Power Challenges in Icelands Westfjords

Icelands Minister of Industries and Innovation, Ragnheidur Elin Arnadottir

One of the biggest challenges faced by the communities of the Westfjords of Iceland is to secure electricity. The region is not self-sufficient with electricity and needs to “import” electricity from other parts of Iceland.  Only one power line drives electricity to the region and it lies over high mountains. As the northerly location of the region implies it often faces severe weather conditions and the mountaintops can be hazardous during winter storms. 

This is an ongoing challenge which was recently addressed at a conference attended by most of the major stakeholders both local and national.  The Minister of Industries and Innovation, Ragnheiður Elín Árnadóttir, responsible for energy affairs in Iceland on behalf of the government, was among speakers at the conference. In her speech she expressed an interest on behalf of the national government to solve the issues pertaining to creating a more sustainable energy production in the Westfjords.

Other speakers came from the public energy institutions, Landsnet which operate Iceland’s electricity transmission grid, National Energy Authority, Orkubú Vestfjarða (Westfjord Power Company) and energy entrepreneurs in the region.

All evidence points towards increasing demand for electricity in the region. Speakers at the conference agreed that it´s possible to harness more hydro energy. Really good options are available in hydro electricity production in the region but the problem is that they are far away from the main grid. This distance is among the main issues the national government and local actors need to solve. The conference was a small milestone where the stakeholders had a successful discussion on the topic and how it is possible to overcome that barrier.


Fermanagh & Omagh District Councils first enterprise week hailed as a great success

GREBE, FODC & Balcas

Fermanagh and Omagh District Council has been delighted with the response to its first ever Enterprise Week which delivered well over 20 free business support events in a wide range of locations throughout the district in partnership with Omagh Enterprise Company Ltd and Fermanagh Enterprise Ltd.

A wide spectrum of topical business related seminars, workshops, talks and training events were on offer and well over 300 businesses from throughout the district were in attendance during the week-long Enterprise Week.

For the convenience of the local business community specialist events were held throughout the week in numerous locations including Enniskillen, Dromore, Irvinestown and Omagh and delivered by leading experts.

The Council was keen to ensure that a vast array of topics, relevant to the needs of the local business community was covered during the five-day event and offered a vast spectrum of advice and guidance on subjects such as e-commerce, digital marketing, website and Facebook training, practical support on starting and growing a businesses, pension auto enrolment responsibilities and how to tender for public sector contracts, to name but a few.

During the week the Enterprise Centres in Omagh and Enniskillen also opened their doors on a number of occasions when staff were available to offer on the spot advice and guidance on all sorts of business matters including health and safety, finance, etc.

One of the region’s most successful businesses, Euro Auctions in Dromore also opened its doors and hosted a Business Open Evening to outline the company’s history and path to significant worldwide growth.  At this event businesses were also able to meeting with funding representatives from the Rural Development Programme and Invest NI.

As the Council was conscious of the need to embrace all sections of the region’s business community events also focused on women in business and the social economy sector the latter of which was highlighted and celebrated at the Council’s first ever Social Economy Conference which was held on the penultimate day of Enterprise Week.

Almost 60 people attended the Social Economy Conference in the ARC Healthy Living Centre in Irvinestown where a host of celebrated speakers from the field of social enterprise addressed the event, including representatives from LEDCOM, one of Northern Ireland’s leading social enterprises, the Chief Executive of Viable Corporate Services and the Chief Executive of the ARC Healthy Living Centre itself.  Other participants at the conference included Omagh Enterprise Company Limited and Knockninny Credit Union

A new EU funded Renewable Energy Business Support Programme, GREBE was also launched on the final day of the week.  GREBE is a three year programme being delivered by Fermanagh and Omagh District Council to support renewable energy enterprise.  The progamme was launched at the BALCAS Plant in Enniskillen on Friday.

Speaking about the resounding success of the five-day event, the Chair of Fermanagh and Omagh District Council, Councillor Thomas O’Reilly said the Council had been elated by the response to Enterprise Week.

“The Council is conscious of the crucial importance of SMEs to our district and has always strived to offer as much help and assistance to this valuable sector as possible.  It is therefore encouraging to note that well over 300 businesses from throughout the area were able to avail of advice and guidance from the events,” he said.

