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

ERI June 2017
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.

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.

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

GREBE identifies technologies which can be transferred from areas of best practice to areas where renewable energy uptake is low

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The Northern Periphery & Arctic (NPA) Programme area is undoubtedly rich in many renewable energy resources. However the form and extent of these resources vary considerably throughout the region. While these differences may be clear at national levels they also exist at more local levels as well and, as a result, areas within the NPA region will have very different technological requirements for the effective utilisation of renewable energy resources.  The aim of Work Package 5 is to link the appropriate renewable energy technologies to the available resources and corresponding demand, for every partner region participating in the GREBE.  This work package is led by Scotlands Environmental Research Institute (ERI), which is part of the University of Highlands & Islands.

The first step towards successful achievement of the objective was the 5.1 “Report identifying technologies which can be transferred from areas of best practice to areas where renewable energy uptake is low”.  This report lays the foundation for linking the appropriate renewable energy (RE) technology to the specific locality, through careful analysis of the input provided by partner regions, together with, identification of similarities and transferable solutions from one partner to another.

The main aim of this report is to inform the other activities in this work package by identifying key areas and technologies with the potential to generate new business models, in areas where renewable energy is less developed.    The report wishes to establish transferability of renewable energy technologies from areas of best practice to areas where RE uptake is low.  In order to ensure the appropriate level of coverage across all relevant technologies and key areas, all partners provided input for their specific region regarding:

  • Areas where non-renewable resources are meeting energy requirements, or where emerging businesses require new energy sources and are considering fossil fuel based energy systems.
  • Relevant Renewable Energy (RE) technologies and renewable integration enabling technologies relevant to the region, including the corresponding risk and market penetration levels.

Areas were separated in three different clusters – sectors, industries and geographic areas. As anticipated, there were recurrent key areas in the feedback from the partners across the NPA Region. The commonalities across the feedback from all partners, substantiates the fact that despite the geographical differences, the NPA region is facing similar challenges, which can be best overcome and realised by transnational cooperation. After a careful review of the individual partner feedback, recurrent areas across regions were pinpointed.  This generated a set of preliminary findings on transferable solutions from partners in which, areas of best practice integration of renewables where identified, to similar areas in other partner regions, where the uptake of renewables is low.

The second objective of the report was to identify the relevant RE technologies and renewable integration enabling technologies applicable to every partner region, including the equivalent risk and market penetration levels. A similar approach, as with the areas, was taken.  A review of the available technologies (the corresponding market penetration and risk) was undertaken, for every partner, individually. This led to the assembly of preliminary findings on RE technology transferable solutions, from regions where a given RE technology has high market penetration and low risk, to regions, where the same RE technology has low market penetration and high risk.  An in-depth analysis of the examined RE technologies, will be presented in our next report ‘A Collection of Case Studies across partner regions, accompanied by technology videos and advice notes’.

The finding of the report can be found on the Project GREBE website (http://grebeproject.eu/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/GREBE-Report-identifying-transferable-renewable-energy-technologies-February-2017.pdf )

The completion of the objectives set in the report, assist us in defining the parameters, technologies, areas and demand, which are all incorporated in the final product of Work Package 5 – the Renewable Energy Resource assessment (RERA) Toolkit.

GREBE Policy Workshops in 2017

Finland Policy workshop
Michael Doran of Action Renewables

Action Renewables is the lead partner for Work Package 3 on Policy and Funding Mechanisms, within the GREBE project.   Part of this work package is to organise policy workshops in each partner region. To date Action Renewables has participated in five policy workshops.  Since the start of 2017, there have been three workshops in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Finland.  The purpose of these workshops is to involve and support stakeholders within the renewable energy sector.

During the workshops we discuss the advantages / disadvantages of local policies for that area and discuss how they can be improved to help the economy. The policy workshops will involve representatives of relevant bodies and Government departments that set the renewable energy policy agendas.  Each policy workshop has been different.  The reason for this, the conditions within each country are different and they are different policies.  All of the policy workshops were chaired by Michael Doran and Mark Corrigan of Action Renewables.   Our Norwegian partner Narvik Science Park which hold a policy workshop in April and it is our intention all will be completed before June 2017. We will then have a list of potential new policy mechanisms which will support different partner regions.

