Beatrice Comes Online delivering 588MW

Beatrice construction

Scotland has been working hard on its biggest ever windfarm, work began in 2016 on the farm named Beatrice. Its located 13km from Caithness coastlines.

 Recently it has been announced that the last of the 84 turbines has now been installed. Compared to other wind farms Beatrice is in the top 4 in the world, with this in mind these wind turbines will provide power for much of the surrounding homes up to 450,000 homes to be exact could be powered from this mammoth project.

 It has taken many years of careful planning and sourcing the materials to start this huge project, and this project is finishing just as offshore and onshore winds future is looking more and more uncertain.

Beatrice will not only be one of the largest farms in the world but also one of the deepest at 58m, it also boasts turbine heights of 617ft from bottom to tip of the its blades! Interestingly this project uses jacket foundations as the base for all 84 wind turbines and will be the largest wind farm to do so. The ship used to carry out the major works is the Pacific Orca it is specially equipped for this kind of heavy lifting and can lift out of the sea onto its legs to carry out the work safely.

This offshore wind project is quite an achievement for Scotland and its renewable future, offshore wind is one of the most effective ways to harness the natural energy from wind and produce clean electricity. With the UK set to produce more power in a low-carbon way offshore wind has a big role to play in coastal areas, it a reliable and affordable resource that will boost our clean energy supply.

And not only will Scotland benefit from the power generated but also from the jobs created by this windfarm. And operations and maintenance base will be created and could generate 90+ jobs for area, old buildings have been renovated and reused, along with local factory’s and businesses which have been brought business during the manufacturing process of the turbines and jackets.

Jim smith of SSE renewables said:

“Delivering one of Scotland’s largest ever private investments on time and under budget is a fantastic achievement given its complexity and we would like to thank everyone who has helped us make the project a reality.”

Beatrice will provide 588mw of power, taller than the London eye these powerhouse turbines are a symbol of our ever-changing attitude towards renewable energy, the Uk is by far one of the best places in the world to invest in offshore wind projects

“In working with the government, the sector has shown it can deliver ever larger projects at ever lower costs while creating skilled, fulfilling, well-paid jobs”. – Greg Clark (business secretary)

UK Requires Robust New Renewables Policy to Protect Jobs

Green Jobs

Government cuts to incentives and lack of a coherent long-term policy for the renewable industry have caused much stress and anxiety in the industry. Those who supply and install renewables have been put under significant strain after many schemes and incentives where cut or scrapped all together. A new issue has come to light which is that jobs in this sector have now drastically reduced by a third. Between 2014 and 2017 companies began to struggle after many of the cuts were made and it is estimated that 30% of jobs then began to disappear.

This is a devastating blow to the industry. Renewables are the future of energy generation but with the lack of government backing and support it has become less attractive and more expensive for new projects to happen. This means less demand for installers and companies, reducing the amount of jobs. The government has now been urged to find a way to stabilize our greener energy supply and ensure UK workers are not left out in the cold.

One of the schemes that saw a drastic reduction in government money was the Feed in Tariff (FiT). The feed in tariff provided customers of solar panels with a cash reward for installing them to offset the large initial purchase fee. Every month they received money based on their electricity generation. The FiT was scrapped this year and whilst those who had solar panels already installed still receive the payments, any new owners will now not receive any extra money. This has undoubtably slowed down the rate of installations and had a knock-on effect for installers. And its not just solar that’s taken a hit. Other problems have arisen in onshore and offshore wind generation.

The uptake of renewables is now at an all time low, investments have slowed, and reports suggest it hasn’t been this low since 2012. The government has been urged many times to stop sabotaging the industry by cutting funding and altering planning laws which are making some projects more difficult. One of the main issues is with onshore wind. Planning issues mean that it is no longer allowed to bid in government backed auctions. The government has made it harder for these wind farms to be built due to complaints about how they look and how they affect the wildlife. While some of these factors may be true, it is argued that not only is it the cheaper form of energy generation, it also creates many jobs that currently are being missed out on due to the government blocking their production.

