Category: Blog

Study finds Wind Farms do not cause long-term damage to bird populations

Study finds Wind Farms do not cause long-term damage to bird populations

Last week a new report was published, here, which revealed that the impact of wind farms on bird populations may have been overstated. The study, published in the April edition of the Journal of Applied Ecology, was the first of its kind in that it monitored bird populations over three different periods; before during and after wind farm construction.

The study was carried out by a team of four naturalists and ornithologists from the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB), Scottish Natural Heritage, and the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO). 10 bird species were monitored across 18 different wind farm sites. The density of breeding birds and more general population trends were observed. The findings of the study were somewhat surprising as they indicated that the impact of an operational wind farm on bird populations was fairly minimal. Rather it was during the construction process that bird population levels were affected.

Martin Harper, the RSPB’s UK conservation director commented: “It shows that there can be a serious species-level impacts in the construction phase, so construction in the right place is absolutely key. But what it hasn’t shown is that wind farms are ‘bird blenders’. There is no impact from the turning of the blades.”

James Pearce-Higgins, lead author of the study and principal ecologist with the BTO: stated: “It was a bit of a surprise that the impact on wind farms seemed to be happening during construction rather than operation .

“It means we should look at ways in which these negative impacts can be minimised. The next step will be to find out whether those steps are effective.”

It is interesting to note that there were huge variations in how different species of bird were impacted by wind farms.

For example, red grouse, snipe, and curlew population levels all fell during construction. Red Grouse levels did, however, recover after construction was completed and the wind farms became operational. Other species such as the meadow pipit, golden plover, wheater, whinchat, dunlin, and the lapwing showed “either no change or less certain reactions’ to the construction and operation of wind farms. Some species, such as the skylark and stonechat, even “flourished” during construction. The varied impact of wind farm construction and operation on different species belies as the media myth that wind turbines are having a hugely negative impact on bird population levels. Other studies have produced similar results such as that carried out on a Dutch offshore wind farm which revealed that offshore wind can help to actually increase populations.

Rob Norris, spokesman for RenewableUK released the following statement welcoming the study’s findings: “Wind farm developers firmly believe that taking every possible step to protect birds is extremely important.

“That’s why they carry out stringent Environmental Impact Assessments to examine the effects a wind turbine will have on wildlife.

“This new study shows that once wind farms are up and running, they don’t have any significant impact on the local bird population. So this report should dispel the longstanding myth about wind turbines damaging birds, and as such it’s very welcome.”

Niall Stuart, chief executive of Scottish Renewables was equally welcoming:

“We hope this will go a long way in addressing inflammatory statements made by anti-wind farm campaigners. Onshore wind farm developers in Scotland have to complete rigorous environmental impact assessments which may include bird surveys which are then taken into consideration by the local planning authority.

“The wind industry will continue to work closely with statutory consultees including Scottish Natural Heritage to minimise the impact of habitats of animals and birds as we work to ensure the right balance between developing renewable energy projects and protecting our natural environment is met.”

The results of this study demonstrate that the impact of wind turbines on bird population levels has been overstated; particularly when the rigorous environmental assessments required for such developments is taken into account.


Scottish Government publishes Electricity Generation Policy Statement

Scottish Government publishes Electricity Generation Policy Statement

This week the Scottish Government launched the latest draft of its Electricity Generation Policy Statement which aims to outline how the ambitious 100% renewable energy target for 2020 will be achieved. The document contains a large amount of information including a projected breakdown of Scotland’s future energy mix, outlined aims for the countries energy network in 2020, carbon reduction targets, energy efficiency measures, planned grid connections with other countries, and the expected economic benefits in terms of investment levels and job creation. The complete document can be found here. Scottish Energy Minister, Fergus Ewing stated:

“This report shows that the Scottish Government’s target to generate the equivalent of 100 per cent of our electricity needs from renewables, as well as more from other sources, is achievable.

“We know there is doubt and scepticism about our 100 per cent renewables target, and the financial and engineering challenges required to meet it.

“But we will meet these challenges. I want to debate, engage and co-operate with every knowledgeable, interested and concerned party to ensure we achieve our goals.

“We know our target is technically achievable. Scotland already leads the world in renewable energy, and we have the natural resources and the expertise to achieve so much more.