“SMEs are the lifeblood of the local economy and we have listened to and taken on board what support our businesses out there need and want.  Indeed feedback from those who attended events during Enterprise Week has been extremely positive and encouraging and I know the support we offered during the week, and continue to do throughout the year will go some way to help our businesses grow and contribute greater to the local economy”, Councillor O’Reilly added.

In conclusion the Chair said that such was the success of this pilot initiative that the Council hoped that it would continue on an annual basis.

“Although Enterprise Week was a pilot initiative, it is evident that it was a resounding success and I am confident that it will become an annual event on the calendar of events the Council holds every year for our indigenous business community,” Councillor Reilly concluded.

GREBE Industry Advisory Group meeting in Finland

Finland IAG meeting
GREBE partner Robert Prinz (LUKE) presenting project objectives at the Finnish Industry Advisory Group meeting

GREBE Industry Advisory Groups provide their insights on how project activities can most effectively be implemented in the region, how project can link and work together with other activities and results be disseminated to various beneficiaries.

The IAG in Finland includes representatives from the renewable energy SMEs, research and education, business development companies, regional authority and agricultural producers and forest owners union. The first meeting was organized at LUKE, Joensuu office in Tuesday 15th of March.

GREBE IAG meeting introduced the project (Robert Prinz, LUKE) and its contribution to the business mentoring through the Entrepreneurship Enabler Scheme (Lasse Okkonen, Karelia UAS).

The group discussion provided many valuable insights for the GREBE activities. For instance, the networks of companies and of research and development could be linked better with each other. Recommendations were given for the development of the Entrepreneurship Enabler Scheme. Currently mentoring is not a common practice in the region, but it was considered to have good potential. As a positive trend, the RE enterprises are increasingly cooperating and sharing information with each other.

IAG also discussed on how to share the information about GREBE among their wider networks and contribute to the policy development activities of the project.

Hydrogen – a solution to the RES integration challenge?

NSP image 14-03-2016
Hydrogen Plant – Energy from RES could be stored as hydrogen and delivered back to the power station on demand


In some scenarios up to 50% of the electricity demand in the EU by 2030, will be covered by energy from Renewable Energy Sources (RES).  The energy production from RES is energy production from variable energy sources, whose production is subject to both seasonal as well as hourly weather variability. This is a situation that the power system has not coped with before. System flexibility is needed, and will increasingly be driven by supply variability – or all the energy from RES could be used to produce Hydrogen, without any need of transmission and distribution through the power system.

The traditional thinking is that new systems and tools are required to ensure that the renewable energy is integrated into the power system effectively. One of the options for providing the required flexibility to the power system, is energy storage through use of battery technologies.  An another way of thinking is to use RES to produce hydrogen, and make hydrogen supply a stable energy source for delivery to the power system – the transmission of a variable energy source (RES) into a stable energy source (hydrogen).

Business opportunities

  1. International agreements – Norway has committed itself both through international agreements and national objectives to reduce the national emissions drastically in the years ahead, agreed upon according to the Kyoto protocol.
  2. RES – Norway has more than enough renewable power resources to produce the needed amount of hydrogen – both to be self-sufficient and to export to EU.
  3. Technology – Hydrogen is a highly interdisciplinary technology area which both demands knowledge about process technology and power production; fields in which Norwegian universities, research institutions and industry – maintain a high competance level.
  4. Transport sector – Norway’s near-term emission reduction will be made in the transport sector. The transport sector points itself out as the most attractive choice for drastic emission reductions, base on the fact that Norway already is well on its way in this area, boasting the worlds best incentives for zero emission vehicles (electric vehicles). Now Norway has the opportunity to add hydrogen to the transportation fuel portfolio.

Export of sustainable energy

Norway will far into the future continue to have vast resources of renewable energy, and Norway has without comparison the largest hydro power resources in Europe, the best conditions for both on-and offshore wind, and a lot of possibilities to produce renewable energy from other sources.

The downturn of oil thus represents a unique chance for Norway to utilize its brain power and high competence within energy technology, not only to ensure future income from the export of energy – but also make the country fit for the future by exporting sustainable energy to the world markets.

After years of fossil fuel exports, many would argue that Norway has a special responsibility to do so as well.

Could hydrogen production and storage be Norway’s next oil?

Scotlands Gridlocked Islands: A £725 Million Opportunity

ERI 11-03-2016
Burradale wind farm in Shetland, which in 2005 set a world record for wind power in terms of power production per unit of installed capacity.

