Friday, 16 March 2012

Breaker Hill wind farm #13

Yesterday, South Ayrshire Council's regulatory panel voted unanimously to reject the Breaker Hill wind farm planning application. Fantastic news. I think the rural communities in the area owe a huge vote of thanks to the small group of activists who were central to the opposition effort for many, many years. That group know who they are; they certainly have my respect. Doggedly, they spread the word about the potential development and ensured there was a healthy number of objections from a diverse cross section of individuals. Well done all. I will be updating my maps and statistics accordingly at the weekend.

Yesterday's decision also sends a strong political message: South Ayrshire Council will measure wind farm applications against a very strict set of criteria and will not just approve anything in a effort to see Scottish Government policy implemented at any cost. Having said that, it is still essential that people continue to express opinions about other developments. The planning system both permits and encourages this, and people should not feel shy about expressing their opinions.

There is of course always the possibility that the developers will appeal the decision. If they do, there is little more that can be done. However, if an appeal is launched and the Council's refusal overturned - then South Carrick will have to look no further than Edinburgh to find the individuals who would have been responsible for the wanton destruction of South Carrick. Let us all hope that the developers and land owners associated with Breaker Hill will now just walk away from this application with good grace and accept the verdict handed down yesterday.

Thursday, 1 March 2012

Breaker Hill wind farm # 12

Earlier today, I received a copy of the Planning officers addendum to the report on the Breaker Hill planning application which goes before the regulatory panel on March 15th. Now, I hadn't read the additional material in detail at the end of last year, but a quote in the planning officer's report caught my eye. In essence, the Additional Information main text contains the following: "the addition of Breaker Hill into an existing landscape baseline that already includes a number of operational and consented developments has resulted in both a local and wider landscape that is characterised by windfarms and could actually reduce the overall sensitivity of that landscape to accept wind farm development".

I suppose it was bound to happen sooner or later, a developer attempting to justify one development by making reference to existing ones! In other words, the landscape's already broken, so why not let us just go ahead anyway? At least the planning officer didn't fall for that one. Links to all of the additional documents submitted by the developer are available here.

Also noted in the report is the rather pathetic attempt by the developers to make use of an organisation called Alliance4wind. This group of people accosted members of the public in Ayr attempting to get them to sign letters of support for the development. Needless to say, all 255 letters were received too late for inclusion in the original report. Shame. The recommendation of the planning department is still for refusal.

I headed over to the Alliance4wind website and found a few interesting things. First of all, the web site is actually a sub domain for the free hosting service that used to be called synthasite, but is now known as yola. So whoever these people are, they clearly cannot be bothered to register their own domain name (which by the way, IS available) - ohh, but hang on a minute, they'd have to give their address for that wouldn't they? And the contact telephone number? A mobile. Says it all really. Going back to the home page, Alliance4wind claims that its website is powered by ecotricity renewable energy. Given that yola is based in San Francisco, I sincereley doubt the accuracy of this claim. Whoever Alliance4wind are, they clearly are neither professional nor credible! Perhaps we will see them campaigning for support for Straid Farm wind farm - I'll look forward to that!

Monday, 27 February 2012

File download issues

I have become aware that there are ongoing issues with regard to the server on which I host the files for download from this blog. This is a continuation of the previously reported issues - basically caused by a massive influx of new users at FileFactory, which in turn was caused by the shutdown of a number of other file hosting services for copyright law breaches. I have no information on a resolution date for this issue, and can therefore only apologise for any inconvenience caused.

I am currently considering moving my document library to another service provider - but with approaching 3,000 files - such a move could be a big job!

Glenchamber wind farm # 4

I'm a bit late reporting this (I've only just found out), but it is now clear that at the end of 2011, RES submitted an appeal against the refusal for the Glenchamber wind farm planning applicatoin. No great surprise really. The press release regarding the appeal can be found here.

This appeal rally is one to watch, since Dumfries and Galloway Council refused the application partly on Visual impact grounds. Now, if this application is overturned at appeal I think that it will well and truly demonstrate that the planning system as a whole with regard to wind farms is irrevocably broken. I have yet to be convinced of the real independence of the reporters who review these cases.

