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.......

Breaker Hill wind farm # 11

This is a quick head's up to let you know that the regulatory panel for the Breaker Hill wind farm will meet on Thursday March 15th at the County Buildings, Wellington Square, Ayr. This is the meeting that was postponed from late last year, after the last minute document submission by the developers. We don't have sight of the running order of the meeting, so if you are interested in attending the panel meeting starts at 10:00AM sharp and I would strongly suggest that you arrive early to avoid disappointment!

Perhaps we will finally see this application approach a conclusion - after how many years? 7 I believe. Anyway, a strong showing is important, as it may help any panel members who are a little uncertain of the strength of local feeling to make up their minds.

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Kilgallioch wind farm # 5

Tucked away on the Scottish Power Renewables web site was this press release. It advertises three exhibitions for the amended proposal for Kilgallioch of 99 turbines. The exhibitions are to be held at New Luce (21 February 2012), Barhill (22 February 2012) and Kirkcowan (23 February 2012).

This press release is dated the 13th February, giving just 8 days notice for the first event; its almost as if they don't actually want people to attend and be informed - or ask awkward questions!

Sunday, 12 February 2012

Straid wind farm # 13

Right of the end of January, ecotricity submitted their planning application for the proposed wind farm at Straid Farm, although the application has only just become available online. The details of the planning application can be found here.

A quick scan of the Environmental Statement makes interesting reading. First of all, the grid connection will be at Mark Hill - some 9.5km from the proposed site. Presumably then, yet another set of power lines will have to be installed from the wind farm to MArk Hill. It should be noted however that the grid connection lines are not part of this planning application. Also of interest is the maximum operational wind velocity for the model of turbine being proposed: 25ms or 56 mph in old money. This shouldn't come as too much of a surprise, since the promotional leaflets handed out by ecotricity stated that they were going to use direct drive turbines (they are after all, cheaper to buy and maintain than those with gearboxes). I wonder how often these things will be standing idle if they are consented?

Further interesting pieces of data from the Environmental Statement from this proposed development include over 4,000 HGV lorry journeys (excluding turbine delivery), 7 km of new access track, and for the foundations plinths 4,354m3 of structural concrete (which equates to nearly 10,500 tonnes) and a total of 1,078 tonnes of steel reinforcing. Green things these wind farms aren't they?

The link above takes you directly to the planning application where you can leave your comments. Here is the non-technical summary of the application (with a nice photomontage of the proposal on the front cover). At the back of the document is a Zone of Theoretical Visibility (ZTV) diagram for the development - but do note that this particular ZTV does not include any operational turbines or any turbines from the 4 other wind farm planning applications currently under consideration for the area.

From this point forward the really interesting part begins - and over time we will start to get a measure of the support (or lack of it) for this particular development.

Friday, 10 February 2012

Big, still air

I don't know if you watched yesterday evening's Tonight programme on ITV, entitled The Cost of Going Green (the programme is available in itv's ITV Player - it was originally transmitted at 19:30 on ITV1). I did, and was somewhat disappointed with regard to the lack of depth in the subject matter being broadcast. Indeed, the situation we face in Scotland was ignored completely; Eigg was showcased as a fine example of community renewable energy schemes - and that was about it for Scottish specific content. Eigg isn't really representative of the industrialisation issues we face in some areas around here - Eigg's renewable energy scheme is really about providing islanders with their own power, which to my way of thinking makes a lot of sense.

However, there were one or two interesting pieces of information to come out of the broadcast. I will focus on just one. Renewables UK's Maria McCaffery stated (start at time index 9:18 for the full effect and context): ......"what we need to do to smooth out these peaks and troughs is actually to deploy more wind because we always have wind resource in the UK, somewhere....."

Hmm. OK, lets kick this one into touch straight away. First of all, have you ever heard of an Azores high? No, its not what you may be thinking. It refers to a permanent climatic feature that is located over the Azores in the Atlantic. It is a high pressure system that quite often extends (or ridges) north east over the UK. If this happens, because of the size of the permanent high pressure system itself, it tends to lead to a long period of stable, warm, windless weather. Eventually, other low pressure systems degrade this ridge and a more variable climate is re-established. Now, Azores high pressure systems tend only to affect the UK in the summer months, but we do experience high pressure systems in the winter, and to give you an idea of the size of some of these systems, here is a snapshot of a high pressure system the met' office thinks will establish itself right over the UK in the next 48 hours:

Note the lack of isobars (grey lines) over the UK (and Europe for that matter); this means there will be little or no wind. What is shown above is actually the result of two high pressure systems colliding, one from the south west, the other from the north east (rather than the aforementioned Azores high). However, the effect is the same - little or no wind. Now, I have to admit this is a surface pressure chart, but sometimes this lack of wind can extend well above 1,000 feet. Low pressure systems can also cause a lack of wind - wind after all is only created by air moving from a high pressure system to a low pressure system (ie, when there is a pressure differential), so if a big enough system (high or low) develops over the UK, we get no wind until other systems around us start to erode and break down the stable system over the UK.