“The prize at stake for the people of Scotland is huge, in terms of jobs, economic opportunities and lower electricity bills for all.”

The Electricity Generation Policy Statement initially outlines what the government hopes to achieve, long term, with the countries energy network.

It states that Scotland’s generation mix should deliver; a secure electricity supply, at an affordable cost to consumers, which can achieve large scale de-carbonisation by 2030, and brings the greatest possible economic benefit to Scotland.

A number of individual targets have been set with these aims in mind. For example, total Scottish energy consumption should be lowered by 12% by 2020. Energy efficiency is internationally regarded as one of the most affordable ways in which energy demand and carbon emissions can be reduced and controlled. Steps are already being taken to meet this target; there was a 7.4% drop in year on year energy demand from 2008 to 2009.

No new nuclear power plants are to be constructed in Scotland although extending the lifespan of the countries two existing nuclear plants for  a further 5 years is being considered. Such a move would serve to ease the transition to a grid more heavily reliant upon renewables.

Carbon Capture and Storage technology is expected to play an important role. Allowing baseload power to be maintained whilst still reducing carbon emissions. A minimum of 2.5 GW of thermal generation fitted with CCS technology is expected to be operational by 2020. CCS technology, if successfully demonstrated at commercial scale, could create up to 5,000 jobs and be worth £3.5 billion to the Scottish economy.

14-16 Gigawatts of renewable capacity will be required to achieve the 100% renewable target by 2020. Currently there are 12 Gigawatts of renewable capacity in various stages of planning, development and deployment. This figure includes 3 Gigawatts of mainly onshore wind projects currently consented or in construction. Whilst it should be remembered that not all of the 12 Gigawatts worth of projects will make it to construction it demonstrates the interest the Scottish renewables sector is already attracting from investors.

To achieve the 2020 target installed renewable generation capacity will have to almost double over the next ten years.Wind (both onshore and offshore) will play a major part in this expansion. 13 Gigawatts of wind energy is expected to be installed by 2020. This will mean that wind power will be providing around 55% of Scotland’s electricity output by this time. The Policy Statement identifies this target as a “major challenge” but argues that it is “consistent” with the projections made in a variety of different reports. Given Scotland’s huge potential for wind energy, strong backing from both the UK and Scottish Goverment’s, and the falling costs of both onshore and offshore wind it seems an achievable, if ambitious, target.

The Scottish Government has outlined a number of economic benefits that a strong and committed drive for increased renewable generation can bring. Firstly, it will serve to insulate consumers from the rising international prices of fossil fuels. The Policy Statement states that from 2013 increased renewable energy capacity will begin to halt the ever increasing cost to consumers from their energy bills.

Secondly, over the next ten years the renewable energy industry alone could be providing up to 40,000 jobs and £30 billion worth of investments into the Scottish economy. This is not including the economic benefits of CCS and increased usage of energy storage technologies. Additionally, the Scottish Government has targeted that 500MW should be owned by local communities by 2020. This level of communal ownership would see up £2.4 billion in Feed in-Tariff revenues over the next 20 years being held by local communities.

Thirdly, the necessary investment in and upgrading of Scotland’s electricity grid would pump £7 billion into the country’s economy and create 1,500 new jobs. The benefits of such investment are already being seen with both ScottishPower and Scottish and Southern Energy (SSE) announcing the creation of new training and apprenticeship schemes.

Reactions to the publication of the Electricity Generation Policy Statement have been largely positive.

Ian Marchant, Chief Executive of SSE commented:

“SSE welcomes the Scottish Government’s electricity generation policy statement. With energy supply now a global issue, it is vital that the policy objectives adopted at Scottish, UK and EU level are consistent. With its focus on energy security, affordability and de-carbonisation, this policy statement underlines the extent to which policy objectives are consistent, and it is very encouraging that this should be the case.”

Keith Anderson, ScottishPower’s Chief Corporate Officer and CEO of ScottishPower Renewables remarked:

“ScottishPower supports the commitment to increase low carbon electricity generation in Scotland and we welcome the clarity outlined in the Scottish Government’s policy statement. We are making significant investments in large scale renewable energy projects including new wind, wave and tidal power. This investment is critical in order to help Scotland achieve its renewable energy targets and will be a catalyst for economic growth and job creation.”

