The GREBE Project visits Iceland

geothermal

The GREBE project partners will hold their fourth partner meeting in Reykjavik and Isafjordur in Iceland this week.  We have a busy schedule planned with the Western Development Commission (www.wdc.ie) and Innovation Center Iceland (http://www.nmi.is/english) working to co-ordinate the programme to fit in as much as possible.

On Tuesday morning, we’ll hold a Policy Workshop at Innovation Center Icelands offices in Reykjavik, this will be followed by a meeting with XRG Energy http://www.xrgpower.com/, the first part of our partner meeting and a Steering Committee meeting.   Then on Wednesday we have a packed day, with site visits to Auðlindagarður Svartsengi (http://www.resourcepark.is/) and the IDDP project (http://www.landsvirkjun.com/researchdevelopment/research/iddpproject/) as we travel to Isafjordur.

On Thursday and Friday, we will continue our project meeting at the Innovation Center Icelands offices in Isafjordur.

Higher Level Apprenticeships at the CREST centre in Northern Ireland

CREST 2

GREBEs Northern Ireland partner, Fermanagh and Omagh District Council are privileged to have within the region, South West Colleges flagship Centre for Renewable Energy and Sustainable Technologies (CREST).  An associate partner of the GREBE project, the CREST centre has been established to help small businesses in NI, the border counties of ROI and Western Scotland to develop and adopt renewable energy and sustainable technologies. South West College lead a network of educational institutions including Cavan Innovation and Technology Centre, Sligo IT and Dumfries and Galloway College in Scotland.

South West College have introduced Higher Level Apprenticeships (HLA) which are fast becoming an attractive alternative to attendance at university for a traditional 3 or 4 year programme, as the employee can gain a third level qualification – a Foundation Degree and develop industry related skills that benefit both their employer and their career.

One of the most exciting HLAs which the college is offering through CREST is the Foundation Degree in Renewable and Sustainable Technologies.  Offered in conjunction with Queens University and Ulster University, there is a range of areas of specialisms including Building Services and Renewable Energy, Energy Environment and Sustainability and Engineering (Wind Turbine Technology).

Noreen McGirr HLA Coordinator with the College says that “These courses are highly sought after and the College are offering 10-15 apprentices (per specialism) the opportunity to embark on their careers through this new route, embracing the opportunity to earn and learn in a real business setting.  Due to the increase in fees that is likely to be faced by full time third level students and the increased level of debt this will create, it is encouraging that there are alternatives available which offer real possibilities to our brightest young people to remain at home whilst still progressing their careers and learning.

HLAs are also a wonderful opportunity for employers to ‘recruit smart’ by addressing the urgent gap in high-level skills shortages increasingly evident across the region”.

For further information on the HLA opportunities available please follow the link below

http://www.swc.ac.uk/engage/business-engagement/Higher-Level-Apprenticeships.aspx

Uncertainty harming growth in the Scottish renewable industry

ERI 29-07-2016
Image from Dorli Photography

The Scottish Affairs Committee (a cross party body which is appointed by the UK parliament to examine the expenditure, administration, and policy in Scotland) found that policy changes from the central UK Government is putting at risk future growth in Scotland’s renewable industry.

In the report published by the group these changes are listed as the early closure of the Renewables Obligation for solar and onshore wind, cutting Feed-in-Tariff support rates, and delaying the next round of Contracts for Difference (CfD). The removal of subsidy for onshore wind was identified as being a particular area of concern. The decision was considered to be troubling, as it was taken without consultation with the industry or Scottish Government.

The report also found lack of clarity about renewables policy has exacerbated long-standing concerns of transmission costs in Scotland. Renewable development, and the largest renewable resources, are often located in the NPA region of Scotland and made up of rural areas or islands. These areas face inadequate grid connections and high transmission charges to reach the urban areas where electricity is most needed. In response to these issues the Committee has called on Ofgem (the government regulator for electricity) to look into levelling connection costs across the UK. In addition it has also called on the UK Government to take action to support the improvement of infrastructure between the Scottish Islands and the mainland.

Since the production of the report the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) has been abolished. Among other things DECC was in control of the subsidy schemes for renewable energy. As a result KPMG suggest further delays in the announcement of next the CfD auction round, or announcements about plans for “greater separation” of the System Operator. Of course this will not assist with investor confidence. However, perhaps more worrying is the ideological change the abolition of DECC implies. These concerns are communicated by the chair of the Scottish Affairs Committee, Pete Wishart, who described the decision as showing “a troubling shift in the Government’s priorities”.