Sue ferns (senior deputy secretary at prospect) said:

“Successive governments have promised us a green jobs revolution, but after an initial upsurge we have now started going backwards. This is deeply worrying for the future of the energy sector and for low-carbon jobs in the UK.”

While a spokesperson for BEIS said:

We’ve seen the number of green collar jobs soar to approximately 400,000, with clean growth at the heart of this government’s modern industrial strategy. This figure could more than quadrupled to 2m by 2030. We’ve injected £2.5bn into low-carbon innovation and “the”
deal with the offshore wind industry will see up to £40bn infrastructure investment.”

A Makeover for Solar Panels

Chloe Uden and Naomi Wright

Solar panels, while useful and extremely valuable in the world of renewables, are often thought to be ugly, especially when on the top of your house!

A new project in Devon has begun and artists have started to look at ways to improve them aesthetically. The hope is to use art to improve the look of the solar panels and make them more pleasing to the eye. Chloe Uden and Naomi Wright are behind the community company Art and Energy. The funding they have received has been from the EU. Many of their ideas include shapes and pictures such as flowers and sculptures.

Some people have expressed reluctance to get solar panels because of the way they look and worry their appearance could de-value their home. Whilst the positives of having solar panels generally outweighs the negatives, people involved in this project believe that improvements can be made to encourage people to install solar. One feature on one of their solar sculptures is a phone charging point!

Art and Energy are a company of artists who wish to use their skills to make a difference to the climate problem currently being tackled all over the world. They believe their work can take everyday renewable energy systems and make them creative and beautiful. They believe they can create renewable energy systems that people want in their homes, encouraging more people to make the switch and helping the environment along the way.

The company has been running since 2018 and are based in Exeter, also doing work in Plymouth and Honiton. They have many dates and exhibitions where they show the work they are doing.

The EU and Climate Targets

EU

Climate change targets in the European Union are on track to be met by 2020. Of the 28 countries in the EU, 11 of them have not only met their targets but surpassed them. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case for all countries with some bringing up the rear. This means that for them to meet their intended 2020 and 2030 targets they will need an extra push to get there.

Leading the way for the EU are Sweden, Finland and Denmark. These countries have made a difference from the beginning with over half of their energy coming from renewables by 2012. Finland and Denmark’s main source is hydroelectric power which produces around 40 percent of the country’s overall usage. Biofuels are used as the main source of heat in Sweden.

In the EU, the countries with the lowest percent of renewables are Luxembourg and the Netherlands. Whilst investments have been made by these countries, they are far from reaching their targets and have been very much left behind by the rest of the EU. The Netherland’s biggest investment has been in offshore windfarms and they were also ordered by a court in 2015 to reduce their greenhouse gasses by 25%.  Despite this, the percentage of renewables remains at 6.6 percent and 6.4% in both the Netherlands and Luxembourg.

If you compare the Netherland’s mere 6.6% to France, you will see how far they have yet to come, France having a total of 16.3% of consumption that comes from renewables. France has a target of 23% for 2020. Biofuels are not the leading source of renewable energy in France, which instead favours wood and hydro power. The country has heavily invested in Nuclear, leading to 70% of electricity coming from this source. By 2022, the plan is for all of that to change. The government has promised to shut down 14 nuclear power plants along with its active coal plants in favour of renewable sources.

Another country planning on fazing out coal usage is Germany. In Germany, coal has always been, and continues to be, a major leader in the industry. The country’s policies now focus on cutting down its coal usage, currently 37% of electricity and 30% of heating coming from coal. This will need to be done over the next few years, being reduced gradually to ensure climate targets are met.

Each country’s targets are based on their individual situations, so all are different. However, they are all expected to meet these targets by 2025. The targets range from 10 – 14 %.

Eurostat said:

 “While the EU as a whole is on course to meet its 2020 targets, some member states will need to make additional efforts to meet their obligations.”

German Coal conversion to Heat Pump Energy Storage

German coal plant

Germany, like many other countries, has coal plants used to produce power all over the country. However, due to new investments in renewables and tackling climate change, it is now being investigated whether these coal plants could be used as energy storage assets instead. The German aerospace centre has been investigating this possibility. 