Alison Kay, Commercial Director for National Grid observed:

“Scotland already has the highest proportion of clean power generation across Great Britain, which plays a vital role in keeping the lights on and meeting demand. The future energy mix is uncertain and this statement sets out a clear vision for the future of energy in Scotland. It will further enable National Grid and other industry participants to effectively plan the networks of the future.”

The 2020 target is described in the Policy Statement as “both a statement of intent and a rallying call”. It has been demonstrated to be both feasible and achievable, with wind energy playing a massive part. It is hoped that the outlining of a long term plan to help achieve the 100% aim will provide investors with confidence.


6GW of Renewable Energy now being generated in the UK

6GW of Renewable Energy now being generated in the UK

It was announced last week that the United Kingdom now has over 6GW of installed renewable capacity; enough to power over 3.3 million homes. The news has been welcomed in the British renewables industry as proof of the countries ability to achieve the 2020 target of 31GW of onshore and offshore wind.

Maria McCaffrey, chief executive of RenewableUK hailed the news:

“This is a landmark achievement . There’s a great feeling of pride throughout the industry that we’ve reached a record high of 6GW, and there’s a further 19.5GW of capacity under construction, consented, or in planning.

“The government’s Renewable Energy Roadmap is calling for 31GW of onshore and offshore wind combined by 2020, and we’re confident that we can deliver this if we can continue to get the right level of government support.”

Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander reaffirmed the UK Governments support for renewables:

“Working together, we can reach even greater heights. We are eager to ensure that the UK becomes the natural home for the most innovative, ambitious and inspiring renewable energy companies in the world, and we will continue to work with the industry to drive down costs and encourage even stronger growth in the years to come.”

Scottish Energy Minister Fergus Ewing commented:

“£750 million of new renewable electricity projects started generating in Scotland over the past year, and Scottish wind energy is already making a significant contribution to UK and EU targets.

“We are working closely with the UK government to ensure electricity market reforms continue to maximise opportunites to capitalise on Scotland’s unique natural resources.”

Jeremy Sainsbury, Chairman of Scottish Renewables, stated:

“We obviously join the renewables industry in celebrating reaching the 6GW mark and congratulate the Scottish sector in contributing almost 50% towards this important milestone.

“It is clear that with Scotland’s 2020 target of generating the equivalent of 100% of our electricity needs from renewables that we will continue to play a significant part in delivering capacity across the UK.”

It is clear that the achievement of the landmark 6GW of renewable generation that investment in both the UK and Scotland is continuing apace.

Both government’s 2020 renewable targets are beginning to seem that much more achievable.

Milestones Reached for Scottish Onshore Wind

Milestones Reached for Scottish Onshore Wind

It was announced last week that Scottish and Southern Energy has for the first time generated more energy from it’s onshore wind turbines than it generated from it’s hydro-electric power plants. Indeed the company now has over 1 gigawatt worth of installed capacity of onshore wind turbines. These turbines produce enough energy to power over 750,000 homes. Scottish and Southern Energy has over 11 gigawatts of installed energy capacity from all sources (including hydro-electric power , gas power stations and onshore wind). The rapid growth of the onshore wind sector (and renewables in general) is demonstrated by the fact that six years ago Scottish and Southern Energy had only 40 megawatts of installed onshore wind generation.

Ian Marchant, chief executive of SSE made the following statement on the news:

“Passing the 1GW milestone for onshore wind farm capacity is a very positive development as we start the New Year. With construction work continuing at sites in Scotland, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, we expect that our operating onshore wind farm capacity will continue to grow significantly in the coming months.”

Richard Dixon, the director of WWF Scotland commented:

“SSE is to be congratulated, 1GW of wind power is a tremendous milestone. Just the wind-powered electricity from this one company represents enough capacity to provide a quarter of Scotland’s average electricity demand in ideal conditions.

“To meet our climate and energy targets, we need more wind turbines, as well as other renewables. SSE has an important part to play in this.”

A spokesman for the Scottish Government argued that their renewables policy was already “delivering hundreds of millions of pounds of investment and thousands of jobs.

