Month: May 2018

Scotland’s new offshore capabilities

Scotland’s new offshore capabilities

Crown Estates Scotland has published a paper which includes a draft leasing process to encourage new offshore wind farms in Scotland’s waters claiming that it is necessary to ensure new projects are built from to second half of the 2020s and beyond. The estate says it aims to support innovation, create jobs and stimulate economic growth with any money that it raises from offshore renewables being passed to the Scottish government for public spending.

Two offshore wind farms – Robin Rigg and Hywind Scotland – are already operating in Scottish waters. A further two are being built – the Beatrice project in the Moray Firth and the European Offshore Wind Deployment Centre, off Aberdeen.

However, it can take up to ten years to develop and construct a new offshore wind project, meaning that new projects from the 2020s onwards have to be planned now.

John Robertson, senior energy and infrastructure manager at Crown Estate Scotland, said: “Using our seas to power Scotland is an important part of our economic and environmental well-being.

“To provide affordable, secure and clean energy, Scotland must continue to sustainably use its natural resources and grow the offshore wind sector.”

Roseanna Cunningham, the Scottish environment secretary, welcomed the publication of the Crown Estate Scotland’s document.

“The potential benefits of offshore renewable energy to Scotland are enormous,” she said.

“That is why it is important that Crown Estate Scotland makes available the right seabed locations at the right time, in order to contribute to delivery of our energy strategy, attract inward investment, develop new technology and continue to drive down the associated costs of offshore energy.”

The UK government’s energy minister, Claire Perry, said 15% of UK electricity came from wind last year – up from 3% in 2010.

“As technology costs come down, this will enable renewables to flourish,” she added. “The opening up of more seabed areas for new offshore wind projects is another step towards achieving our low cost, low carbon future.”

The move was also welcomed by industry body Scottish Renewables.

Its senior policy manager, Fabrice Leveque, said: “The offshore wind projects which are currently being developed in Scotland are already providing enormous economic benefits to our country.

“The Beatrice scheme in the Moray Firth, for example, will deliver up to £1.2bn into the UK and Scottish economy via employment and supply chain opportunities during its lifetime.

“Crown Estate Scotland’s proposals set the tone for the future of this vibrant sector. New sites would allow us to capture more of our offshore wind resource and enable Scotland’s burgeoning offshore wind supply chain to gear up and grow, delivering jobs and investment not just on our coasts, but across the country.”

With high wind speeds and new technology such as floating wind turbines now available it makes sense for the Crown Estates to open up Scotland’s offshore to new renewable energy projects.

The continued development of new renewable energy projects will help decrease our carbon emissions and achieve our reduction targets.

Despite offshore wind power being traditionally more expensive than onshore as the technology has become more widespread the cost has been coming down. At the same time the efficiency of the developments has increased dramatically and, as mentioned above, new ideas and concepts have come to the fore.

In Scotland our renewable energy resources are plentiful and it would be wrong not to utilise them to the best of our ability. New offshore wind developments will help harness some of these resources which benefits everyone.

 

 

PUMPED STORAGE HYDRO & THE FUTURE ENERGY MIX

PUMPED STORAGE HYDRO & THE FUTURE ENERGY MIX

As the UK continues on its inexorable path to a carbon free energy world, the questions around how this is achieved and the paths that should be taken become ever more pertinent. With the continued closure of large, dirty coal plant, coupled with the drive towards the electrification of transport and heat, the UK’s peak electricity demand will be rising at exactly the same time as base load is coming offline.

So, how do we overcome what could potentially be a very big problem and keep the lights on?

The key will be flexibility and having a good mix of technology within our energy market.
This week provided an important milestone for wind power, after it was confirmed that wind produced more electricity than nuclear across a quarter for the first time. Whilst this is great news, the ever greater rise of intermittent renewables within the energy mix does present its own challenges.

Energy storage will play an important role here, as can other technologies such as interconnectors.

