Extracts form NATTA's bimonthly journal Renew, issues 104 and 105, Dec. 1996.
As with all NATTA publications, the views expressed should not be taken to necessarily reflect those of EERU or the OU.
With the lessons from the loss two years ago of MKI, plans for the MKII version of the OSPREY offshore wave energy device are progressing well, as David Ross reports.
The designers of OSPREY Two, wrestling with the problem of ballasting it quickly enough to beat the weather, are tending towards the Titanic solution. They are likely to use water to sink it to the seabed. This will avoid the time-lag which exposed its predecessor, OSPREY One, to an unexpected storm before 7,000 tonnes of sand-ballast had been pumped in.
The intention now is to tow the structure to the site, off Dounreay on the north coast of Scotland in the summer of 1997, with neutral ballasting: that is, it will have the minimum amount of ballast inside the hollow shell to keep it steady as it floats, and the rest of the space will be filled with air. But then, when it reaches its chosen site, instead of starting the long and tedious programme of pumping in thousands of tonnes of sand, the engineers will allow the sea to enter and the weight of the water will sink the structure to the seabed.
The designers are working on possible variations. They may use concrete as well as water and a light structure; or water alone and a heavier body. The decision will depend on two factors: survivability and cost.
The use of water sounds an obvious solution, but in the summer of 1995, when the pioneering work was being performed on OSPREY One, there was no reason to think that sand as ballast would create problems. No-one had anticipated the unseasonal storm which hit the wave power station while the steel frame was a largely hollow shell.
Another advantage of not using sand is that it may avoid radioactivity: the sand that was pumped up from the seabed last time was irradiated, because of discharges from the Fast Breeder Reactor at Dounreay. The water may be less contaminated.
The scientific adviser to the OSPREY, Professor Alan Wells, said there were very interesting developments ahead, including changes in design, which he would not specify. We have very much in mind the necessity to make these things more cheaply and repetitive he said. There are several, and probably more than several potential overseas customers, but I cant identify them because they will all hold back until they know that the thing survives at Dounreay. What we have available to use on the market situation continues to be very encouraging.
Before reaching this stage, the remains of OSPREY One had to be retrieved from the seabed.
The work was done by a salvage company named Fathoms, which is based at Langport in Somerset and At Wick in Scotland and does consultancy work in the North Sea. Its managing director, Matthew French, told me that permission had been obtained from the Scottish Office of Agriculture and Fisheries to leave some of the base in the sand. It was no hazard to shipping.
He said that the wreckage had been scattered around and was a mangled mess. Some of the structure was dangerous to approach. It took from the end of May until August, longer than anticipated. The power of the sea is tremendous and people who dont know the sea under-estimate it.
It was a big operation - we have had up to 20 divers on site. We started with a team of eight and a self-propelled work barge and then we had a six-legged jack-up and moved to 24-hour operations. It was an expensive operation - Lloyds are paying.
Allan Thomson, the managing director of Applied Research and Technology which built the OSPREY, told me that the flat concrete base of OSPREY One may contribute to the locating and anchoring of the replacement. In the intervening time, a flat base lying on the seabed, should not pose any problems for local fishing.
What of the insurance for OSPREY Two? Thomson said: we are in dialogue.
He added: all our supporters remain fully committed to the project. There are, however, indications that the European Union in Brussels is weakening in its support, evidently because of pressure from the British Government. After all it has been declared that the wave energy concept is not viable. That will be the next political battle.
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The windpower boom around the world keeps going - particularly in Europe, where there is now more than 2500 MW installed. Germanys rate of expansion is now greater than that experienced at the height of the windpower boom in California in the 1980s.
The European Union Wind Energy Conference at Goteborg in Sweden earlier this year was told, by the Conference Chair, Arthuros Zervos, that Europe might reach 400MW by 1998, and the European Wind Energy Association has a target of 100,000MW by 2030.