A short summary of the report can be found at:

https://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/commons-select/scottish-affairs-committee/news-parliament-2015/renewable-energy-scotland-report-published-16-17/

With the full report being available at:

http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201617/cmselect/cmscotaf/83/8302.htm

Action Renewables Energy Association (AREA)

Action Renewables launched Action Renewables Energy Association (AREA) in April 2016.  AREA is the catalyst for transition to a renewable future, and is the sole body representing the entire renewable energy sector in Northern Ireland across all technologies.

Following the re-election of the Conservative Government in May 2015, a series of damaging policy changes, financial restrictions and ongoing budget issues has sent Northern Irelands renewable energy sector into rapid decline.  With the removal of the Renewable Heat Incentive (RHI) along with cuts to Northern Irelands Renewable Obligation (NIRO), it is clear the newly formed Department for Economy (DfE) will have great difficulty financing and implementing replacement incentives post 2017.  The reduction and withdrawal of renewable energy subsidies along with the general lack of support for the renewables sector has placed Northern Ireland’s renewable energy sector in jeopardy.

Action Renewables has responded to this threat with AREA, as a means to support the renewables sector via focused lobbying activities.  Our core aims are to establish a secure renewable energy policy framework in light of the increasing policy vacuum; to protect existing renewable energy investments and support the development of the renewable energy sector.  AREA wants to organise the renewables sector, establish a collective voice and use it to influence policy.

For more information please click here.

Innovation in the energy sector in Iceland

Þorsteinn Ingi Sigfússon, Professor in Physics, Laureate of the Global Energy Prize and Director of ICI (Innovation Center Iceland) wrote an article on research and Innovation in the energy sector in Iceland and how ICI has been a strong partner in that area. Here you can read a summary from his article.

Iceland is in a unique position in the world due to its variety of renewable energy resources. Large amounts of renewable energy in Iceland is in the form of electricity sold to aluminum factories which therefore leave a relatively low carbon footprint. The demand today is through further innovation in that category.

ICI has for years now been alerted to innovation in the energy utilization sector.  Regarding minimizing carbon footprints, a large chapter was written on analysis leading to the fact that energy spending is extremely high in fisheries.  The carbon footprint reaches 1000 kg for each 1000 kg fish landed. That problem has led to new solutions and licenses in using light instead of nets by trawlers. This solution has resulted in lower use of energy, lower carbon dioxide emissions and less damage to the sea bed. ICI has formed a co-operation around this project with the Marine Research Institute and companies in fish-net production and fisheries.  This co-operation has trusted the foundation of this research even more. Furthermore a company called Optitog Ltd. has been founded around this innovation.

ICI has also been focusing on minimizing multiple kinds of excreta from aluminum industry here in Iceland including ideas and realization on using rest material in mortar, rock wool and related products. The company Gerosion Ltd. run by Sunna Wallevík was founded around this project alongside the SER (Start-Up Energy Reykjavik) project.

Another project that ICI has been working on is how to produce electricity from low temperature-heat that otherwise is lost (waste heat), mainly from power plants.  The source of this waste heat has its physical explanation as a result of the efficiency in producing electricity from geothermal heat.  This is very low and becomes even lower as the heat of the geothermal plant gets higher. In 2015 in the accelerator program Startup Energy, a project around low heat electricity production was developed. The challenge lies mainly in the small size of the power generator which is only 1 Kw but can produce electricity from heat as low as 70 up to 135 °C.

The company XRG Power was founded around this exciting project and is managed by Mjöll Waldorff. Among the owners is VHE in Hafnarfjörður and a Startup Energy group which is led by Landsvirkjun and Arion Bank.

As can be read above various inventions and innovations in the renewable energy sector are in process which is in line with the urgency of minimizing various carbon footprints and other waste.

The new GREBE website is live !

GREBE website 2

The new GREBE project website www.grebeproject.eu has been created by Future Analytics Consulting Ltd. (http://futureanalytics.ie/). The website builds on the branding theme created with the logo, which takes inspiration from the NPA programme and the priority (entrepreneurship) under which GREBE is funded.  The three hexagons in our logo reflect the entrepreneurs networking and sharing ideas, the renewable energy technologies, and the importance of renewable energy in everyday life.

Our website has information about the GREBE project, its aims and objectives, project deliverables, project partners and the NPA Programme.   We also have a section on our project activities and some information about renewable energy.   As the GREBE project progress, we will add more areas to the website and upload reports and guidelines to our ‘Publications’ page.

Visit the site to register your interest in the GREBE project.  If you would like more information on the GREBE project, please contact us at info@grebeproject.eu

BREXIT – A brief view of some of the energy implications of the UK voting to leave the European Union

BREXIT

The result of the UK referendum over EU membership has potentially huge implications for renewable energy. Perhaps the most significant of these is the UK may no longer be in the EU Internal Energy Market (IEM).

