, as well as driving down costs and maintaining reliability.”

However for this to be achieved the report calls for the energy market to be reformed and outdated regulatory barriers removed to allow storage and demand side response to compete on a level playing field with other sources of generation.

It also calls on Ofgem to establish clear operating and performance standards for storage. “This sector is where the smart money is going,” added Cameron. “With just weeks to go before a general election, it’s a good time to pressure candidates so that the next government reforms the energy market to give power to consumers and communities”.

While large scale biomass may have environmental issues the same model on a smaller scale can still add to a positive renewable energy mix. Those on a micro scale, serving a local community, can provide renewable energy with minimal impact to the environment.

Projects like the former sweet factory site in Hawick in the Scottish Borders which is to become home to a new zero-waste facility being built in conjunction with the new £10m Borders Distillery.

Scottish Borders Council chief granted permission for the £3m plant to be constructed incorporating an anaerobic digester, incoming feeds and balance tank, a main equipment building housing a laboratory and an office and boiler room.

All those facilities are needed to ensure the development of the adjacent distillery, granted planning approval last year. The bio plant site is situated on the western side of the development, with the distillery, currently under construction, being on the north. In their report the council planners said “The site was formerly occupied by the sweet factory but all the buildings on that site have been demolished as part of the distillery development.

“The proposal is to install a bio plant to provide a zero-waste facility in association with the adjacent facility. This would comprise an anaerobic digester that would take the co-products generated by the distillery to convert them into biogas that will be converted into energy to be used for heat and power within the distillery”.

The report also reveals that screens will be put up to prevent a negative visual impact on the surrounding area. “The development is industrial in appearance with the majority of the structures constructed to steel with a grey finish. The main issue is the visual impact of the structures when viewed from Commercial Road and from the opposite side of Teviot and also on the setting of the adjacent listed building, which houses the distillery and visitors’ centre.

“A scheme has been designed to partially screen the development by erecting a brick wall along the frontage, with the brick chosen to match the stone of the distillery building, although the structures would be clearly visible above this.”

The development received a warm welcome from the town’s elected representatives, with councillor Watson McAteer declaring it “just what the town needs”.

The buildings on the land in Commercial Road date back to the early part of the last century. The finest of these is the complex built in 1900 to house Hawick Urban Electricity Company, consisting of a two-storey stone administration block with two industrial stone-built sheds to the rear and a courtyard between. By 1938, the factory had seven boilers and a facility to store electricity generated by water power.

After 1945, the new national grid made local supply increasingly irrelevant, and the works were wound down and sold to the council in 1945. They were subsequently passed on to Turnbull and Scott, which manufactured heat exchangers there until six years ago.

As industrial patterns continue to shift in the UK new developments making use of previous industrial buildings and locations that benefit the local community are vital for both economical and environmental reasons.

Projects such as the Hawick zero waste facility will bring both jobs to the community as well having a positive environmental impact. Local authorities have to strike a balance between serving their constituents and protecting the local environment and developments such as the zero waste plant do both.

For more information on Turnbull and Scott please go to https://www.turnbull-scott.co.uk

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