“This is a historic milestone for SSE and plays a key role in ensuring communities all over Scotland will benefit from renewable energy generation.”

It should be remembered, of course, that SSE are only one player in an increasingly large industry.

Scottish Renewables, the industry’s leading trade body, announced that over the course of 2010 onshore wind turbines produced more than 10% of Scotland’s energy demand.

Given the increase in installed capacity in 2011 we can fully expect that next year the figure will be even higher.

Niall Stuart, chief executive of Scottish Renewables released the following statement with the news:

“The recent high winds have resulted in higher output from wind farms, despite some turbines having to close down in the very worst of the storms.

Onshore wind makes an invaluable contribution all year round, meeting around 12% of the electricity demand of Scotland in 2010.

“Despite the critics, 2011 is on track to be a record year for the renewables industry and 2012 will likely see us set the bar even higher.”

These two recent announcements demonstrate that onshore wind can, and indeed already is, contribute in a major way to Scotland’s and the UK’s energy needs.



Survey reveals widespread support for Renewables

Survey reveals widespread support for Renewables

A survey recently carried out by YouGov has revealed that a majority of the British population is in favour of both increased renewable energy development and the use of government subsidies as funding . The results were based upon a sample of around 1,700 people. The survey had been commissioned by the Sunday Times but is yet to appear in the paper. It is unclear as to why this is the case.

The survey asked the initial question; “Thinking about the country’s future energy provision, do you think the government should be looking to use more or less of the following?” and returned the following results:

Solar power
More than at present – 74%
Less than at present – 6%
Maintain current levels – 12%
Not sure – 9%

Wind farms
More than at present – 56%
Less than at present – 19%
Maintain current levels – 15%
Not sure – 9%

Nuclear power stations
More than at present – 35%
Less than at present – 27%
Maintain current levels – 23%
Not sure – 15%

Oil power stations
More than at present – 10%
Less than at present – 47%
Maintain current levels – 27%
Not sure – 17%

Coal power stations
More than at present – 16%
Less than at present – 43%
Maintain current levels – 25%
Not sure – 17%

These figures demonstrate that the public have identified renewables as the future of the country’s energy policy with only a minority believing that new fossil fuel plants are the way forward. It should be noted that the older a person is the more likely they are to support new nuclear plants and less likely to support renewable developments.

The survey went on to ask the following questions:

“Do you think the government is right or wrong to subsidise wind farms to encourage more use of wind power?”

Right 60%
Wrong 26%
Don’t know 15%

Do you think increased use of wind power is or is not a realistic way of combating climate change?

Realistic 47%
Not realistic 36%
Don’t know 16%

Do you think increased use of solar power is or is not a realistic way of combating climate change?

Realistic 67%
Not realistic 18%
Don’t know 15%

These results demonstrate that the majority of people can see the benefits of the Feed-in tariff in encouraging renewable energy developments to reduce carbon emissions, tackle climate change and give the country energy security. This is despite a concerted campaign in some areas of the media against renewables and the spread of misinformation about the impact green subsidies are having on energy bills, particularly compared to ever increasing wholesale gas prices.

James Murray, of BusinessGreen, described the poll results as “explosive” and the “best kind of early Christmas present”.

The survey comes as the end of a year which has been described as “exceptional” for renewables by the Scottish Energy Minister Fergus Ewing. Much investmentment has occurred in the Scottish Renewable Energy Sector in 2011, demonstrated by the recent announcement that SSE (Scottish and Southern Energy) is to create an offshore wind hub in Dundee (which recently missed out on a similar development by Spanish turbine manufacturer Gamesa) and create 700 jobs.

Niall Stuart, chief executive of Scottish Renewables, commented: “Even as 2011 comes to a close we are continuing  to welcome major announcements from international companies such as Gamesa, who have signaled an interest in establishing a presence in Leith, and SSE who signed a Memorandum of Understanding with key figures in Dundee to build an offshore wind hub and create 700 jobs.

“It’s announcments like these that have helped grow public support for renewables too.”

We can but hope the good news continues in 2012.



£100 million released for investment in Scottish Renewables Industry

£100 million released for investment in Scottish Renewables Industry

It was announced last week that the UK Government is to commit an extra £100 million for investment in the Scottish Renewables Industry.