A new report prepared for the Scottish Government by Baringa consulting group assesses the economic opportunities of renewables for Scotland’s island communities. The main findings are:

Economic benefits of up to £725 million (€939 million) for the island economies over the next 25 years, which includes up to £225 million (€291 million) in community benefits

Local economic stimulus could mean an average boost of 5% to local economic output across the Islands

Community revenue due to project equity could total up to £390 million (€505 million)

Employment boost of up to 2,000 jobs in the peak development phase across the Islands

In GREBE we are looking to help communities and businesses adopt renewable technologies, and islands have been identified as a key geographic area of focus within the project. This report highlights how large the opportunities they present are and how pertinent it is to help provide tools to access these.

However, the impressive figures of the report won’t be realised without external drivers. Improved grid connections have been identified as a vital enabler for Scottish islands to realise their full renewable potential. As it currently stands, of the three island groups examined in the study the Western Isles has a 22 MW connection to the mainland; Orkney has a total mainland connection of 44 MW; and Shetland is not connected. This means the grids on the islands are either at or near saturation point, so more renewable generation is difficult to incorporate into the system. To give an idea of the scale of the grid issue another 2.4 GW of grid capacity by 2030 would be needed for the benefits listed to be realised. In the Orkney Islands alone alleviation of these grid constraints could increase income to existing wind developments by around £2.7 million annually.

It is important to highlight that the benefits of developing renewables in island locations extend beyond those to the businesses involved and local communities. The winds experienced on the islands of Scotland make them some of the best locations for onshore wind in the world. Coupled with the geographic and resource diversity (such as wave and tidal power) offered by the islands this can help reduce overall renewable variability in the grid. Which in turn means renewable targets can be met without such a large impact on security of electricity of supply.

The full report is available from:


Presentations from the GREBE Project Launch & Renewable Energy Seminar

Q&A session

In Ballina last month Mr. Paddy McGuinness, Chairperson of the Western Development Commission officially launched the GREBE project and renewable energy seminar.  The launch and seminar provided us with great opportunities to share experiences of renewable energy development in the project area, and meet with some of the renewable energy entrepreneurs in the Western Region.

The activities of the GREBE Project were outlined by the project co-ordinator Pauline Leonard, who added that “GREBE will equip SMEs and start-ups with the skills and confidence to overcome these challenges of their location and use place based natural assets for renewable energy to sustainable effect. The renewable energy sector contributes to sustainable regional and rural development and has potential for future growth”.

Pauline Leonard, GREBE Project Co-ordinator with the Western Development Commission welcomed the attendees and outlined the details of the GREBE project, how it was developed and the work which will be carried out over the three years.

Pauline Leonard, WDC

Pauline Leonard, WDC & GREBE Project Coordinator – ‘About the GREBE Project’

Michael Doran of Action Renewables in Northern Ireland, outlined renewable energy policy and funding mechanisms and how the GREBE project will progress this area.

Michael Doran, Action Renewables

Michael Doran Action Renewables – ‘Renewable Energy Policy & Funding Mechanisms’

Peter Wide of Narvik Science Park and Arna Lara Jonsdottir of Innovation Center Iceland discussed the influence of environment conditions and climatic challenges which the partner regions face.


Arna Lara Jonsdottir, ICI – ‘The Influence of Environmental Conditions’

Peter Wide, Narvik Science Park – ‘The Influence of Environmental Conditions’

Neil James of the Environmental Research Institute in Scotland presented linking renewable energy technology and resources in the partner regions.

Neil James, ERI

Neil James, ERI – ‘Linking Renewable Energy Technologies & Resources’

Lasse Okkonen of Karelia University of Applied Sciences and Una Porteous of Fermanagh & Omagh District Council presented details on renewable energy opportunities and business development support which will be available through the GREBE project.

Lasse Okkonen, Karelia UAS – ‘Renewable Energy Opportunities & Business Development Support’

Una Porteous, FODC – ‘Renewable Energy Opportunities & Business Development Support’

Lauri Sikanen from the Natural Resources Institute (LUKE) in Finland, presented details on the renewable energy sector in Finland and the benefits of knowledge and technology transfer and sharing.

