Fair Isle, one of the UK’s most remote inhabited islands, will soon have 24/7 supply of electricity

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Fair Isle, is a three mile long, island in northern Scotland, belonging to the Shetland island group. It is located 24 miles south of the Shetland mainland, between Orkney and Shetland.

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Since 1980, the community of Fair Isle, currently totalling 55, has been reliant on a combination of diesel generators and wind power for its electricity needs. However, none of the two, has proved to be sufficient to provide the required amount of energy. One of the two turbines has stopped working, while the other one is reaching the end of its days.

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In addition, the back-up diesel generator frequently is turned off during the night, in order to preserve fuel stocks, as deliveries are reliant on the ferry running. Thus, currently, if the wind is not blowing at Fair Isle, the lights need to be off between 11pm and 7am. Furthermore, at present there is no storage ability or capacity for new residents.  Fair Isle is yet another example of the challenges faced by peripheral, isolated, island communities. The community has acknowledged the significance of developing an infrastructure, to allow them to sustain and grow its population, as well as, to transform life on the island.

In the beginning of this year, the project was awarded over £1m of capital stage support by the Low Carbon Infrastructure Transition Programme’s (LCITP) funding call for large scale transformational low carbon infrastructure demonstrator projects. LCITP is supported through the European Regional Development Fund and is a partnership programme led by the Scottish Government, with support from HIE, Scottish Enterprise, Scottish Futures Trust and Resource Efficient Scotland. The Scottish government has promised half the cost of the project (£1.325m), with Scottish Water and HIE Shetland pledges to match fund the project. The Big Lottery Fund has been approached for £600,000 (not yet confirmed),  the National Trust may contribute up to £100,000 and Fair Isle Electricity Company will put in £20,000. The Shetland Islands Council (SIC) political leader Gary Robinson said:

“It is clear that no stone has been left unturned in this one in search of funding. What we have here is a well thought through and carefully worked up proposal. It’s absolutely clear that Fair Isle needs to have a reliable energy scheme. I am really pleased to see the lengths gone to bring in external funding”.

The £250,000 funding granted by the Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE), marks the completion of the full funding package totalling at £2.6m. Fiona Stirling, development manager at HIE’s Shetland area team, said: “It’s a key factor in attracting new people to the island as well as helping businesses to develop.”

Great Glen Consulting was selected to be the project manager assisting and developing the project, while the technical design and engineering of the project will be carried out by Arcus. The project is being led by a community group, known as the Fairs Isle Electricity Company. The company director Robert Mitchell said:

“Having a constant electricity source may help to attract more people to live in Fair Isle as well as benefit the residents. It will also bring new employment opportunities and sustain existing employment. This ambitious project is the first step in ensuring that the community of Fair Isle continues to thrive.”

The £2.65m investment is for three 60kW wind turbines, a 50kW solar array and lead-acid battery storage of 500 kW hours. According to the project manager Maurice Henderson the summary of costs is the following: £620,705 will be spent on the high-voltage system; £609,435 on the storage; £660,000 on the wind turbines; £125,000 on the solar power; £98,000 on new diesel generators; £192,000 on project management and £345,786 on a contingency fund. Mr Henderson acknowledges that the scheme is not of the highest technology quality available, but he asserts that it is intended for robust reliability, which is an essential consideration for a remote island. It is envisioned to make best use of the use of wind in times of low demand. The scheme will also extend a high voltage network to the north of the island to enable grid connections to the Scottish Water treatment works, Fair Isle Bird Observatory, the airstrip and the North Haven harbour.

South Mainland councillor Allison Duncan believes that the project would help secure the future of Fair Isle, as three new families were moving in, after years of population decline. Project manager Maurice Henderson said: “I would consider this as a key project in the development plan for Fair Isle for growing more population.”

Responding to the announcement, Stephanie Clark, Policy Manager at Scottish Renewables, said: “Renewable technologies are bringing power to remote communities which otherwise either wouldn’t have electricity, or would have to rely on diesel generators for their supply. It’s great to see Fair Isle will soon join the likes of Eigg and Gigha in taking advantage of a green electricity network. Scotland’s geography and abundant renewable energy resource make it the perfect place to test these advanced energy system.

Another “extraordinary month” for renewable energy in Scotland

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Source: Scottish Renewables (2017) https://www.scottishrenewables.com/sectors/renewables-in-numbers/?utm_source=Twitter&utm_medium=Social%20Post

The month of May showed that renewables can still play their part in providing large amounts of electricity even in summer months. Wind turbines alone provided enough electricity to supply 95% of Scottish homes thanks to windy weather. The 863,495MWh of electricity provided to the grid was an incredible increase of 20% compared to May 2016.

Solar energy was also increasingly able to supply 100% of electricity needs to houses fitted with panels across a number of areas in Scotland. Aberdeen, Dumfries, Dundee, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Inverness and Lewick houses fitted with photovoltaic panels benefited from 100% of their average use generated from the sun. Solar hot water panels also provided 90% of household’s average hot water needs in the same Scottish areas.