Northern Ireland

The Northern Ireland policy workshop was hosted by South West College at their Dungannon campus on the 11th January.   For this workshop we had 10 representatives, who came from different sectors throughout Northern Ireland, including the Department of Environment, Invest NI, Fermanagh Omagh District Council, Fermanagh Enterprise and the Ulster Farmers Union.

This policy workshop focussed on the renewable energy industry in Northern Ireland and the lack of new policy development, and how this will have an impact on the economy.  Northern Ireland will have no policy supports for the sector after the 31st of March 2017.

Scotland

Action Renewables chaired the Scotland policy workshop on the 26th January.  This workshop was organised by the University of Highlands & Islands and was held in Inverness.   For this policy workshop, we had the privilege of four guest speakers

  • HWenergy provided an “Overview of current renewable energy policies and constraints”,
  • Scottish Enterprise on “The solutions that exist within Highland & Island Enterprise and Scottish Enterprise”,
  • Local Energy Scotland, on “Community participation in RE” and
  • Community Energy Scotland on “Communities constrained by the existing policies”

Scotland are very advanced on policies that support the renewable energy sector.  To date Scotland have 18 policy mechanisms, which support the sector and is a popular area for wind and hydro.  Many of their support mechanisms are for SMEs looking to enter the renewable energy industry.

Finland

Finlands policy workshop took place in Joensuu on the 9th February.   Finland is mainly focused on its forestry sector, so therefore biomass is their main focus.  At the policy workshop we had 12 participants from a variety of different sectors. We also had the honour of the following guest speakers:

  • Regional Council of North Karelia – Presenter Anniina Kontiokorpi outlined how they are preparing an implementation plan (roadmap) for North Karelia to achieve ambitious aims established in their Climate and Energy Program.
  • Mayor Asko Saatsi from the City of Nurmes – In Nurmes, bioenergy projects (bio refineries) are essential part of local development strategy.
  • Mika Juvonen, CEO/Bio10 Ltd. – Mika Juvonen has established organic waste treatment/biogas plant in Kitee.  He has been actively informing policies and been able to reduce barriers identified in sector.

New Norway – Scotland electricity cable proposed

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The North Connect Consortium plans to apply for a Norwegian licence to the Norwegian energy ministry for its planned interconnector between Sima in Norway and Peterhead in Scotland. The cable would make it possible to export the large electricity surplus in Norway and to import wind power from Scotland to Norway. It is estimated that the net annual power exports from Norway could be between 5-9 TWh.  

Industrial relationship

NorthConnect is a project company owned by four partners in Norway and Sweden. The companys directive is to plan, build and operate an cable interconnector between Norway and the UK. The project is now preparing for an application to the regulator for a financial arrangement which governs revenues on the 650km interconnector. The NorthConnect partners strongly feel that the project offers good value to the UK consumer and once built would help forge a strong complementary industrial relationship between Scotland’s world class wind sector and Norway’s hydro capacity.

On the Scottish side of the project, the development team is now preparing a planning application for subsea infrastructure works and near shore connections on the Aberdeenshire coast. These offshore works, if consented by Scottish Ministers, would hook up with the already consented onshore electricity converter station near Boddam and Longhaven.

Inclusion of a fibre-optic cable

The NorthConnect consortium is also assessing the feasibility of laying a fibre optic broadband link, alongside the power cable, to connect the north east of Scotland and Norway.

NorthConnect has investigated the inclusion of a repeaterless fibre-optic data cable in the project, and initial findings show it will be technically feasible and very cost-effective when combined with the power cable design, manufacture and subsea installation. The commercial aspects are being examined further, but NorthConnect has a unique geographic advantage where it meets the Norwegian and UK coastlines, crossing strong, existing fibre-optic links.This will also provide a significant opportunity to Norway and Scotland for the development of data-centres.

EU – Network Development plan

NorthConnect has been included in the EU’s 10 year Network Plan and ranked among the most important projects with PCI (Project of Common Interest) status for Socio-Economic welfare, CO2 reduction and integration of renewables across Europe.

The projects are ranked and scored across a number of technical, environmental and economic criteria, and NorthConnect shows up as one of the highest rated projects in Europe for Socio-Economic Welfare, CO2 Reduction and Integration of Renewables. A number of other independent studies over the past 3 years have also shown very high welfare value, carbon savings and renewables facilitation for up to 4.5 Gigawatts of interconnection between Great Britain and Norway.

The rumours are true – Norway and Scotland have an affair !