Renew On Line (UK) 60

Extracts from NATTA's journal
, issue160 March-April2006

   Welcome   Archives   Bulletin         


1. Intermittency- not a big issue?

2. Marine renewables- tidal and wave progress

3. Wind power- problems and successes

4. The Energy Review- UK split on nuclear power

5. NFFO fund raided – Treasury helps itself

6. Microgen for all – micro CHP in action

7. LCBP gets £30m  - Skills gap? 

8. UK roundup – local wind and solar projects

9. Global Developments - Clinton Global Initiative

10. Europe - France, Spain, Portugal, Germany

11. Around the World - USA, Canada, China

12. Nuclear News- Chernobyl revisited, US Safety

3. Wind power

Last years British Wind Energy Association conference warned that, as Windpower Monthly reported, ‘Wind’s political credit with the British government is just about used up and it cannot hold out its hand for more money. New thinking is required to bolster wind’s credibility and bring down costs, particularly with nuclear back on the table as an alternative source of carbon free electricity,’ 

It was also reported that E.ON has postponed construction of its 100MW Scarweather Sands offshore 30 turbine scheme in Swansea Bay until 2008-9 because the current boom in wind farm construction in the USA means that the price of buying in supplies in the UK has made it uneconomic.  E.ON says that ‘Demand for the supply of key components such as turbines, offshore cabling and foundations is so high at the moment that it’s very difficult to make projects cost effective.’  

The BWEA explained that ‘the tax credit scheme in the US has led to the construction of large projects in that country, which is sucking up supplies from all parts of the world. Because this scheme might only last for the next two years no one is building new (wind turbine) factories but they are taking advantage of higher prices and lower risk offered by these American onshore projects. This is diverting supplies away from the UK and elsewhere.’ The BWEA added that as many as 10 offshore projects in the UK were partly stalled because of these and other problems.

Wind is wonderful

However things aren’t perhaps quite as grim as this implies. Last Dec, in response to Parliamentary Question on capacity factors for wind plants, Malcolm Wicks (Hansard Dec2) quoted a paper by the Oxford   University Environmental Change Institute (ECI) on Wind Power and the UK Wind Resource, which he said ‘suggests that the annual capacity factor for wind power in the UK (long term average of over 27%) compares favourably to that of Denmark (around 20%) and Germany (around 15%). The expansion of wind power to higher wind speed locations, including offshore, may result in capacity factor increasing in the future.’ Clearly the message is getting through- the UK has a lot of high quality wind- more than anyone else. 

And on Dec 14th, he relayed more results from the ECI report: ‘Wind power delivers around two and a half times as much electricity during periods of high electricity demand as during low demand periods; low wind speed conditions affecting 90% or more of the UK would occur in around one hour every five years during winter; and the chance of wind turbines shutting down due to high winds speed conditions is very rare- high winds affecting 40% or more of the UK would occur in around one hour every 10 years’.

He also noted that ‘Public attitude to wind farms’, a survey of local residents in Scotland by MORI in 2003, found that those living nearest to wind farms were their strongest advocates:

* NOP polls for the BWEA showed that 74% of people asked in the UK supported windpower in Aug 2004, 79% in Jan 2005 and 77% in May 2005

Hybrid Offshore wind-gas rig project

Eclipse Energy has launched the world’s first ‘hybrid’ energy platform in the Irish Sea- with wind turbines mounted on an gas production rig, whose output can be backed up by gas-fired plant on the rig. Called the Ormonde Project, power will be generated from two small gas fields and an adjacent wind farm off the coast of Barrow-in-Furness in the Irish Sea. The scheme will generate electricity from the wind turbines, but during calm weather or turbine shutdown, electricity can still be generated from the gas reserves to provide a flexible output directly to the National Grid. Unlike current gas fields which pipe gas ashore, gas-turbines on the offshore platform will generate electricity at sea. The scheme, which is due to become operational in 2007, will, it is claimed, create enough electricity to power over 155,000 homes, 71,000 of which would be powered by the wind part.  The combination of gas production with wind energy enables infrastructure and operating costs to be shared so that wind energy becomes more economically feasible. It also utilises gas deposits that would otherwise remain untapped- this is an end-of-life gas field.

Lords all at sea

The House of Lords debated offshore wind on 20th October last year, looking in particular at whether adequate steps had been taken to ensure that offshore wind farms will not present a danger to navigation. They were evidently not all convinced by assertions by Minister Lord Sainsbury that ‘a thorough navigation risk assessment is undertaken for all wind farm proposals before development consent is granted’.

Lord Higgins recalled that a ‘highly critical report of the Commons Transport Committee on navigational hazards in the Energy Bill’ had stated ‘The Government has woefully mishandled the development of offshore wind energy’. He said that he had hoped that ‘when we passed amendments to the Energy Bill in this House, that that would deal with the problem. It now appears that officials are proposing to interpret that legislation in a way that would frustrate the intentions that were clearly expressed and, we thought, accepted by the Government to ensure that these dangers were avoided.’

Lord Sainsbury replied that he was presumably referring to the question of recognised sea lanes, and he reported that the nautical and offshore renewable energy liaison group had been working on this, and a DTI/DfT paper ‘will be published on that shortly’

Baroness Miller wanted wave & tidal power to also be considered within a comprehensive marine Bill that would resolve this type of issue.  Lord Sainsbury said that just such a bill was being considered to ‘encompass the question of marine spatial planning’.

North Sea super-grid

Following on from the 500MW wind farm it is building off the coast of Ireland, the world’s largest offshore wind farm so far, Airtricity is drawing up ambitious plans for a £16bn “super-grid” in the North Sea, connecting a 10GW wind farm network to the UK, Germany and the Netherlands- with around 3,000 turbines. They say it would take about  five years to build. Airtricity and its US partner have already bid for permission for 500MW windfarm off the Suffolk coast.

