Renew On Line (UK) 66

Extracts from NATTA's journal
Renew, Issue 166 March-April 2007
   Welcome   Archives   Bulletin         


1. Energy Policy: White paper delay, EAC blown away

2.Wind power : Micro-wind doubts, Offshore wind boom

3. Carbon Policy: Zero Carbon Houses, Carbon rationing

4. NCC: Green power reality check

5. Regional policy: Wales and Scotland

6. FoE say no to Severn Barrage: it could crowd out alternatives

7. News Roundup: Biofuels, Planning, Solar Fine, Clean Coal plant

8. Global Climate Worsens: IPCCC 4th report

9. European Roundup: EC on Energy Efficiency

10. USA: Bush unmoved on Climate

11. Around the world: Australia, China, Asia-Pacific Climate Pact

12. Nuclear News: UK, US, Germany and Bulgaria

    Wind power

Wind Blow-backs

Provocatively, in January, Guardian columnist Polly Toynbee claimed that ' 40% of all applications were refused in the past two years, most by Tory councils or the SNP' . She noted that ' Wind farms now trapped in planning hell by local Nimbys amount to nearly the whole extra capacity needed to meet the 2010 target' , and she provided chapter and verse (Guardian Jan. 5th). The 1GW London Array (see right) was stymied since ' Swale council (Tory) has blocked planning permission for a substation to be built underneath existing pylons' . Local Tories opposed the the Array have she said ' compared it to defending the Kent coast against Nazi invasion' . Devon ' has set itself a target of generating 150MW but so far has only approved 7MW of wind, as small local councils keep obstructing every proposal. Wales has set itself a target of generating 800MW by 2010, but local council refusals mean only 217MW are operating. Take Perth and Kinross (Lib Dem and SNP coalition): in terms of megawatts, a third of all wind energy refused in the last two years was by this one authority. Scottish Borders (Conservative) is responsible for 18% of refused wind farms. In Scotland, the SNP has been the main block.' And she added ' David Cameron famously called wind turbines “giant bird blenders” when running for the leadership' , but unlike most of the party he was now it seems pro-wind, although ' Caroline Spelman, his communities and local government spokesman, speaking in Scotland, called for a moratorium on all wind farms' .

Meanwhile, the British Wind Energy Association is worried about the impact of making radical changes to the Renewables Obligation and has called for overall RO support to be expanded to compensate: ' The RO has been highly successful in bringing forward the cheapest renewables: onshore wind, landfill gas and biomass co-firing. The Government' s plan to ' band' the RO could allow more technologies to share in this success, particularly offshore wind, but this cannot be at the expense of onshore wind' s current strong growth. Accommodating the more expensive technologies whilst trying to get to a 20% target in 2020- using the same amount of money as a 15% goal- is like trying to extract a quart from a pint pot. It just doesn' t add up.'

However OFGEM, the energy regulator, took a very different line and has come out against the Renewables Obligation and called for ' auctions of long-term contracts' , a bit like the old NFFO, with contract prices linked to wholesale electricity to limit excess profits. More on that in Renew 167.

Micro-wind doubts

Micro wind has continued to get some bad publicity, with wind enthusiasts worrying that unrealisable consumer expectations may lead to disenchantment and rebound against wind power generally. As Nick Martin and Derek Taylor pointed out a while back in Building for a Future (Vol.15, No. 3, Winter 2005/6), you are unlikely to get much power at the low wind speeds typical of urban areas, certainly not the full quoted generation capacity, and some machines seem to have been oversold. Dale Vince from Ecotricity told the Guardian ' the promises made cannot be kept, they are incredible inflations of what can be achieved' .

* Mike Hunt from Cornwall College has developed a spreadsheet allowing performance claims to be assessed and has come to a similar conclusion- see the Feature in Renew 166. Improved designs may help, but location, and wind speed, is all important. The BWEA has also issued new guidance on micro-wind systems, making similar points, though it says they can be worthwhile in some locations. David Gordon, chief executive of Windsave, estimated that about one in five UK homes could install one of his turbines. ' We don't fit them to sites where the wind speed is less than 5m per second.' (FT 5th Jan.)

*Access to grants by householders for micropower projects under the Low Carbon Building Programme is being subject to a rationing cap of £500,000 per month due to lack of funds. But demand has increased - and the ' pot' for Feb. actually ran out by 10.15 am on Feb 1st.

Offshore wind - boom for Thames estuary

Trade and Industry Secretary Alistair Darling has given approval for two major offshore wind farms in the Thames Estuary. The first, the £1.5bn London Array, would be the world' s largest. When it is completed in about 2011, it will consist of 341 turbines over 144 sq miles (232 sq km), 12 miles offshore between Margate in Kent and Clacton, Essex. The first turbine is likely to be installed in 2008. It' s being built by a consortium involving Shell Wind Energy, Eon UK and CORE.

The other project, Warwick Energy' s £500m Thanet scheme, will consist of 100 turbines 7 miles off North Foreland, Kent, covering an an area of 21 sq miles.

It is claimed that the windfarms combined will be enough to power a third of London' s three million households, or the combined households of Kent and Sussex. And Godfrey Boyle, the director of the Open University energy and environment research unit, told the Telegraph: ' This should just be the beginning. Offshore wind could be providing nearly a quarter of Britain' s electricity in 20 years, given a bit more encouragement from government.'