The idea involves using a molten salt storage tank in place of the old coal boiler and excess power produced by renewables will be used as heat for the tank. It is thought that the coal plants still being in use, could save many jobs which would otherwise be lost by their closure.  Another advantage of these storage plants would be their capacity of tens of gigawatts of extra power available to be used to power the country. The German grid may well be powered more by renewables than anything else if these changes take place. 

A pilot project is soon to take place and the results will be crucial to the development of more similar projects. Just one project could prove the success of the use of coal plants as renewable storage and it is hoped it could up and running within three years. The technology used is called a Carnot battery.  

A Carnot battery is used to turn electricity into heat. It is seen as environmentally friendly and is fairly inexpensive. Carnot batteries are a relatively new technology in renewables. The heat is stored in molten salt or water and can be turned back into electricity when needed, making these the ideal solution in renewable storage. Carnot batteries have been researched by DLR since 2014, the main challenge being to make the salt storage and batteries fit within the coal plant. 

Many utility companies in Germany have been hoping for longer use of coal plants, however they have now been given a cut off date with many plants being closed by 2023 and even more planned by 2030. This seems like the sensible option – to reuse the infrastructure and save many jobs in the industry. 

Whilst there is the challenge of fitting the technology into the existing infrastructure, it is not thought that cost will be huge. Energy is converted into heat at a temperature between 90°C and 500°C using a high-temperature heat pump, these are called Carnot batteries and they offer really good value as there will be no need for much building works due to using the old coal plants to house the new boilers and batteries. Grid connections are already available making the projects cheaper and easier to reuse.

While Germany hope to use the Carnot batteries, they also hope to use them in harmony with lithium ion batteries. This means there is backup power available, renewables could be used from the grid and when this power becomes low, for example in winter months, lithium ion batteries could provide the extra power needed. Some of the coal plants could remain, with coal boilers as well as the new salt boilers for emergency backup if necessary. 

Johnathan Walters said: 

“You’re going to lose the lignite jobs,” he said, but “you’re going to save the power plant jobs and you’re going to save some of the physical assets that would otherwise be written off.”  

UK’s Long Term Water Issues

Reservoir UK

There are new concerns from the environment agency that the UK could face water shortages in the future. The number of people living in the UK is rising and climate change means our weather is warmer than average. Concerns have been rising over recent years and the environment agency released a report outlining the concerns about the amount and quality of rainfall. 

The population in the UK will rocket to 75 million before 2050, which could cause problems in many areas and one of those is likely to be water. Up to 150 litres of water per person is used every day and much of that usage is wasted water. This has prompted the environment agency to look at ways to educate people on how to reduce the amount of water being used. Suggestions include shorter showers, water meters and toilets that use less water.  

Climate change is also a factor in the future of water shortage, the weather in the UK being warmer on average and continuing to get warmer. Experts predict hotter summers and with drier weather on the rise, droughts are naturally becoming more of a worry. Another thing we may see more of is extreme rainfall that is much less predictable and not consistent. Many things are being done to address climate change, but damage has already been done and we still may see some consequences of this in the future. 

Waterwise, a charity who advise people on water usage, have urged the public to reduce their water usage to 100 litres a day or less to aid the potential problems. With the summer months fast approaching and water usage set to rise due to the use of hosepipes and paddling pools, James Bevan, who works for the environment agency, has commented that we need to re think our approach to water. 

It is thought that the approach taken to energy and the new laws and legislation for new housing and energy usage should be implemented with water also. Currently there are no rules or regulations concerning water. While new houses do have some water efficiency devices, this is as far as it goes, and older houses still have the problem of having to completely re-do their water systems ,which of course costs money and time. 

One of the main issues that needs to be addressed in the UK is leaks, which is a major problem for water wastage. Unfortunately digging up pipes to fix these leaks causes much disruption to transport. Other ideas are now being tested to make the water systems in the UK more efficient. One project involves transporting water from the River Severn to the river Thames. Local residents don’t always approve of these new schemes and other projects, such as new reservoirs, are being put on hold due to concerns environmentally. Over all, more needs to be done to conserve our water supply and public backing is important to ensure an abundance of water in the future.