This sum will come from the Fossil Fuels Levy which had previously been a disputed issue between the Westminster and Holyrood parliaments. The remainder of the the current Fossil Fuel Levy (an additional £100 million) will be committed to the UK Government’s proposed Green Bank which is intended to be a vehicle for targeted investment in the renewables and low carbon industries.

At this point in time there are not yet any concrete examples of where the money will be directed towards but it is expected that Scotland’s more experimental renewable industries (such as wave and tidal) will receive the majority of the Levy due to their higher costs, need for continued research and development and high energy potential. Such renewable technologies have yet to reach the point where they could be considered to be commercialised and ready for mass scale deployment.

The news was welcomed across the political, environmental and industry spectrum. Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osbourne announced the news in Easter Ross:

“The UK Government is making sure that it gives certainty to the renewable energy sector in Scotland by providing an additional £100 million in funding. The UK coalition government is committed to creating jobs across Scotland – particularly in the green-energy sector.

“It’s great news that we have been able to cut through the arguments and the wrangling with the Scottish government that have stopped the money being invested in the past.

“It show’s how serious the UK government is in it’s support for Scotland’s green future.”

The news is particularly welcome after the controversy created by the Citigroup report which claimed that political uncertainty was undermining investor confidence in Scottish renewables. The report has since been questioned by a number of other analysts.

Niall Stuart, chief executive at Scottish Renewables released the following statement about the news:

“Scottish Renewables has campaigned for some time on the release of this fund because it could be a game changer in terms of the increase in public sector support for renewable energy technologies.

“This fund will allow government to target major opportunities for offshore wind development, marine device development and capital intensive heat technologies among others, and help work with industry to drive down costs. It will also further private investment on a scale similar to those commitments we have already seen from major global companies such as Doosan, Gamesa, and Mitsubishi.

“This is a clear sign to the industry, to investors and to the public that the government is committed to helping Scotland build a world-leading sector, one that creates jobs and opportunities for local communities across the country, as well as helps tackle climate change and cuts carbon emissions.

“Scottish Renewables has called for the Green Investment Bank to have a presence in Scotland because close to half of all renewable energy developments in the UK are situated here. We look forward to hearing more details about how the £3 billion bank will support the Scottish Renewables Industry.”

Francis Stuart, policy officer at Friends of the Earth Scotland commented:

“The challenge now will be to ensure that it is used in the best and most appropriate ways, to support Scotland’s vast renewable potential, and help fund a transition to a low carbon economy in Scotland.

“While this funding will make a welcome contribution to progress towards meeting Scottish and UK carbon reduction targets, it is still a small part of the overall picture.”

CBI (Confederation of British Industry) Scotland policy director; Andrew Dyce remarked:

“The Chancellor is to be congratulated for releasing the fossil fuel levy monies.

“These funds will have the potential to provide a much needed boost to our innovative and world-leading renewables sector, and will help Scotland to realise its low-carbon economy ambitions.”

The release of the fossil fuel levy demonstrates that the Westminster and Holyrood parliaments are capable of cooperating to help the Scottish Renewables Industry.

Playing Politics with the Scottish Renewables Industry

Playing Politics with the Scottish Renewables Industry

A political argument between the Scottish and UK Parliaments has broke out this week over Scotland’s renewables industry.

In Prime Ministers Questions yesterday David Cameron suggested that investors were being put off investing in Scottish renewables due to uncertainty about the constitutional future of the United Kingdom. However these claims do not appear to be reflected in figures released earlier on in the week.

On the 1st of November Scottish Renewables published figures that showed that £750 million had been invested into the Scottish renewables industry over the last 12 months.Scotland’s installed renewable capacity now stands at 4,620MW, increased from 3,920MW this time last year. Of this 700MW increase in capacity, the vast majority (465MW) has been from the installation of onshore wind. This can be seen to reflect the maturity of the technology as well as the attractive investment it offers.

Neil Stuart, the chief executive of Scottish Renewables issued the following statement along with the figures:

“Renewables is a massive economic, employment and environmental opportunity for Scotland. Limited public sector investment will be necessary to harness this through resourcing planning authorities, infrastructure and skills, and we believe there is a strong case for existing and new incentives to support investment in the sector.