Lauri Sikanen, LUKE

Lauri Sikanen, LUKE – ‘Knowledge & Technology Transfer & Business Delivery’

BENI represented at the All Party Working Group on Renewable Energy at Stormont in Northern Ireland

AR 07-03-2016
Michael Doran of Action Renewables and GREBE presenting at ‘Bio energy in Northern Ireland’ at the Parliament Buildings, Stormont

An All Party Working group on Renewable Energy ‘Bio energy in Northern Ireland’ was held at the Parliament Buildings, Stormont on Monday 22nd February.

The meeting was held to highlight the bio energy sector, how it is currently used in Northern Ireland and its potential for the future. Speakers from across the sector attended, including William Robinson from B9 Organics, Chris Johnston from AFBI, Michael Doran from Action Renewables and the BENI chair, John Martin.

The topic of the event was very appropriate given the recent announcements regarding the closure of the Renewable Heat Incentive in Northern Ireland.  MLAs were invited to sit in on the presentations and ensuing Q&A as experts in the bioenergy industry demonstrated the detrimental effect the closure of the RHI will have on the economy and the future of the sector in NI.

Further information is available on the BENI website http://biomassenergyni.com/news-archive/

Biomass research in Finland with the help of drones

Drones 03-03-2016

The Natural Resources Institute Finland (Luke) is currently testing various research options using drones. The drones tested are capable of carrying camera, sensors or similar devices which can record data from a total new angle.

Recognition and measurement of biomass storage piles

Luke has been testing drones for example when measuring biomass storage piles used for energy purposes. With the help of the drone, a sensor can fly over the piles and collect the data which then, after processing, can be used in the detection of the amount of biomass. In addition, different contrasts of the captured image can help identifying specific characteristics of the biomass.

Improving working methods in the field

Another possibility of drones is in combination with a high-resolution camera used in the forest. Tests have shown that drones can take high-quality images and videos from the bird-eye perspective and might give a total new way for the visualization of forest machine operations. The video material opens new educational possibilities as well.

The researchers at Luke in Joensuu are studying the forest procurement chain from the forest until the roadside storage. The perspective offered through the “drone´s eyes” can help in re-organizing the machine work when cutting, collecting or storing forest biomass and help to increase the productivity. Especially in difficult, remote and challenging terrain of Northern Peripheral regions, this method opens new possibilities. The tests are very promising and research with this innovative technology will continue.

GREBE partner Luke will inform on results gained from this new and innovative approach and transfer the knowledge across the NPA regions.


GREBE Project is officially launched !

GREBE Project Partners

New €1.77m project launched to support Western Region’s Renewable Energy Sector

Western Development Commission leading new EU-funded project

The Western Development Commission has successfully applied for funding of €1.77m for a new three-year project to support the renewable energy business sector in the Western Region.   ‘Generating Renewable Energy Business Enterprise’ (GREBE) is an international project which will be led by the Western Development Commission (WDC), and will be co-funded by the EU’s Northern Periphery and Arctic (NPA) Interreg programme.  The project was launched at the Twin Trees Hotel in Ballina on Wednesday 24th February by the Chairperson of the Western Development Commission, Mr. Paddy McGuinness.

According to Mr. McGuinness, “Over the next three years renewable energy enterprises from across the region will be able to access a range of new opportunities in business and mentoring support.  The wealth of renewable resources in the region means this sector holds great potential for sustainable job creation.  GREBE aims to help startup and renewable energy SMEs at different stages in their business to take the next step”

The project will be run by eight organisations in the West of Ireland, Northern Ireland, Scotland, Finland, Norway and Iceland, who will support renewable energy enterprises.    It will focus on the challenges of peripheral and arctic regions as places for doing business, and help develop renewable energy business opportunities provided by extreme conditions.

The activities of the GREBE Project were outlined by the project co-ordinator Pauline Leonard, who added that “GREBE will equip SMEs and start-ups with the skills and confidence to overcome these challenges of their location and use place based natural assets for renewable energy to sustainable effect. The renewable energy sector contributes to sustainable regional and rural development and has potential for future growth”.

GREBEs’ project activities have already started.  For updates on future opportunities see www.wdc.ie  and the GREBE Renewable Energy Blog (www.greberenewableenergyblog.

wordpress.com)  and connect with us on Facebook (GREBEProject) and Twitter (@GREBE_NPA), or contact Pauline Leonard, Regional Development Executive & GREBE Project Co-ordinator at the Western Development Commission (paulineleonard@wdc.ie).