Across the United Kingdom there was also records broken on the 26th May with the National Grid reported a peak of 8.5GWh over a half hour period at midday. This was almost a quarter of total UK demand.

Scotland continues to increase its renewable energy capacity with an average annual increase of over 660MW since the end of 2008. Total installed renewables capacity sat at 8642GW at the end of 2016 of which the breakdown can be found below. This ever-increasing renewables capacity allows Scotland to reach renewable energy targets and climate change targets whilst still exporting low carbon electricity to its neighbours.

The GREBE Project holds its 6th partner meeting in Norway

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The GREBE project partners are holding their sixth partner meeting this week in Narvik, Norway.   The Western Development Commission and the Norwegian partners Narvik Science Park have been working together to prepare a programme to fit in as much as possible.

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During the first part of our partner meeting we discussed our activities since our meeting in Finland in February and progress on rolling out our Entrepreneur Enabler Scheme to the partner regions, and plans for the next six months.  Discussions are taking place on other work package activities including the development of our online funding options decision making tool, our Virtual Energy Ideas Hub and the development of a Renewable Energy Resource Assessment Toolkit.  Tomorrow (Thursday) we will visits to Statkraft, Nordkraft, Fortum Wind Park and meetings with some other SMEs in the Narvik area.   We will have details of our activities in future blog posts and our next e-zine.

GREBE participates in the Arctic Project Clustering Event in Sweden in May

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The GREBE Project were pleased to be invited to participate in the Arctic Project Clustering Event held in Skellefeå May 10-11th 2017.  This event gathered more than 90 participants from the programme areas of Botnia-Atlantica, Interreg Nord, Northern Periphery and Arctic programme and Kolarctic CBC. The aim of the event was to find synergies between ongoing projects in the different programmes, share good examples and challenges as well as identify future cooperation possibilities.

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The event began with a presentation of Skellefteå held by Helena Renström, Marking Director at Skellefteå municipality, providing insight into the specific areas of interest and growth as well as development potential in Skellefteå.

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Nils Arne Johnsen, Arctic Director at Ramboll, gave an overview of what is meant by the Arctic and the special features and actors of operating in the area. Johnsen concluded that many of the challenges in the Arctic are also provide opportunities for investment and development.

The second day of the event Baiba Liepa, Project Manager at the Interact programme, provided a framework for territorial cooperation, the reasoning behind different programme types and how Interreg programmes and projects connect to overall goals of the European Union.

During the first day plenary session Ole Damsgaard, Head of Secretariat at the Northern Periphery and Arctic programme, presented the Arctic cooperation within which the four programmes come together to share knowledge, organise joint activities and combine resources to obtain greater impact. The second day representatives for all four programmes, Jenny Bergkvist, Programme Director at Botnia-Atlantica, Lena Anttila Programme Director at Interreg Nord, Marjaana Lahdenranta, CBC Expert at Kolarctic CBC and Ole Damsgaard presented the programmes in more detail. Similarities and differences were highlighted together with complementary goals that provide cooperation opportunities for projects implemented in the different programmes. The possibility to apply for financing for clustering projects was also announced by the Northern Periphery and Arctic programme.

The clustering of projects was organised through thematic workshops within E-health, Energy efficiency, Bio-sconomy and Entrepreneurship, to which selected projects and external guests from all four programmes were invited. The aim of the workshops was to present ongoing projects in the different programmes, find synergies and identify knowledge gaps and common interests.

The workshop within E-health was moderated by David Heaney, from Rossal Research & Consultancy. Common themes were connecting health prevention and detection to technology and data collecting as well as receiving input from SME´s in the field.

Michael Jalmby, ESAM, moderated the Energy efficiency workshop in which the importance of energy efficient and sustainable solutions for renovations were discussed together with existing gaps between knowledge and implementation of best practices.

The Bio-economy workshop was moderated by Ian Brannigan from Western Development Commission Ireland and Michael Doran from Action Renewables. Common themes were how to disseminate project results to ensure real impact and developing research findings into marketable solutions for SME´s.

The workshop within Entrepreneurship was moderated by Camilla Sehlin, Incita AB and discussed how to identify different needs of SME´s and deliver the right results as well as ways of bringing different types of companies together.

The workshop discussions were concluded at the end of the event to give insight into the outcomes of the different themes.

During the event a study visit was organised to the innovation house The Great Northern were Phil Hopkin, Business Community Manager, told about the history and ideology behind The Great Northern and how the identity of a region can be utilized in creating new opportunities.

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Repowering onshore wind in the Highlands and Islands

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Planning permissions and consents for onshore wind farms in the UK generally require decommissioning and restoration after a 25-year lifetime. With some of the earliest windfarms being built in the early 1990s we are starting to look at what happens next. With proper operations and maintenance, there is no reason that windfarms can’t operate past this lifetime, especially if they’re receiving ROC payments.