Part of the rapid growth was due to the advent of cheaper, more efficient machines - and also the arrival of larger, multi megawatt machines. The Conference heard that as a consequence, compared with ten years ago, just one third the number of turbines are now required to produce the same energy output, and that generation costs had fallen by a further 15 - 20% in the past two years. Zervos concluded that there were now no constraints in front of us.
However, on the ground, especially in the UK, it doesnt always seem that way. The rise of opposition groups like Country Guardian was seen by some at the Conference as the results of the UKs emphasis on competitive bidding - forcing developers to invade sensitive high wind speed sites.
That issues emerged strongly at the British Wind Energy Associations annual Conference in Exeter in Sept, with the BWEA putting a lot of emphasis on the need to respond to local objections:: the BWEA is launching a major publicity campaign, under the title 'Switch on to Wind Power'.
The BWEA' also launched its new strategy for achieving a 10% contribution to UK electricity requirement from windpower by 2025.
That would mean installing 1000MW of wind turbine capacity by 2000 and 12,500 MW by 2050, with, after 2000, machines increasingly going offshore. The £7-10bn programme would create around 13,000 jobs and reduce UK carbon dioxide emissions by 14% compared with 1990 levels.
The details are spelt out in the new BWEA report 'Wind Energy: Power for a sustainable future', available from the BWEA at its new address 26 Spring St, London W2 IJA.
In parallel, National Wind Power has produced a useful 120 page guide to the 35 or so existing and planned UK wind farms, providing maps, photos and details. 'Wind farms of the UK' costs £4.95 and can also be obtained from the BWEA.
At the press launch for the new BWEA strategy, the BWEA pointed out that between 70-80% of people in all surveys so far wanted more windpower, but that in recent years Country Guardians' lobbying tactics had resulted in increasing numbers of windfarm planning applications being rejected - about 77% since 1995.
Some of the key discussions at the BWEA conference are reviewed in detail in Renew 105.
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A MORI opinion poll carried out in October for the Parliamentary Renewable and Sustainable Energy Group (PRASEG) showed that most consumers want green electricity and support the idea of green electricity being partly funded through their electricity bills.
Two out of three (66%) of the British public think that some or all of the existing nuclear levy should be switched to fund green energy rather than phased out simply to reduce bills. One in three (32%) thinks that the entire levy - previously 10% of electricity bills - should be retained to fund green energy in Britain. One in five (21%) say they are prepared to go still further and spend an average of £64 extra per year on green electricity if the electricity companies offer them the option. In total this amounts to a huge new market for green energy companies.
The British people dont want the lowest possible bills if it means more pollution and global warming said Frank Cook MP chair of the all party Parliamentary Renewable & Sustainable Energy Group they want a green energy future, and, if necessary, they are ready to pay for it.
The results of the MORI poll were released at a PRASEG conference in October, attended by frontbench spokesmen from the three main political parties. Setting the theme for the day Martin Alder, director of the Renewable Energy Company, the UKs first green electricity retail company said If Britain is serious about tackling climate change we need a proper policy for green energy: consumers say they want green energy, now its up to the politicians to deliver.
In response, the politicians all professed to be keen on renewables. John Battle MP, Labours Energy spokesman commented
A Labour Government will be fully committed to increasing the use of renewable energy sources.
I welcome the MORI poll commissioned by PRASEG and published today which shows that 67% of the public feel that we ought to generate more of our electricity from renewable sources.
I am also delighted that a similar number (68%) support Labours policy of diverting some of the existing Fossil Fuel Levy away from supporting nuclear power and into supporting the new renewable technologies of the future.
He re-asserted Labours commitment to a target of a 10% renewable energy contribution to UK electricity requirements by 2010 and 20% by 2020 and added
Promoting renewable energy sources is a positive equation - a win-win situation. Not only are they good for the environment but their costs are falling and becoming increasingly competitive, and they provide great export opportunities for British skills and technology.
