Renewable energy finds a place in the sun

In every sense, the tide is coming in for alternative, sustainable forms of energy generation, with a surge in tidal, wave, wind power plus solar and biomass sources, as recent political and technological developments indicate, reports LAWE Editor Alexander Catto

Government backing is playing a key role in the UK to promote the development of a wide range of sustainable energy, with wind and wave power taking the centre stage. The politicians have joined the "green" energy cause, with Yvette Cooper, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for the ODPM , recently launching a parliamentary guide to wind farm development - Our Energy Future - the Role of Wind Power.

In January, SERA (the Socialist Environment and Resources Association), the Labour affiliated environmental think tank, published this definitive wind power guide for MPs and councillors.

The guide, produced in association with npower renewables and the British Wind Energy Association (BWEA) outlines the role of wind power in meeting the Government's renewable energy targets in the short to medium term.

The briefing document assesses the issues surrounding the development of wind energy and reviews some of the myths and facts about wind power, currently the most advanced of the current renewable energy technologies. It also outlines the challenges that the Government and industry must overcome to ensure that wind energy fulfils its potential in the UK, including a move towards more consistent planning policies and decisions. Difficulties with planning remains the biggest barrier to the development of and investment in renewables.

The planning hurdle was addressed in December with new planning guidance from the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, Planning for Renewable Energy, aimed at aiding the drive to deliver more electricity from renewable sources, such as wind and hydropower. The Government is committed to delivering 10% of our electricity from renewable sources by 2010, rising to 20% by 2020.

The recent publication of the UK's review of the Climate Change Programme suggested that the Government would find it difficult to meet the 2020 target without a significant expansion of the renewable sector and a far greater uplift in energy efficiency initiatives.

With this in mind, the UK Government has established the Renewables Obligation, through which electricity supply companies are required to source a percentage of their electricity sales (increasing each year) from eligible renewable sources.

Powering ahead

Recent months have seen progress on all fronts. In the autumn Mike O'Brien, Energy Minister at the DTI, announced an £8.5 million boost to solar and small-scale renewable, bringing the total funding for solar projects under the Major Photovoltaics Programme to £31 million.

The potential of biomass - using trees and plants as environmentally acceptable energy sources is also being examined under a one-year study under DEFRA auspices. Since 2002 the Government has given £66 million in capital grants for biomass projects. This includes a £3.5 million UK-wide Bio-Energy Infrastructure Scheme offering grants to help harvest, store, process and supply biomass for energy production.

On the wind energy front, the British Wind Energy Association (BWEA) has predicted that there will be £7 billion of new investment into the sector by 2010. Wind energy is not without its critics, of course, particularly in Scotland, where Scottish Renewables,, the national Green Energy forum made a strong defence at the turn of the New Year of wind energy policy. This was a response to an attack by anti-wind farm campaigners on the policy, part of Scotland's drive to be a world sustainable energy leader.

On the marine energy front, the Scottish Executive is undertaking a comprehensive survey of more than 6,000 miles of coastline to help investors identify potential offshore sires for wave and tidal power.

The move to drive ahead with renewable energy was stepped up last year with the formation of the UK Centre for Marine Renewable Energy backed by the University of Edinburgh, Robert Gordon University in Aberdeen, the European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC) in Orkney and the New and Renewable Energy Centre in Northumberland.

Yvette Cooper MP, delivered the keynote speech at the launch event for the new wind power guide at the House of Commons . The Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (ODPM) outlined Government policies aimed at overcoming unnecessary planning application delays and improving the efficiency of the planning system in relation to wind farm development in particular.

Marcus Rand, CEO of BWEA said, "The future looks bright for wind energy in the UK and 2005 will be a record year with more projects than ever before being commissioned. However, we need to maintain the momentum achieved over the past few years."

Wind turbine order

The move towards renewable energy is paying dividends in economic terms, as one recent project illustrates. REpower UK Ltd, the joint venture between specialist engineering company Peter Brotherhood Ltd and wind turbine company REpower Systems AG, has secured its second multiple-wind turbine just over a year since the formation of the JV.

Eight 2 MW MM70 turbines will be supplied to Hainsford Energy (Caton Moor) Ltd and will replace ten 300 kW machines already installed at Caton Moor wind farm in Lancaster. This will increase the rated output of the IEC Class I wind farm from 3 MW to 16 MW. Planning permission for this re-powering project was granted at appeal in October 2004.

REpower UK will be responsible for the installation of the eight MM70 turbines. The turbines will be manufactured by REpower Systems in Germany with erection and commissioning likely to take place during the second half of 2005.

Peter Brotherhood's Managing Director, Stephen Fitzpatrick, said: "Winning this project is proof of the value of partnering with local companies who can offer expertise and experience when approaching new markets. We look forward to working together on this and many other UK projects."

The project was awarded to REpower UK for a number of reasons, not least of which was its ability to accommodate a large 2MW machine within the constraints of the planning conditions, which included a 90 metre tip-height restriction. REpower's MM70 turbines will be provided with a 70 metre diameter rotor on a 55 metre tower.


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