It is important if we want to continue to decarbonise the economy that these existing consented sites continue to produce low carbon electricity and this is represented in Scottish Planning Policy:

‘Proposals to repower existing wind farms which are already in suitable sites where environmental and other impacts have been shown to be capable of mitigation can help to maintain or enhance installed capacity, underpinning renewable energy generation targets. The current use of the site as a wind farm will be a material consideration in any such proposals.’

We are now coming to a stage where many of the first windfarm sites using small clusters of 600KW turbines at around 70m in tip height are coming to the end of their operational lifetime. In many cases, and in eventually in all cases it will be more economic to “repower” the site.

There are numerous benefits in utilising a site, which is already powered: they are grid connected, planned for and there’s years of real data that can inform new design. There can be some difficulties if bases needed replaced or grid connection needs upgraded, the key however is that the sites have the planning permissions in place, if not for larger turbines.

Some sites might even be economically viable to repower before the 25-year lifetime is achieved due to the financial performance of the site and the rapid evolution and increase in wind turbine size. The progress in the last 20 years has been phenomenal with prices tumbling as hub height increases and economies of scale are seen.

There are many options for repowering sites such as maintaining the grid connection capacity by increasing turbine size but lowering numbers. Some sites may wish to maintain turbine numbers but increase the size and capacity but how do these large turbines affect the visual requirements of the area? Sometimes few larger turbines are deemed more acceptable.

Although many sites will not be considered for repowering before the mid-2020s the procedures need to be put in place now and trialled on some of the earliest Highland wind farms. Given the time it has taken to consent these original windfarms there can’t be considerable downtime between decommissioning and repowering considering the ambitious decarbonisation targets the Scottish Government has set.

In an ideal world, we would move to planning for perpetuity.

GREBE publishes its 4th project E-Zine

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The GREBE Project has published its fourth e-zine to showcase the activities and ongoing goals of the project.  

We held our fifth partner meeting in Joensuu, Finland in February, where we held a joint conference with the IEA Bioenergy Task 43 and launched our online training and networking platform renewablebusiness.eu.

This e-zine will highlight details of our Report on the Influence of Environmental Conditions in the NPA & Arctic Regions, our report which identifies technologies which can be transferred from areas of best practice to areas where renewable energy uptake is low and our Growth Strategy Guidelines for SMEs in renewable energy.

We also have details of four participating companies in our Entrepreneur Enabler Scheme in Northern Ireland (MSL – McCrea Services Ltd., Moffitt & Robinson, Rowe Energy and Winters Renewables) and information on three more of our policy workshops.  To read our e-zine, please click here

Contracts for difference for new onshore wind?

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After the 2015 Conservative manifesto pledge to “end any new public subsidy” for onshore wind farms, developers have been locked out of the Contracts for Difference (CfD) framework*.  New research reveals however that ministers could allow onshore wind bid on new contracts without contradicting its previous pledge to end all new subsidies.

The report** produced by industry experts Baringa Partners, commissioned by industry body Scottish Renewables, states that by allowing developers to bid in the first round of the auction, the industry could deliver an extra 1GW of capacity in the UK at the hugely competitive price of £49.40 per MWh. This is around half of the strike price agreed by the UK Government for Hinkley Point C nuclear power plant, after being adjusted for inflation.

Since the 2015 subsidy ending announcement there has been a marked slowdown in the rate of development. Neil Stuart, Chief Executive of Scottish Renewables said:

“Some companies are continuing to look at projects, but it is very difficult to see them going ahead without some sort of intervention,”

“If you want to deliver onshore wind capacity at a scale, which will make a meaningful contribution to the UK’s work to meet climate change targets and secondly keep bills down for consumers then you will need a CfD framework.”

Bidding on the first round of the CfD auction would not represent a subsidy as more money would return to the consumer over the last two thirds of the contract than the limited top up in the first third as the wholesale price of electricity increases. This would represent an overall saving for consumers.

The report also highlights the incredible reductions in the costs of renewables, particularly onshore wind, around the world. The decreasing price of turbines and auction mechanisms to ensure competition have seen the price tumble worldwide. The government can still now plan an important role in offering a low-risk route to market for subsidy free onshore wind.

The report that allows the UK Government to provide subsidy free support to onshore wind comes after a Conservative thinktank Bright Blue published a new survey*** claiming that the majority of Tory voters actually support on shore wind.

*The CfD mechanism is in place to stabilise revenue and cost for developers, thereby lowering the cost of capital and in turn minimises the cost of energy.

** https://www.scottishrenewables.com/publications/baringa-sr-analysis-potential-outcome-pot-1-cfd-/

*** http://www.brightblue.org.uk/images/Green%20conservatives%20polling%20report%20Final.pdf