Together with our positive plans for promoting energy efficiency, the support a Labour government will have for renewables shows the way for cleaner energy in the next century.
He saw wind, wave, biofuels and photovoltaics along with Combined Heat and Power as providing the basis for industrial growth, supported by a revamped NFFO.
The Liberal Democrats were similarly supportive: they want a 20% renewable energy contribution within 15 years and they also supported CHP. Matthew Taylor MP, the Liberal Democrats Environment spokesman said they would seek to stimulate green energy by imposing a carbon tax on fossil fuel use - unilaterally if necessary. This tax would be offset by reduction in VAT and National Insurance so that we would be taxing pollution not people and jobs. The aim was not to raise tax but to change tax.
Richard Page , Under Secretary of State for Energy, reviewed the Conservative Governments record. The Non Fossil Fuel Obligation (NFFO) had been hugely successful and had helped develop a whole new £3 billion industry. Fifty new small electricity generating companies had been brought into existence and expansion was continuing: onshore wind power had increased by 30% in 1995, for the third year in a row while there was a 33% increase in generation from small scale hydro.
Total electricity generated from renewables had increased by 4.5% between 1994 and 1995. Although he was unable to comment on the future of the NFFO, he claimed that we are well on track for our target of 1500MW of new generation capacity from renewables by 2000 which would involve sales of equipment and systems worth around £3bn. He put the annual world market for renewable energy systems at around £30bn, possibly going to £50bn p.a. by 2005. And he claimed that 'renewables could supply 40% of all world energy needs by 2060.
Page was at pains to point out that the NFFO was a market mechanism, and the next phase would re-inforce this type of mechanism, with, from 1998 onwards, the electricity market being opened up to full competition.
However not everyone was happy with the implications of this.
The Liberal Democrats, who you might expect to favour liberalisation, were worried that the emphasis on price competition would further reduce the incentive to save energy. Hence their commitment to a carbon tax. They also wanted to specifically support energy conservation by removing the regulatory block on the Energy Saving Trust, by legislation if necessary, so that £1bn from the nuclear part of the fossil fuel levy could be used to support energy efficiency measures.
Labour similarly didnt believe that market competition could be relied on to stimulate energy conservation. While competition might lead to cheaper electricity for some people, the best way to aid those suffering from fuel poverty was by improving insulation levels directly - and by taxing the budget on VAT off fuel.
Basically, as the debate unfolded, the focus moved on to the familiar political issue of taxes and prices. Its a complex issue: in principle higher fuel prices were called for on environmental grounds, but this hurt the less well off unfairly and energy taxes were seen as politically unpopular.
Not surprisingly then the politicians were all in their various ways delighted with the results of the MORI poll. It provided a case of retaining the fossil fuel tax - and also ammunition for those who believed that the way forward was by voluntary extra payments by consumers.
Further details of PRASEG work can be obtained from PRASEG, c/o 1-2 Purley Place, London, N1 1QN.
1,002 residents were interviewed at home across the UK in October 1996. 67% felt that the current level of renewable energy generation (2% of electricity) was too little, 19% felt it was about right, 2% felt it was too much, 12% were dont knows.
On the Fossil Levy, which has been running at 10% of electricity bill (about £28 p.a. per household), most of which has so far gone to support nuclear power, 25% felt it should now be abolished, but 32% felt it should be retained and the now defunct nuclear part re-allocated to green energy sources. 20% felt it should be reduced to 5%.
On personal domestic consumption 65% said they would prefer to buy green power but would not be prepared to pay more but 21% said they would be prepared to pay more. Of these 13% suggested that they would accept £1-5 increase on a £100 quarterly bill, 32% suggested £6-10, 7% £11-15, 13% £21-25, 5% £26-30, 1% £31-40, 4% £41-50. The average figure comes out at £16 extra.
Full details of the MORI poll can be obtained from PRASEG, 1-2 Purley Place, London, N1 1QN. Tel/Fax 0171 359 3070. For further discussion see Renew 105.