The claim that investors were becoming discouraged away from the Scottish renewables industry came from a single analyst from the financial services organistation Citigroup. Scotland’s First Minister countered, commenting that this individual had ‘gotten the wrong end of the stick’.:

“I think to be fair to the Citigroup analyst, and we’re talking about a market analyst, he’s caught the wrong end of the stick.

“He seems to think the investment in offshore renewables in Scotland is to service the Scottish market, it’s not, it’s to service the market down south.

“The people who are analysing and actually spending the money, these major industrial combines know two things:Firstly, in order to get anywhere near the renewable energy obligations that London is going to have, England is going to have to have Scottish renewables from the sea. Perhaps the reason why all these international companies are committing funds to Scotland is because in 10 years time, without Scottish offshore wind power, then there would be a severe danger of the lights going off in England. I don’t think anybody is going to want or allow that to happen.

“Believe me, in the modern world the ability to produce power is a great asset, not a liability.”

There is also of course the possibility of exporting energy to mainland Europe in the future via the proposed European Supergrid.

Scottish Renewables also released statements about the news:

“Recent inward investment in Scottish renewables would seem to contradict the reports conclusions, which is in any event the opinion of a single analyst and not of Citigroup as a whole. Scotland has in fact had a string of successes in pinning down investment commitments from renewables companies over the past year, including Gamesa, Mitsubishi, Doosan, Techip and Gaia Wind.”

Their chief executive Neil Stuart argued that the debate over independence was itself irrelevant to Scotland’s renewables industry:

“The debate over Scotland’s constitutional arrangements is absolutely a question for the Scottish people to decide.

“If we put the politics to one side, the facts are the Scottish renewables industry has invested more than £750 million over the last twelve months, with industry plans for the future totalling £46 billion of capital investment.

“Global and UK investors have been attracted to Scotland because of our abundant wind, wave, and tidal resources, our considerable expertise in research and development, world leading innovation and a clear commitment from both Westminster and Holyrood to support the growth of the industry…

What is also clear is that Scotland’s fantastic renewables resource is key to the UK meeting its 2020 climate change and renewable energy targets, and could also make a disproportionate contribution to Europe’s 2020 objectives.

“Scottish Renewables remains committed to working with all the main political parties and government at every level to grow the renewable energy industry in Scotland.”

In an open letter to the Press and Journal, Ray MacGregor the chairman of the Global Energy Group who recently purchased the Nigg fabrication plant with the intention of converting it into a renewables hub and creating 2,000 on-site jobs remarked:

“Investment is happening in full knowledge of the Scottish Government’s planned referendum – and renewables are being deployed in part thanks to the First Minister, who has demonstrated the vision and ambition that investors want to see.”

It is unfortunate that some very encouraging news has been lost amongst the debate. It was revealed that if renewable projects that were currently under construction and had  received consent were included in Scotland’s renewable energy capacity then 58% of the country’s gross electricity consumption is being provided by renewables. Such a figure makes the 100% renewable target for 2020 seem eminently achievable.

Scottish Businesses missing out on Feed-in-Tariff

Scottish Businesses missing out on Feed-in-Tariff

A survey recently carried out by Scottish Renewables has revealed that the nation’s businesses are missing out on much needed revenue and profits because of a lack of investment in renewable energy technologies and a lack of understanding of the Feed-in-Tariff.

Scottish Renewables compiled a record of all the registrations made for Feed-in-Tariffs over the last year. They found that 95% of all registrations were made by homeowners. In comparison just 3.6% of registrations were made by businesses.

A further breakdown of the figures revealed that on average there were 326 domestic Feed-in-Tariff registrations per month as opposed to just 3 registrations a month for commercial and industrial installations. The specific breakdown for wind turbines were slightly more evenly balanced; 27 domestic turbine registrations a month and 8 a month for industrial and commercial purposes. This would suggest that the benefits of a wind turbine is more apparent to those businesses that have the opportunity (in terms of available land etc) than other forms of renewable generation.

Feed-in-tariffs work as follows.

The owner of a renewable energy generator is paid for every unit of electricity that they are producing. There are two seperate tariffs; the Generation Tariff is a set rate which is paid for every unit of electricity generated, even if the owner uses it to power their own home or business, the Export tariff is a set rate which is paid for every unit that is exported into the National Grid. Feed-in-tariffs are set at a fixed rate from the time at which a generator is operational and connected to the National Grid for a period of twenty years.