Completion of the EU’s internal market requires the removal of obstacles and trade barriers; the approximation of tax and pricing policies and measures in respect of norms and standards; and environmental and safety regulations. The objective of these is to help create a functioning market with fair access and a high level of consumer protection as well as adequate levels of interconnection and generation capacity. The IEM has led to the development of interconnections, to help reduce isolation of Member States from the European gas and electricity grids. Being part of energy union would have provided a huge market for UK renewables, such as its growing offshore wind fleet. Furthermore, it would have benefited energy security as renewable generation increases its overall share in the grid, through smoothing of generation variability.

The National Grid are certainly fearful of an exit from the IEM, with a spokeswoman saying: “It is vital the UK retains access to the IEM, which provides stability for energy companies and helps keep household bills down…UK energy security depends on gas and electricity from the IEM and it is essential therefore that we take no risks with that. The issue of energy needs to be treated with the highest importance by the government as the negotiations on Britain’s exit begin.”

Key players and commenters in the sector are almost unanimously giving a negative outlook as a result of the leave vote. These include factors such as higher costs, consumer impacts and a likely reduction in funding of scientific research; but the result is perhaps best summed up by Professor Rob Gross, of Imperial College, who said: “victory for leave creates uncertainty, risks instability, weakens the UK’s negotiating position and, at least in the short term, discourages investment.”  The lack of stability and certainty will not only impact renewables but other low carbon energy projects; for example, the scraping of the controversial proposed nuclear power plant at Hinkley Point (which was to be built by the French company EDF) seems a likely outcome of the referendum.

It is clear that energy policy needs to be a priority for the new government, to give reassurance to the industry. However, even if it does become a priority it would seem optimistic not to view the vote to leave the EU as negative for the UK energy system and low carbon energy in particular.

Sources:

Quotes are taken from https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2016/jun/28/leave-vote-makes-uks-transition-to-clean-energy-harder-say-experts

For background information on the IEM http://www.europarl.europa.eu/ftu/pdf/en/FTU_5.7.2.pdf

“How to provide bioenergy in the Nordic and Baltic regions? Wood is the future!” – ENERWOODS

LUKE image 23-06-2016

The joint Nordic-Baltic collaborative research project ENERWOODS (wood based energy systems from Nordic and Baltic forests) has now concluded after four years of research and outreach. The project results clearly demonstrate both the leading role of forests and forestry in today’s renewable energy systems, and the large and often overlooked potential for further expanding the supply of wood and woody biomass – both in the short run, but particularly when employing a scope of 2050 and beyond.

It is expected that a 50-100 percent increase of forest productivity at the stand scale is possible. This is a conservative estimate and is viewed relative to today’s most common forest types, and in a sustainable forest management context.

The ENERWOODS project included partners from Sweden, Finland, Norway, Latvia, Estonia and Denmark. The results and conclusions apply to these “ENERWOODS-countries”.

GREBE partner Luke (Natural Resources Institute Finland) had the lead on the Work Package 2 – Forestry logistics. WP2 focused on wood procurement principles and systems optimized towards much higher woody biomass production, long distance transportation and precision supply.

How to provide bioenergy in the Nordic and Baltic regions? Wood is the future!

Why:

  • Wood and woody biomass is already the most important source of bioenergy in the Nordic and Baltic region.
  • Harvesting low-grade wood material can foster an increased biofuel supply in the coming decades.
  • Forests can become more productive, and adaptive to climate change by using well-known silvicultural measures
  • Forests can thereby contribute much more to a sustainable development of our societies towards carbon neutrality by 2050

How:

  • by genetic improvement, introduction of non-native tree species, fast growing nurse trees, fertilization as well as afforestation.

Utilisation and implementation depend on policies and regulations as well as public perceptions of nature conservation, biodiversity, recreation, game management, ground water etc. Diverging interests related to forestry and conservation can be aligned.

The large forest areas and the well-established forest management, forest industry and infrastructure in the Nordic and Baltic regions makes these regions well prepared along all of the value chains to implement the more intensive management if confidence in the profitability can be justified.

Woody biomass is already the largest contributor to our renewable energy systems. An increase of this component is likely to need relatively small additional investments to provide a high impact compared to other alternatives in the renewable energy systems.

Measures needed to reach the potentials of forests and forest management

The region is already in the frontline of replacing fossil energy with renewables. Currently renewables provide 46 percent of the total energy consumed, which is far more than the average EU target of 20 percent by 2020. Bioenergy and waste account for 65 – 97 percent of the renewable energy in Denmark, Finland, Sweden, Estonia and Latvia. Forestry products are the dominant fraction of the bioenergy supply. Unfortunately, statistics do not distinguish between biomass and waste nor the various sources of biomass (forestry, farming, peat etc.).