The case for interconnectors is an interesting one: whilst there are compelling benefits through the linking of our networks (there are three major proposals in the pipeline to France, Germany & Norway), and the additional security and flexibility this can bring, along with some potential price benefits (wholesale electricity prices are cheaper in Europe), there could be unintended consequences. If we are going to be bringing in cheaper electricity from Europe, for instance from Norway’s numerous hydro plant, it could affect investment into projects within our own borders. With these interconnector projects benefitting from a cap and floor regime, we could somewhat perversely find ourselves subsidising renewables projects in Europe to the detriment of our own.
Which brings us to energy storage. The discourse on this in recent times has been very much dominated by batteries. Whilst these will play a very important role in the future energy mix, one tried and tested large scale storage solution has been somewhat drowned out (pardon the pun!): pumped storage hydro (PSH).

2018 actually marks the 75th anniversary of the Hydro Electric Development Act, which kick-started major hydro developments across the country, and today we have four operational PSH plant across the UK.
The benefits this tried and tested technology can bring can be easy to forget within the maelstrom that is the energy revolution and its cutting edge technology.
The concept of PSH remains alluringly simple: take two bodies of water with a sufficient height difference, and pump up and release the water between them. Very large amounts of energy can be stored within them and they can provide a great deal of flexibility to our future energy markets.

Importantly, this flexibility could result in lower costs for consumers. In a report commissioned by SSE, Baringa found that Coire Glas, a consented PSH plant in the Scottish Highlands, would deliver about £70 million per annum benefit in social welfare and a reduction in consumers’ bills of about £215 million per annum.

As is the case with major infrastructure projects, a large investment is required at the front-end but, once developed, PSH plant have a very long operational life.

An investment stabilisation mechanism, similar to the cap and floor regime currently available to interconnectors, could give the PSH market the kick-start it needs in this country and help to secure the investment required to get new projects moving.

If we provide the support now for PSH I believe we will look back in many years with the satisfaction of knowing that the path well-trodden was indeed the right one to take.

Glasgow’s first high temperature water source heat pump

Glasgow’s first high temperature water source heat pump

Star Renewable Energy were one of the star turns (please excuse the terrible pun) at Scotland’s All-Energy Exhibition and Conference last week. Thousands of professionals from throughout the industry attended the showcase event in Glasgow and local low carbon water source heat pump manufacturers discussed the challenges of implementing industrial scale water source heat pumps.

Star Renewable director Dave Pearson, taking part in one of the conference’s panel discussions talked about the Gorbals Heat Pump project which is expected to provide heating to residential properties and businesses in the immediate area. The heat pump which will be deployed in the River Clyde in Glasgow is the UK’s first high temperature and largest inner-city water source heat pump and will deliver immediate 50% carbon reductions by providing up to 80% of connected building’s heat requirements.

Mr. Pearson said “We are determined to deliver Scottish government goals to decarbonised the heat system by 2050. Industrial sized heat pumps which draw warmth from the easy to find and assess rivers, lakes, and the sea will play a key role in achieving carbon reduction targets as they are a proven technology capable of delivering zero carbon heat on a large scale for both district heating and industrial process purposes. However as we travel further in this journey we find unexpected and unintended barriers needing swift resolutions. We must get better at solving these barriers or little progress swill be made.

“Star is looking forward to continuing the project with a successful partnership of all parties involved, and at the conference we have hopefully made the case for more heat pump projects across the UK. By far the most bizarre challenge is that energy centres and district heating are likely to have to pay non-domestic rates. So whilst we sell £130k of heat we have to give 75% of that revenue back to the local government in tax when the dirty gas boilers which are emitting CO2 and NOx pay nothing. It’s just a mistake but if we don’t fix it we will be have to point fingers and ask tough questions as to why this isn’t being resolved. We hear of the Barclay review but how hard is to spot a mistake and fix it?”

As part of the exhibition, Star developed a virtual reality simulation of a heat pump to display at the exhibition with advice from Strathclyde University in Glasgow. The VR simulation depicted the water source heat pump and its enclosure, as a realistic interpretation of the Gorbals installation which harvests heat from the river water to provide low carbon, affordable heating and hot water to homes and businesses.