Daniel Borieswitz, Policy Manager at Scottish Renewables released the following statement:

“Scottish businesses are missing out on a huge opportunity to not only to produce their own electricity but also receive up to 8% return on their investment by installing renewable technologies.

“It is clear that the public are already very much on board with the Feed-in-Tariff with domestic installations accounting for 17MW of installed capacity in the last year, but we need to encourage companies to take full advantage of these payments offered by the government especially if they are to meet their own carbon and environmental targets.

“With the Renewable Heat Incentive expected soon this is an ideal time for businesses to think seriously about how they can harness the natural resources on their doorsteps to power their companies.”

It is very much true that the Feed-in-Tariff offers a unique opportunity in these economically uncertain times for businesses to access a steady revenue stream and a substantial return on their investments. Businesses such as golf clubs, supermarkets, industrial estates and all manner of rural companies are being presented with a huge opportunity. A company such as ours with experience of both the planning process and working with such businesses can help to capitalize on this situation.

Fracking Threatens Bath

Fracking Threatens Bath

Fracking  has caused further controversy in the UK as plans to begin exploratory drilling in the Mendip Hills for Shale Gas have come under attack from elected officials and members of the public in the nearby World Heritage City of Bath. The Mendip Hills themselves have also been classified as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

Fears have been raised that the process of fracking, which fractures rocks by injecting vast quantities of water, sand and a cocktail of chemicals (the make up of which Shale Energy Companies remain fiercely secretive about) into the earth, could lead to the contamination of the city of Bath’s world renowned hot springs. Fracking has already frequently been accused of contaminating groundwater sources; a claim that the Shale Gas Industry has had to refute repeatedly. Figures in the industry have argued that fracking typically takes place at depths below that where groundwater sources are generally found.However the water which supplies the hot springs comes from a deepwater source. The waters at Bath have been used recreationally and medicinally since Roman times and are the back bone of the city’s vital tourist trade. Indeed Bath City Council have placed direct income from the Hot Springs at around £34 million per annum with the wider tourist trade bringing in £348 million a year to the city.

Paul Crossley, head of the Local Authority, released the following statement:

“There is a great concern that the process of fracking will result in the water courses leading to the natural hot springs being contaminated with pollutants from this process, or for the waters to adopt a different direction of travel through new fractures in the underlying rocks.

“Bath and North East Somerset Council has obtained the very best expert advice on this matter and there is little to suggest that any thought has been given to the deep water sources that supply the springs in Bath.

“Given the fact the hot springs are a crucial part of the tourist attraction that sustains thousands of jobs in the city, the council must stand up against the these drilling proposals in the strongest possible terms.”

The Liberal Democrat MP for Wells, Tessa Munt, has already written to Energy Secretary Charles Hendry to attack the lack of consultation with local people about the proposed fracking: “I share my constituent’s unease of this highly suspect method of squeezing the last drops of non-renewable fuel from a highly sensitive and indeed fragile part of the country.”

However such opposition is facing more than one problem. For one thing the Parliamentary Act introduced to protect Bath’s hot springs (the County of Avon Act of 1982, which requires council consent for any excavation below a set depth) is inadequate in this case as the proposed drilling would be carried out in the Mendip Hills. The Hills fall under a different local authority which is not affected by the Act and they are thusly under no obligation to consider the impact fracking may have upon the hot springs.

Secondly the UK government is under increasing pressure to allow Shale Gas extraction and fracking to be carried out across the West of England.Figures released by the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) show that North Sea Gas production (and therefore tax revenue) has fallen 25% in the second quarter of 2011 compared to the same period in 2010. Shale Gas has been presented as a cheap bridging energy source in the shift from fossil fuels to renewables. Oil imports are up by 0.8 million tons from 2.8 million tonnes in the second quarter of 2010 to 3.6 million tonnes in the second quarter of 2011. This is despite a 1.7% drop in total oil demand.

Malcolm Webb, chief executive of the pressure group Oil and Gas UK reacted to the figures: “On the face of it, a production decline of this magnitude is extremely worrying and we need to investigate and fully understand what has happened here.