Brum Windfarm

Birminghams first wind farm could be coming to a canal-side location in Digbeth. Concept designs by Birmingham architects Kinetic AIU include 11 wind turbines- ten along the canalside and another set into a tall building which would greet train passengers arriving from London.  Source: Birmingham Mail 24/11/05

Yes to Romney Marsh

Energy Minister Malcolm Wicks has approved the Npower Renewables Little Cheyne Court windfarm on Walland Marsh in Kent. The 26 turbines will, it’s claimed, generate sufficient power for 32,000 homes. In the face of some local opposition to the project, Wicks insisted that ‘renewables are here to stay and will continue to be a crucial part of the mix’.

*The Guardian ran an odd piece on this project by Simon Jenkins (Oct 28th) which even had illusions to ‘Marsh Arabs’! He seemed convinced that, unlike the nearby Dungeness nuclear plant, the wind farm would destroy the area. We initially took this to be a spoof anti-wind/pro-nuclear article, but evidently it was meant seriously.

Skye Limits

The Scottish executive is to ‘call in’ the application for the erection of 27 turbines at Edinbane, on the Isle of Skye, according to a report in the Sunday Times (30/10/05). This is despite a decision by local councillors who voted to approve the project. A similar scheme at neighbouring Ben Aketil has also been called in. The former head of Channel 4, Sir Jeremy Isaacs had been one of the more prominent objectors to the scheme- it was claimed the turbines would threaten rare wildlife, damage the landscape and harm the tourism industry. According to the Times, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds claimed that collisions with the blades could kill one golden eagle every two years.  Minister may decide to have a public inquiry although they could also just reject the project. This development raises the question of the fate of the much larger wind farm proposed for the island of Lewis. The Western Isles council has backed the scheme, but, according to the Times, the application might be called in by ministers, ‘following warnings that it could kill at least 50 golden eagles, 50 merlin and up to 150 red-throated divers due to collisions’. The RCPB has come out against it.

Lewis- undersea link?  

Under existing plans, electricity produced by the major  £411m wind farm proposed on the Isle of Lewis, which is being built by Amec, would be carried by an overground cable, on 600 pylons, from Beauly, Inverness-shire, to Denny, Stirlingshire.  However, Amec fears that its wind farm development could be delayed by up to a decade because the pylon scheme is expected to be the subject of a long-running public inquiry.  So, according to the Sunday Times Scotland (27/11/05), it is proposing a 200 mile long subsea cable, running from Stornoway, in the Western Isles, to Hunterston, in Ayrshire. The cost is estimated at between £400m and £700m. An alternative scheme, which would involve running an underwater cable to Ullapool and then erecting pylons between Garve and Beauly, would cost about £530m. Another option is to take the cable to Melvich in the north of Scotland and use pylons to transport electricity on to Shin and Beauly. The Sunday Times reported that ‘Both pylon options have been put forward by Scottish and Southern Energy, which is also considering a more expensive option of putting cables underground’.  But it added  ‘Regardless of which option the executive decides to back, plans to build a further 600 pylons from Beauly to Denny in Stirlingshire could still go ahead to service other renewable energy schemes across the Highlands’.

The big issue though is- who will pay? This is even more  important offshore, where the costs of providing the necessary upgrades is even larger.  John Heasley, at Scottish Power, who are planning two offshore wind farms, told Accountancy Age (25/11/05): ‘What the industry is telling government right now is that given the country’s desire to have offshore renewable generation, and given the work that is needed on the infrastructure and on upgrading the grid, that cost should be shared among all users, not just borne by the developer’.

In its Oct. 2004 report to the Scottish Executive, the Forum for Renewable Energy Development in Scotland (FREDS) argued this point, particularly for marine energy: “The Scottish Executive and the UK Government should consider supporting early commercial development of marine energy by underwriting grid connection for first and second generation projects”,  Accountany Age noted that ‘To date, however, no such announcement has been made and this is a source of concern for wave and tidal generation players’.

Only Connect...

In response to a Parliamentary Question on 12th Oct. last year, on the cost of linking in renewables to the grid system, Energy Minister Malcolm Wicks noted that ‘the transmission issues working group (TIWG) report issued by the DTI in June 2003 contained a number of scenarios for connecting renewable energy generation to the GB network. It assumed that no more than 1.1GW of onshore wind generation would be built onshore in England & Wales. It therefore estimated connection costs for a range of renewable generation scenarios in Scotland. The costs for 2GW, 4GW and 6GW (of all renewable technologies) were estimated at £520m, £1235m, £1495m respectively. In addition the Carbon Trust and DTI renewables network impacts study published in April 2004 estimated the costs of reinforcing the network in Scotland & the Scottish-English interconnector to connect 72% of the 2010 target to be in the order of £1.0 to £1.4 bn.’

NATTA/Renew Subscription Details

Renew is the bi-monthly 30 plus page newsletter of NATTA, the Network for Alternative Technology and Technology Assessment. NATTA members gets Renew free. NATTA membership cost £18 pa (waged) £12pa (unwaged), £6 pa airmail supplement (Please make cheques payable to 'The Open University', NOT to 'NATTA')

Details from NATTA , c/o EERU,
The Open University,
Milton Keynes, MK7 6AA
Tel: 01908 65 4638 (24 hrs)

The full 32 (plus) page journal can be obtained on subscription
The extracts here only represent about 25% of it.

This material can be freely used as long as it is not for commercial purposes and full credit is given to its source.

The views expressed should not be taken to necessarily reflect the views of all NATTA members, EERU or the Open University.

We are now offering to e-mail subscribers a PDF version of the complete Renew, instead  of sending them the printed version, should they wish.