Repowering onshore wind in the Highlands and Islands

wind turbine 16-05-2017

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.

Renewable Energy Technology Development: Short Term Policy Recommendations for Nordic Countries

nsp-26-01-2017

There is a clear technological and economical pathway for the Nordic region to push towards a more near carbon-neutral energy system in 2050. The Nordic countries want to send a strong signal to the global community that the ambitious aims of the Paris Climate Agreement are achievable. This is the conclusion from the; Nordic Energy Technology Perspectives Report 2016 – from The International Energy Agency and Nordic Energy Research.

The ambitious pathway outlined by the Nordic countries, who specifically wants to act in four key areas:

  1. Strengthen incentives for investment and innovations in energy technologies.
  2. Boost European cooperation on grid infrastructure and electricity markets.
  3. Reduce process-related emissions in industry
  4. Accelerate transport decarbonisation

 

1.Strengthen incentives for investment and innovation in energy technologies.

The Renewable Energy Policy should accelerate the  roll-out of key flexibility technologies and  incentivise their utilisation for flexibility through market mechanisms and regulation. Markets must also adequately compensate flexibility services such as demand response in industry and  buildings, as well as the flexible operation of small power plants. Information technology (IT) infrastructure (smart meters) and IT platforms (consumer Apps or control systems) will be important  in achieving a rapid penetration of these flexibility services.

2. Boost European cooperation on grid infrastructure and electricity markets.

Coordinated effort to strengthen domestic grids and install new transmission lines is needed to  establish the future Nordic and European electricity system (‘The Green Battery Strategy’).  Regional collaboration on infrastructure planning is needed to ensure optimal investments and avoid bottle-necks in the grid. Coordination among Nordic governments is vital to ensure that policy accelerates  technological and regulatory progress in order to reduce total costs. Cooperation in reforming the common Nordic electricity market to allow greater flexibility and accommodate higher shares of variable renewables will also be important.

3. Reduce process-related emissions in industry.

The Renewable Energy Policy should take steps to ensure long-term competitiveness of Nordic industry while reducing process-related emissions. More variable and potentially higher electricity prices will put additional pressure on energy-intensive industry in the Nordic region, stressing the need to step up low-carbon industrial innovation. Governments should act to reduce the risk of such investment and use public funding to unlock private finance in areas with significant emission reduction potential.

4. Accelerate transport decarbonisation.

Even as Nordic countries pursue different technology strategies in parallel, they should not wait to draw on  the wide range of available policy instruments to stimulate fuel efficiency, low carbon technologies and shifts to more efficient transport modes. Governments should build upon positive experiences with measures such as congestion charging in urban settings, differentiated vehicle registration taxes, bonus-malus regimes, and altered parking fees, while also stepping up investments in infrastructure  for cycling, public transport and rail. Policies should also incentivise modal shifts from road freight to sea and rail, and from cars to public transport and cycling.

Nordic and European collaboration on energy policy can play a role to reach the ambitious aims of the Paris Climate Agreement.