“For the sake of the Uk’s economy and its energy security, we should be doing everything we can to encourage sustained investment in our nation’s oil and gas resources to slow the decline and prolong the producing life of fields.”

Far more positive news was seen in the figures for renewable energy generation, particularly wind energy. Renewables are now producing 9.6% of the country’s total energy output; the majority coming from wind turbines. This is a significant increase compared to just last year when renewables were producing 6.39% of total energy output. The figures also revealed that output from wind energy has risen 120% year on year. Scotland’s commitment to renewables was also shown in the fact that the country now has 20% more installed renewable capacity than England.

Gordon Edge, policy director at Renewables UK made the following comment: “These statistics show the wind industry making a tremendous contribution to the nation’s energy supply. Wind is now providing enough power to supply nearly three and a quarter million homes in the UK. This will stabilise energy prices, as well as generating tens of thousands of jobs, and helping us to build a new lower carbon economy.”

With public opposition to fracking on the increase (demonstrated by the protests at Camp Frack) it seems that the energy future of the UK is yet to be decided. A future which only renewables can secure.

Brazilian Wind Power shows the way

Brazilian Wind Power shows the way

The Brazilian Government announced this week that electricity generated from wind turbines was now cheaper than power produced by natural gas and hydro-electric power. The news came following a series of energy auctions held last week. In all, 92 of these auctions were held, 78 of which saw wind power generators undercut other forms of electricity generation successfully.  The auctions were held by Brazil’s National Electric Power Agency and at the end of proceedings the 78 successful bids from wind energy totalled 1,928MW worth of power being sold at a price of 99.5 reals (£37.40) per MwH (megawatt-hour) on average. This was in comparison to an average price of 103 reals (£38.70) per MwH for natural gas and 102 reals (£38.57) per MwH for hydro-electric power. The average cost of a single MwH of energy from no specific source was 102.07 reals (£38.60). A number of other energy generation technologies, such as biomass, were also involved in the auctions.

The success of wind power generation in this year’s energy auctions has been dramatic. Wind power has dropped in price by 19% compared to last year. Such a substantial drop in price is perhaps indicative of the increased competitiveness and maturity of the technology.

Brazil currently has 1.4 GW of installed wind power. The Brazilian Electric Energy Research Centre (CEPEL) has estimated that the country has the potential to produce up to 145 GW of wind generated electricity. Another body, the Energy Research Company (EPE), has, however, recently announced that this figure could increase to 300 GW as a result of improved turbine technology, better turbine arrangement in wind farms, and reduced costs in the future. Welcome news to be sure, particularly as the EPE also announced that they expected Brazil’s total power consumption to increase by 60% over the next decade due to the country’s economic takeoff and the rapid expansion of the Brazilian middle class.

A press release from the Brazilian government stated that the auctions were significant for two reasons; “they reflect a new feasibility of market competition between wind and natural gas sources – something [as yet] unheard of internationally; and they demonstrate that wind prices continue to fall in Brazil.” Indeed, according to Eduardo Tabbush, an analyst at Bloomberg New Energy Finance’s London office; “These are the lowest power-purchase agreements for wind energy in the world.” So how has this situation been arrived at?

Firstly, it should be remembered that an auction system inevitably makes competition and price undercutting that much more cutthroat. Secondly, it is significant that the Brazilian government has placed an import tariff on foreign turbines. Such a move has encouraged turbine manufacturers to open up manufacturing or assembly facilities within Brazil. Indeed a major multi-national turbine manufacturer has recently announced plans to open their first turbine assembly plant in the country. The tax has served to both attract new businesses into the Brazilian economy and to lower the development costs of wind energy generation within the country.

However, it should also be noted that the cost of wind energy is not just falling in Brazil. The average international cost of a wind turbine (which accounts for around three-quarters of a wind energy projects costs) has fallen 7% from last year and is 22% lower than it was in 2008. Brazil may be slightly ahead of the curve due to its flourishing economy but the price of wind energy is expected to continue to drop internationally. Wind turbine technology continues to improve and mature which not only makes prices drop but also increases the amount of power that can be generated by a wind farm or single turbine. Good news for both developers and consumers.

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