 “this is something we have to value, it’s something we have a collective responsibility for.” Said Adrian butler 

Councils Try Crowdfunding for Renewable Energy Projects

council chamber

Local councils are turning to wider communities to fund new renewable projects. The idea is like crowd funding; the community can use a platform called Abundance to donate as little or as much as they can towards a project in their area that could benefit the entire community.  

Swindon Council is the first to use Abundance, which allows people to buy debentures (similar to bonds) and they get a return on their investment on a regular basis. This kind of platform allows these projects to go ahead more easily and means that the local people benefit from not only their investment, but the clean energy produced. 

Swindon council have encouraged crowd funding in the area and have managed to build 2 new solar farms with the help of investors and have themselves donated money towards the projects. These solar farms now generate enough energy for around 1,200 homes, and residents benefit from the reduced carbon emissions, cleaner energy and those that invested, benefit from the returns. 

Other councils are now interested in following in Swindon Councils’ footsteps. Councils are keen to get these projects moving and it has become obvious that the public are supporting of the renewable sector and tackling climate change. Why not get them involved in the process and give them the opportunity to invest?  

Councils are up against yet more cuts to funding which have been happening since 2010. This leaves not only the vulnerable and local services at risk, but also the funding for renewable projects. This makes crowdfunding in this way, even more important for the future of these projects and the overall cutting of carbon emission in local communities. But other services remain at risk from the cuts. It is suggested that one in seven elderly people live with inadequate care or support. 

 And crowdfunding is not only being used in renewables but also to revamp tired and rundown areas. Brighton was one of those councils that have launched a crowdfunding campaign after losing out on government funding. Many other councils are doing the same and using their initiative when it comes to restoring the beauty of their towns and community. This approach uses the power of the people coming together to make their communities better for everyone.  

Bruce Davis, founder and Managing Director of Abundance Investment, approached 

“a number of councils about expanding the role of crowdfunding to a range of social infrastructure projects which would allow the community to invest directly in their local quality of life, economy and environment”. 

Wales 100% Renewable Energy Target

Wales coast Image

Wales is hoping to meet 100% of its energy needs by 2035 by using renewables. A new plan has been made by experts which sets out the need for Wales to allocate more money to renewables.  

Research has been done over 3 years to come up with this new, promising plan for Wales. It outlines the need for more money as well as support for new technology and the upgrading of homes and businesses. It is estimated that 870,000 homes in Wales need better insulation as well as other energy saving measures to ensure energy demand is lower. It would also mean renewables would be more effective in meeting the energy needs of the country. 

It is hoped that by 2030 in Wales, 70% of energy demand will come from renewable sources, but one of the biggest challenges that remains is heating. The current heating demand is high, and it is hoped that the new plans to insulate homes along with other options such as heat pumps, could fill the gap. It is possible that up to 170,000 heat pumps would be needed across Wales, along with biomass plants to supply the heat needed. 

All welsh people have been urged to play their part and think about how to lead greener lives. Ysgol y Bedol School in Garnant, Carmarthenshire, have done just that. The school has chosen to install solar panels, over 200 in fact, on their roof. The solar panels have saved the school thousands on their energy bills as well as helping the children to learn more about renewables, something the teachers have now incorporated into lessons. The company responsible for installing the panels, Egni, now has big plans for other buildings and businesses. Director Dan McCallum said: 

 ”everyone recognises about climate change and we’ve got to do something – we can’t get bogged down in bureaucracy and reasons why we can’t”. 

Wales has a strong determination to reach these targets and the plans set out are promising for the future of renewables in the country. Their plan outlines the use of tidal power to boost the energy supply when other sources such as wind and sun are low. During the winter months especially, this will give the backup needed to ensure energy demand is met. Not only will the plans boost green energy production, but they will also boost jobs. It is expected to create around 20,000 full time jobs for the country. 

It seems Wales is one country to watch in the future! 

Which Renewable Energy is Best for the UK?

Onshore Wind

Renewable energy means an energy that has been made using a natural resource which does not run out and does not produce greenhouse gases, such as wind, sun and water. Recently there have been discussions about which form of renewable is the cheaper way to make green energy. 