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In addition to providing breakfast and hot drinks using its mobile 2kW photovoltaic display unit at which was parked outside the PRASEG Renewable Energy Conference (see 3 above), Greenpeace lobbied the conference.
It argued that current oil and gas reserves contain some 1200 million tonnes of carbon. Emitting just half of this would double carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere and take us past the danger threshold for climatic disruption. Yet oil prices continue to externalise its main cost - the damage caused by fossil fuel pollution.
They focused in particular on oil.
Five years after the UNCED Earth Summit, where governments committed to the principles of sustainable development, the UK have decided to approve massive expansion of the oil industry into the Atlantic Frontier. Whilst Mr Gummer berates other industrialised countries for subsidising fossil fuels, the Treasury approves billion pound tax breaks for oil exploration. The DTI grant new licenses for these new oil fields whilst failing to develop renewable energy to the point where it can displace fossil fuels.
In the first ten years of the Governments renewable energy programme renewable capacity will only have risen from 1.5% to 3% of electricity generation. During the same period, up to the year 2000, total final energy demand is expected to rise by over 10%. There has been no net substitution of renewable energy for fossil fuel generation.
It adds that in addition the Government has failed to create competition for energy efficiency for the consumer. Government figures show that current energy consumption is 20% above levels which would be most economically efficient, which effectively puts £10 billion on the nations energy bill.
Finally it focuses on PV:
As a symbol of its lack of vision for renewables, it continues to exclude solar electric from consumer support despite massive market potential and genuine public enthusiasm. The Government spend twice as much on publicity for the offshore oil industry than on promoting solar photovoltaics.
As an alternative Greenpeace argue that the Government should
Greenpeace's mobile truck mounted Solar Electric display provided a nice real world reminder that (even) pv can be used effectively now: the display has a working greenfreeze fridge, halogen hob, washing machine and microwave oven, powered (although not all at once!) via an inverter from a stack of batteries charged up when sunlight permits from the pv array.
Greenpeace are mounting a major campaign for pv: some of the conclusions of their latest report 'Solar Electric: Building homes with solar power' are summarised in Renew 105. Further details from Greenpeace, Cannonbury Villas, London, N1 2PN. Tel: 0171 865 8100
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Plans are being developed to build a Renewable Energy Park in Stroud containing demonstrations of many types of renewable energy and emphasising the principle of energy production in balance with nature. The demonstrations will evolve to keep up with new technologies and technical innovations. The sale of green electricity from the renewable energy generating equipment will help fund operating costs. An exhibition and research centre will provide comprehensive facilities for ongoing training, education and environmental development work which will undoubtedly stimulate interest from individuals and organisations from the UK and beyond.
In addition the Park, which will be situated in Ebley Meadows, will provide a major local leisure facility. It already has the support of individuals and organisations both locally and nationally, and a group of dedicated professionals is in the process of submitting a multi-million pound bid to the Millennium Commission. In parallel they are looking for partnerships with companies and societies that have an interest in renewable energy with help being sought through expertise, advice, donations of equipment and cash, sponsorship and in-kind support.
For more details contact Jackie Carpenter on 01453 756571 (Tel/Fax) or write to Ebley Meadows Trust, c/o Tamarisk, Bishops Walk, Whiteshill, Stroud, Gloucestershire, GL6 6BW.
Support has already come from CAT, AMSET amongst other groups, including NATTA.
For further discussion of local initiatives see Renew 105..
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NATTA's 30 page bimonthly journal Renew is sent free to NATTA members. As of Jan 1997, annual membership of NATTA now costs £18 (waged), £12 (unwaged) ; £50 organisational / library sub; £3 pa airmail supplement. Students on the Open University Renewable Energy Course (T 265) can subscribe at the unwaged rate.
The extracts from Renew above are provided free of charge and the material can be recycled freely, as long as it is not for commercial purposes.. However please credit its source fully.
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