Logistics

ENERWOODS results indicate that modern logistic systems should be based on larger trucks than now, in addition to the trains and ships that generally are recognized at the most cost and climate efficient means for transportation whenever feasible.

Some of the measures mentioned can be implemented with short notice (fertilization and afforestation). A common rotation length in the region is now typically 70 years – longer under colder climate and shorter under warmer climate, and very much depending on e.g. other site conditions and species. Consequently, a full implementation will take longer than the 70 years.

The ENERWOODS project results can be relevant and find implementation possibilities also in the Northern Periphery regions and GREBE partner countries.

The complete ENERWOODS executive summary can be found through the following link: http://enerwoods.ku.dk/boxes/recommended-reading/ENERWOODS_Executive_summary_v._3.pdf

GREBE Project meets in Inverness

The GREBE Project met in Scotland last week for their third project meeting.  As part of the meeting, GREBE met with another NPA funded project ‘FREED’ on Monday 5th June to discuss synergies between the two projects.  We then had two days for meetings to discuss the project activities and the reports on policy initiatives, funding mechanisms and climatic challenges of the NPA region which we will publish in September.  On the fourth day of our meeting, our Scottish partner, the Environmental Research Institute (ERI) organised site visits to look at renewable energy technologies in use in different areas.

Our first visit was to Dingwall Wind Co-Op http://dingwallwind.org.uk/.  The Dingwall Wind Co-op owns and runs a 250kW wind turbine just above Dingwall in Ross-shire.  The turbine is the first 100% co-operatively owned wind development in Scotland. The co-op was launched in September 2013 and the turbine was commissioned on the 16th of June 2014.  There are 179 members of the co-op, 90% of whom are from the local area. The co-op will contribute to a community fund estimated at between £2000 and £8000/year. Members of the co-op receive a good return on their investment and EIS tax relief. The landowners, who originated the project, receive a rental payment for use of their land.

Dingwall Co-op

Our next visit to John McKenzie at Scroggie Farm http://flyingfarmer.co/john-mckenzie/green-energy.  Using his own farm as a starting point, in 2009 John took his various experiences, particularly those from visiting the remote islands of Scotland, and embarked on a number of projects to promote local energy production and saving. The result is a farm that harnesses the wind, rain and sun for energy production.  The systems at the farm include Wind, Hydro(on and off grid), Solar PV, Solar Gain, Solar Thermal, Biomass, Electric Car.  Off-grid hydro equipment supplied by Powerspout Hydro Turbines.

We then visited to Black Isle Brewery http://www.blackislebrewery.com/, which is an organic brewery and use a biomass fed boiler to heat their HLT.

Our last visit of the day was to see a new 4MW biomass steam boiler at Tomatin Distillery http://www.tomatin.com/.  This biomass boiler is fuelled by locally produced wood pellets, provided by Balcas which allows Tomatin to displace the majority of the distillery’s heavy fuel oil and, in doing so, cut its carbon emissions.

 

GREBEs Entrepreneur Enabler Scheme participants selected in Northern Ireland

Mentoring image

Fermanagh and Omagh District Council (FODC) have now selected the 12 participants for the Entrepreneur Enabler Scheme under the GREBE project.  It was interesting and challenging to make the final selection.  FODC are keen to support all those applicants but having had to make a decision, will try and support those not selected in perhaps more appropriate ways.

The process of mentoring involves companies engaging with external experts whose role is to support and challenge the business to address issues which may be adversely affecting their capacity to grow and develop.  The GREBE pilot will work with a range of companies all engaged in a wide variety of activities around renewable energy.  These companies have indicated there is something with which they need specific assistance.

Mentor matching has now complete and we can confirm that first meetings have taken place.  Details of the businesses selected will be published in our next GREBE E-zine which will be published and circulated in August.  After this, we will focus on one company at a time and write summary case studies to demonstrate how the support measures are working for the businesses, as the project moves forward.  These will also be published on our social media platforms.

Over the next number of months, we will be working with these businesses to address some of the challenges that face entrepreneurs working in the renewable energy sector.  The inputs and outputs from this engagement will provide an exemplar of how businesses operating in this sector can be best assisted to operate.

The pilot will then be rolled out across the whole GREBE project which covers regions including Finland, Iceland, Norway, Republic of Ireland and Scotland.

The FODC project co-ordinator for GREBE, Una Porteous spoke of how exciting it is to have gotten to this part of the project where mentors are now in position and able to commence work with the businesses.