Caroline Lucas has stated that onshore wind is the cheapest way to generate energy. Looking at the figures, it would seem there are number to back up her claim. Onshore wind costs £63 a megawatt hour compared to other resources, such as offshore wind which costs £106 per mwh, and solar listed at £66 per mwh. Onshore wind it is currently the cheapest renewable source listed.

Scottish Power also made their own claims after research into onshore wind power. They claim it is also the cheapest form of electricity generation available. And renewable green energy in the UK has risen year on year. It was at 24.5% in 2016 rising to 29,3% by 2017. 

Onshore wind capacity has grown, but recently the growth has been hampered due to onshore wind projects being banned from receiving government money. It is thought that the government is trying to stop the development of onshore wind due to complaints from local people believing onshore wind farms are unsightly. However, recent studies have shown that attitudes may be changing, and onshore wind has gained more support. 

The government has since backed offshore wind power which has increasingly come down in price thanks to a government scheme which allows companies to bid for government money for the projects and receive a minimum price for power generated and sold. With offshore wind prioritised, we saw only 1 onshore wind farm built in 2017.  

Onshore wind brings many benefits to communities – cheap energy prices, jobs and community ownership schemes. It seems such a shame that the government are not behind onshore wind. A BEIS spokesperson said:  

 “The Government does not believe that new large-scale onshore wind power is right for England, but it could be right for other areas, where local public support exists.” 

The government has been heavily criticized for cutting out the cheapest, and one of the most effective sources of clean energy the UK has to offer, with a poll in 2018 showing that two thirds of people do not support the government policies relating to new onshore projects. Surely the government needs onshore wind to meet its climate change targets? 

The future for onshore wind is uncertain. Projects may go ahead in remote locations but generally it seems more expensive options will be favoured in the UK. 

New Biofuel in Aviation

Refueling Airplane

Climate change is being tackled in different ways all over the world, transport being one of the major hurdles to overcome when it comes to greenhouse gasses. Now experts are looking to the skies to tackle climate change and have come up with a solution to the problem of planes releasing toxic chemicals into the air.  Planes in Europe, it is hoped, could run on a mix of vegetable oil and animal fat mixed with kerosene.  

The planes will start to run off the new fuel which has been tested in aircrafts since 2011. The test results were good: Matti Lievonon, the CEO of Neste commented: “It worked amazingly well.” The new fuel doesn’t make a difference to the performance of the plane and it is said that passengers should not notice the difference when the fuel is used, in fact if anything, it has been proven that the planes performance is improved slightly. 

The company leading the success of this new bio-fuel is Neste, a Finnish company specialising in the aviation industry. Their fuel is not only suitable for planes but could also be used in cars. They claim the fuel emits 40% less harmful matter, 10% less nitrous oxide, and there are 90% less carbon emissions. Geneva airport was to start fuelling planes with this new eco fuel in 2018. Whether it is rolled out across the world remains to be seen, as it is still more expensive than oil-based fuel.  

Sweden has plans to not only introduce the use of this new mix, but also to enforce the use of it. The ex-leader of Sweden green party is due to release a report to the government highlighting ways to encourage the use of bio-fuels in aviation in the future. If after an investigation by the government, the new bill is passed, planes in Sweden would need to use biofuel from 2021 starting at the lower percentage of 1%, which would then be raised from 1% to 30% by 2035. These bio fuels will again be a mix of vegetable oil, animal fat and typical aviation fuel. 

It could affect the price of flights if airlines start to use biofuels. In Europe, it is estimated that the price should only be increased by 2 euros per flight, however looking further into the future, that price could rise by 2035. However, the benefits for climate change and the difference it could make to the figures, could make the rise in price worth it. If this fuel could be used in cars too, then it could make a huge difference to the amount of harmful pollutants produced in the travel industry every year. It is more likely though, that cars will turn increasingly to electricity in the future. Lorries, buses and planes are likely to benefit the most as they account for more of the co2 emissions. 

The pressure on all industries to meet targets and tackle climate change is growing. Aviation is no different, so by 2020 it is likely that bio-fuel could play a role in reducing its carbon footprint.