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.

SSE plans Doraville Wind Farm facelift

Doraville Windfarm

SSE is to reduce turbine numbers and redesign the layout at its proposed up to 115MW Doraville wind farm in Northern Ireland.

The utility-developer is to file the new plans with Belfast’s Department for Infrastructure in response to a request for further planning information for the Tyrone project.  A reduction in turbine numbers from 36 to 33 is being envisaged, as is a new hardware layout plan.  SSE is to kick-off a further round of public consultation on the changes.

It first unveiled the project – that is yet to secure planning approval – in 2014.   SSE community liaison officer Vicky Boden said the company has made the “important revisions” after “listening to suggestions and concerns” raised during planning. “We believe this new design responds to those concerns, providing the maximum environmental protection balanced with delivering the best proposal that can go forward to help all of us meet the challenge of climate change,” she added.

Landsvirkjun sees potentials in Windmill Park in Iceland

Iceland wind

On Landsvirkjun’s (The National Power Company of Iceland) promotional meeting they announced their will to develop further ideas about founding windmill parks in Iceland. Althingi (The National Parliament) has one area for those parks on a waiting list within a Master Plan for Nature Protection and Energy Utilization which was accepted 14th of January 2013. Another area, Blönd­u­lund­ur is again on a utilization list within the Master Plan mentioned above.

Hörður Arnarson the CEO of Landsvirkjun is of the opinion that electricity from wind could easily become the third electricity source that adds to hydro and geothermal heat. He claims that on Iceland the conditions for utilizing wind is in highest category worldwide when it comes to utilizing each windmill. Today the utilizing rate is 50% in Iceland as for only 28% globally.

Furthermore Hörður states production price is decreasing and costs parallel to geothermal heat.

As mentioned above there are certain hindrance when it comes to places. Blöndulundur for example has negative aspects as the transport route of power therefrom is quite limited and adding the third power plant there would call for further reinforcement of the transport route.

Great contribution to the climate issues

Hörður would be interested in installing 50 windmill park in Iceland with the power of 10-20 Megawatt each. The big issue today is the visual part according to Hörður. Both windmills and power lines are more visual than for example Hydro Power plants which are more adapted to nature.

Finally, Hörður talks about the future in solar and wind power. Both of these sources of power is well applicable today as the technique has gone through huge development as can be seen in many places globally, where these power sources are the most inexpensive ones.

Derived from mbl.is 7th march 2017

http://www.mbl.is/vidskipti/frettir/2017/03/01/landsvirkjun_horfir_enn_til_vindorku/