As more industrial scale heat pumps are installed they will start to make up a larger portion of our renewable energy mix. With the resources in place within most cities and towns and the costs of the technology continuing to fall it makes sense that more will be deployed in the near future. It also makes sense with the energy they supply being clean, renewable, and low carbon.

However Mr. Pearson makes a valid point regarding non-domestic rates. As a country we are trying to advance our energy infrastructure and move away from carbon heavy technologies in order to reduce our carbon emissions and to create a cleaner environment for all. However the policy of applying the rates to this type of project but not to the traditional carbon intensive industries does not help matters. It restricts research and development in the industry, makes it more likely for individual projects to fail and discourages new projects from taking off. In addition it is just not heat pumps that this affects but also wind turbine projects.

If we are serious about becoming 100% renewable then this has to be re-assessed as soon as possible to ensure a fairer system is applied to all energy producers and help create the clean, renewable future we strive for.

 

Storage is getting bigger, while storage solutions (and markets) are getting smarter

Storage is getting bigger, while storage solutions (and markets) are getting smarter

The ILI office have taken a keen interest in SSE’s plans to increase their Coire Glas pumped storage hydro-electric project.  The energy company have sought approval from the Scottish Government to change their proposals from the approved 600MW-capacity (approved in 2013), up to 1,500MW.  This not only doubles the site of the project.  Coire Glas will now have a storage capacity of up to 30 gigwatt hours (GWh), this effectively doubles the existing pumped storage capacity in the UK which is less than that of Coire Glas being only 24GWh.

To give an idea of the size of Coire Glas, the project will take 20 hours to release its stored energy, moving extremely large quantities of water.  One GWH is enough electricity for around a million homes.

Although the capacity is increasing significantly, most of the change is occurring underground by housing larger turbines.  And this process of adapting the assets you already have is happening in other areas of energy storage too.

This year saw the completion of the UK’s largest battery storage project; the 50MW Pelham Storage project by Statera.  This will be accompanied in the summer of 2018 by EDF’s West Burton battery, with Centrica’s 49MW Roosecote battery expected to follow soon thereafter.  But the power generation arm of the RWE Group have even bigger plans.  They are investing in the construction of a 100MW battery to accompany their Tilbury power station which is to be converted from a coal-fired plant into a gas peaking plant.

Like SSE’s plans to increase Coire Glas, this proposal takes advantage of the existing infrastructure to provide significant levels of storage without a massive increase in the footprint of these assets.  The balancing services (such as frequency response) that these projects provides means that they can access revenues that are available for flexible technologies and not being limited to generation that would otherwise be considered as providing baseload energy.

This flexibility is also translating to the micro scale.  A few weeks ago our blog looked at the potential impact of blockchain technologies which would allow peer to peer trading of electricity that could have benefits for balancing demands on the system at a local level.  Now Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks has asked Open Utility to develop an online energy flexibility trading tool.

Open Utility describe themselves as an ambitious software company who have launched a peer-to-peer energy marketplace for UK business customers through their Piclo software.  This effectively creates a market whereby Distribution Network Operators (DNOs) can procure flexible capacity from technologies like solar power and battery storage to meet the needs of local energy users.  This is a significant move forward allowing homeowners with solar panels, small battery storage facilities, businesses with wind turbines, all to offer these services to the network provider as well as peer-to-peer trading.

James Johnston, chief executive and co-founder at Open Utility, said that the energy sector cannot be transformed by an online marketplace acting alone.  This would also require “meaningful partnerships with incumbents working towards a common goal”.

We are uniquely positioned to understand the disruptive forces of digital technology and the evolving needs of the highly complex energy system. Our partnership with SSEN reflects this understanding,”

It is clear to ILI that by creatively looking at the assets we already hold, whether it is by adapting existing facilities or by using technology to enhance our local networks, we will all be able to participate in the energy markets of the future and contribute in a way that benefits us all.

 

 

 

 

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