Sunday, 26 February 2012

A word on subsidies

A lot of folk are waking up the the fact that wind farms are not really about generating clean and green electricity. That they do generate electricity is not in doubt - providing they get they right sort of wind, you know, not too much, not too little just so. I will leave the 'green' thing alone for this post - other fish to fry don't you know!

I notice that the traffic on this blog has increased lately, and I suspect I know why - perhaps a development proposal close to a certain South Ayrshire landfill site has something to do with it. Anyway, for those of you who are new to this blog, I wanted to concentrate on subsidies in this post - and give a quick and easy method of understanding just how much one of those wind turbines actually generates in terms of cash for its operators. For those familiar with these things I apologise for covering what you may feel is old ground.

OK, on with the words. First of all, I need to explain what the term load factor means in relation to a wind turbine. Essentially, it is the actual percentage output of the rated capacity of a turbine (or group of turbines) over a period of time. For example, a 2MW turbine does not always generate 2MW. Over an extended period of time, it will actually generate far less. Wind farm developers will often claim a 30% load factor, but the reality is usually about 25% - and that's perhaps being a little generous. What this means is that a 2MW turbine will in actual fact only generate 25% of 2MW when taken over a period of time. The debate regarding load factors has raged for a long time and I'm not going to go into that here, so we'll go with 25%.

Now, electricity suppliers have to show that a certain percentage of the electricity they supply comes from 'renewable sources'. They do this by acquiring what are called Renewable Obligation Certificates (ROCs) - from the electricity generators. And these cost. Generators can trade these ROCs - they can even stockpile them for two reporting periods. And how much does a ROC cost? Well that varies. This site will give you an idea of how much a ROCs are being traded for. I'm not going to average out that lot of figures for the purpose of this post - but £47.50 looks like a reasonable average. For an onshore wind farm 1 ROC is created for each MWh of electricity generated. So, how much is a turbine worth in terms of ROC revenue per year? Let's take a 2 MW turbine and see: (2X24X365.25)X25% = 4,4383 ROCs. Taking the average price of a ROC as £47.50, we find that those 4,383 ROCs are worth £208,192.50. So essentially, a turbine is worth about £104,000, per MW of installed capacity per year (assuming a 25% load factor).

Let us also not loose sight of the fact that the electricity a turbine generates is also saleable (this site will give you idea of how much that can be per MWh). At the time of posting, the 48 hour average sell price was just over £50 per MWh. Finally, let's not forget that operators may also receive constraint payments to 'not produce electricity' - at a rate they can name. So essentially, a 2MW turbine could easily be worth around £400,000 per year in revenue for the generator, and more than 50% of that would be subsidy through the ROC system.

Now going back to those ROCs. Who pays for them? I'm afraid it is you and I - the consumer. Money for old rope eh? All of the cash required for suppliers to obtain ROCs from the generators is built into our bills.

And the local perspective? Here is a short list of the built and proposed wind farms shown on my map, along with an estimate of just how much cash each wind farm will generate, in terms of ROCs over a year and assuming a load factor of 25% and a ROC sell price of £47.50 per MWh:

  • Assel Valley - £4,424,090 (proposed)
  • Breaker Hill - £2,029,877 (proposed)
  • Dersalloch - £7,182,641 (proposed)
  • Hill of Ochiltree - £2,394,214 (proposed)
  • Straid Farm - £3,830,742 (proposed)
  • Tralorg Hill - £2,081,925 (proposed)
  • Kilgallioch - £30,916,586 (proposed)
  • Glenapp & Loch Ree - £10,409,625 (proposed)
  • Arecleoch - 12,491,550 (operational)
  • Artfield Fell - £2,977,172 (operational & approved)
  • Hadyard Hill - £12,491,550 (operational)
  • Mark Hill - £8,744,085(operational)
  • North Rhins - £2,394,214 (operational)

Now totalling that lot up, we arrive at a figure of £102,368,271. So, if everything on my map gets built, wind turbines will generate over £100,000,000 per year in ROC subsidies alone for the generators. And realistically you can double this figure to give a general guide as to the total revenue potential for the generators (which will then include the revenue for the electricity generated). £200,000,000 per year then - for at least 25 years (which, in case you are interested equates to £5,000,000,000 - yes, that's 5 billion). Given that so many of these turbines have been, or could be built on agricultural land, the phrase cash cow really does spring to mind. Annoyed? You should be. I am - my map still has some suspicious lonesome met' masts.......