However, there is still someway to go. As noted in Renew 165, the consortium behind the London Array scheme is appealing against Swale Borough Councils refusal of planning consent for an onshore substation at Graveney. And the Chamber of Shipping is still opposed to the windfarm, which it says is too close to navigation routes and could interfere with ships radars. But wildlife issues have been addressed. The consortium has altered plans to limit impacts to red-throated divers, a bird rarely seen in British waters. A survey of the outer Thames Estuary, off NE Kent, between 2002 and 2005, found a 7,000-strong wintering colony of the birds which until then were thought to number fewer than 5,000 in Britain. As a result, the developers reduced the number of first-phase turbines from 258 to 175. Mark Avery, the conservation director at the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, commented ' The co-operation of the developers has been exceptional and we are confident that the birds will not be affected by this first stage of the development. If monitoring shows that they are, then the developers have accepted that their plans for additional turbines will have to be dropped.'

Anne McCall, the head of planning and development at RSPB Scotland, said: ' The approach of the London Array developers mirrors the constructive stance of many in the renewables industry. They have worked with us to resolve an environmental concern, which became apparent as a result of their own survey work.' But the RSPB contrasted the London Array project with continuing battles over plans for a 181-turbine wind farm on the Hebridean Isle of Lewis, which they say is likely to affect a range of breeding and migrating birds including golden eagles, dunlin, corncrake, and red-throated diver. They commented ' The lesson here is to avoid designated sites from the outset. That would save years of wrangling and enable renewable energy schemes to get off the ground far more quickly.'

Offshore wind power zoning

The government is looking at the idea of imposing safety zones around offshore renewable energy installations, such as wind, wave and tidal farms. The DTI consultation document says that ' it is government policy to enable vessels to navigate within renewable energy sites where it would be safe to do so. Our starting presumption is that during the construction and decommissioning phases, it might be reasonable to establish a safety zone of 500m around any installation on which construction or decommissioning work is being undertaken.'

However during the operational phase, they say a safety zone of only 50m around each installation might be appropriate, although they add that this ' might need to be tested under specific circumstances for each site' .

The DTI note that there has been ' strong opposition to the introduction of compulsory life-long exclusion zones expressed by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency on the grounds that they would permanently sterilise large areas of sea for other uses' .

They say that the MCA estimate that a large wind farm of 300 plus turbines would sterilise well in excess of 200 sq. km of sea. On that basis, the DTI goes on ' given that the total number of turbines presently planned for wind farms in UK waters is in the region of 2500, this would effectively sterilise a total area of sea in excess of 1,660 sq km. MCA believe that this would cause significant disruption to navigation, particularly in the Thames Estuary with its restricted navigation routes. It might also lead to increased costs to the shipping industry, together with increased carbon emissions, as vessels would need to burn additional fuel to sail around the wind farms using greater margins of avoidance.'

However it says that ' It is unlikely that the cost of complying with the proposed regulations will have a significant impact on small firms in the offshore renewables industry' , and the costs of applying for a safety zone and complying with the publication requirements are ' unlikely to be a significant element of the overall development costs of a project' .

It says, ' there may be potential benefits from a wider exclusion of vessels from windfarms, particularly fishing vessels' §, but adds ' the evidence as to the environmental benefits in terms of protecting areas of sea from on-going activities once the windfarm is constructed is as yet uncertain' .

It concludes ' Our objective is to put in place regulations which establish a clear, open and transparent application process for safety zones that allows all interested parties to participate in the decision making process, whilst at the same time avoiding placing overly onerous administrative and cost burdens on the applicant. The ' do nothing' option is unacceptable in our view, as the department would be failing to address potentially serious navigational and public safety issues.' But it accepts that a compulsory 500m exclusion zone around all facilities at all stages is also not acceptable ' due to its inflexibility and potential impact upon mariners and other users of the sea' .


§ See Tam Dougans ideas about using offshore wind & wave farms for fishery protection in Renew 143

Carving up the Sea

The DTI/OFGEM have also been consulting on how the legal arrangements for offshore wind farm transmission links to shore would be made. Would one ' Transmission Owner' ('TO' ) be given exclusive ownership of/access to a zone or sub zone? Or should it be non exclusive? And how would bids be processed? They say ' the approach we are minded to take under the non-exclusive option is a “common tender” approach which would see tenders from competing TOs for the right to build, own and operate defined transmission assets assessed by a third party' while ' the approach we are minded to take under the exclusive option is a “multi zone” approach which would see a number of regional monopoly TO areas established and the related licenses awarded by means of a competitive process' . Ofgem favours the non-exclusive option ' as it believes this option will deliver offshore transmission connections in the most cost-efficient, timely and certain manner to consumers and generators' .

The DTI evidently does not want to state a preference before it has considered responses to the consultation. Wave and tidal devices may be subject to the eventual regime but ' are more likely to have lower capacity outputs and will tend, at least in the early stages, to connect via low voltage cables' .


BWEA & REA to stay apart

Following extensive discussions, it has been decided that the British Wind Energy Association and the Renewable Energy Association- who were thinking about a merger, will not merge at the present time.

BWEA CEO Maria McCaffery said: ' It has become increasingly clear that the practical and administrative requirements of a merger would distract us from the key issues facing the renewables industry at this crucial period in delivering the Government' s 2010 target and driving forward a strong UK market for future wind and marine developments' . But they will continue to collaborate ' to provide the best possible support to our members, the current consultation on proposed changes to the Renewables Obligation being a case in point' .

Philip Wolfe, REA CEO said: ' We still support the principle of integrating our activities at some suitable juncture in the future' .

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