The Azores high I mentioned earlier extend from the Azores (off the west coast of Africa), right across Europe and the UK - they are truly huge systems. As a result, the ridge that sometime extends across the UK tends to take sometime to break down (hence the long period of stable, still weather). Finally, we should not forget that Stuart Young quite recently demonstrated just how often we have no wind in the UK (Analysis of UK wind Power Generation, Stuart Young Consulting March 2011); to suggest that the wind is always blowing somewhere in the UK demonstrates an ignorance of monstrous proportions; it is a generalisation that has no basis in fact. And, it is certainly not a safe assumption to make when you are talking about having enough wind to drive umpteen Gigawatts of wind turbine output, and when that output forms such a significant part of the energy mix for the whole of Scotland. I am disappointed in some ways that this quote was included - it is 'factually incorrect' and grossly misleading but then again, I suppose I have come to expect such things from Renewables UK and when wind farms are reported by the mainstream madia. Ho hum.

Saturday, 4 February 2012

Rose tinted spectacles

Earlier this afternoon, I was having one of those surfing sessions - you know, the type that sends you all over the web, getting distracted left right and centre - leaving you eventually at a place that bears little resemblance to your original target! Well, I ended up at the Department of Energy & Climate Change (DECC) website - and more specifically, at a part that I didn't even know existed: the planning database. Sad really, but there you go!

Having found myself at the DECC planning database page, I decided to head over to their Renewables Map. Now, I'm the first to admit I struggle to keep a handle on what is going on in this tiny area of Scotland, but I thought the might of DECC would have their finger on the pulse. After selecting the appropriate options I produced the following map of wind farms in the South Carrick area (which I thought, should tie-in quite well with my map - at least, that is what I thought):

Looking at this map, no reference is made to the following submitted planning applications:

  • Kilgalioch
  • Breaker Hill
  • Assel Valley
  • Tralorg Hill
  • Dersalloch

even though the 'Submitted' filter was set.

Additionally, note how the same icon is used to indicate the Girvan Community Hospital turbine as is used for the entire Arecleoch development (which spans 9,637 acres); there is no indication of an individual development's scale. Well, not true - if you click on a turbine symbol (on the real map), you do get an installed capacity figure - but that's it. So, what precisely is going on here? Is a wind farm development regarded by DECC as just a pin on a map? Is there a deliberate intent to not show the true scale of development being undertaken? Is it pure incompetence on the part of DECC? One can only guess, and hope that Chris Huhne's replacement starts his tenure at DECC by trying to get a handle on the pickle his predecessor has left him.

The impact of this apparent lack of understanding is more concerning if you consider Chic Brodie's reaction to the out of date SNH wind farm footprint maps at the Wind Farm conference in Ayr towards the end of last year (given that he sits on the Economy, Energy and Tourism Committee). He expressed surprise at the scale of development shown on them - I wonder if he normally looks at the DECC map - or any map at all? Does anybody in authority have a clue what is going on and just as importantly, do they actually care?

Knockormal turbines

Very recently, two planning applications were submitted to South Ayrshire Council for the erection of a total of 4 turbines, in the area of Knockormal HIll. These turbines are no minnows, coming in at approximately 47.05 metres (154 feet) maximum blade tip elevation, they are likely to totally dominate the surrounding countryside. To find out the approximate positions of these proposed turbines, consult the map below (they are the two pairs of blue turbines in the middle of the map):

View South Carrick Wind Farms in a larger map

The South Ayrshire Council planning references for these turbines are: 12/00058/APP and 12/00057/APP. To put these turbines into a local perspective, they are approximately the same size as the Girvan Community Hospital turbine and their position in the surrounding landscape (and the fact that there maybe up to 4 of them) will make them difficult to miss. Here is the landscape and visual impact assessment document that forms part of this planning application. The photographs are probably the worst I have ever seen in relation to a turbine planning application and the viewpoints seem to be few and far between.

Map update

Almost all of this weekend's map update will be delayed until early next week. For the second weekend running, the South Ayrshire e-planning system is non-functional. I don't know if this is a planned outage, or whether it is just plain broken. I have an ever growing list of updates that I will apply early next week. Apologies for any inconvenience this causes.