Friday, 20 January 2012

Energy Costs - Facts v Misinformation

One of the frequent myths we hear is that investment in renewable energy projects is causing domestic energy bills to rocket. In a recent anti-wind farm meeting held locally two of the three speakers spoke of this; despite their anti-windfarm stance one acknowledged that the increase was approximately £15 per annum per customer, the other asserted that renewables were a prime reason for escalating home energy bills. As a responsible company we advice caution when hearing 'information' which is not backed up by properly referenced, peer reviewed data.
The following facts are backed up by clear empirical evidence.

  • the annual cost of support for investment in renewables (the Renewables Obligation) was £1.1bn in 2009-10, meaning an additional £20 on the average customer bill. This contrasts with the £2bn annual cost of nuclear decommissioning.

  • the cost of low carbon energy in the form of large-scale onshore wind output is £83 per megawatt hour (MWh), nuclear power £96-98/MWh, carbon capture and storage £105-158/MWh and run of river hydro £69/MWh

  • onshore wind will be cost competitive with gas and coal generation by 2016 (Bloomberg report)

The full factsheet with referenced sources is available here.

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Lomond Energy Sponsors Local Event

We're very pleased to hear from the organisers of this year's Dumpling Duathlon that the event around the village of Gartocharn, where Lomond Energy are based, has raised an impressive £1700. As in 2010 Lomond Energy were a core sponsor of the event which involved 160 people undertaking a 4km run or walk followed by a 10km cycle. Very much a family oriented duathlon the age of participants ranged from 6 months to 70 years and we are pleased to say the entire Lomond Energy team took part in driving rain and very muddy conditions (photos to follow) and were still smiling at the finish line. Funds raised will be shared between MacMillan Cancer Support and Gartocharn Primary School. The name 'Dumpling' comes from the local name describing the shape of Duncryne Hill on the south side of Gartocharn.

Monday, 4 April 2011


Although not something Lomond Energy advise about on a daily basis we are very interested in the microgeneration level of power and our office consumption is supported by solar pv. This website very neatly illustrates the take up of micro renewables throughout the UK. Top area for generation is Orkney Islands (predominantly wind), followed by Cornwall (predominantly solar). Our very own West Dunbartonshire only has 3kw of PV, one third of which is powering this office. This picture is one of change though and more individuals and organisations are looking at ways to improve energy efficiency and generate some or all of their own power.

Tuesday, 8 February 2011


A very good piece of writing by Maria Caffrey published today in the Guardian summarises the reasons why onshore wind is a key part of the UK energy mix, now and in the future. Three key stats for you;
* One quarter of Scotland's electricity was supplied by renewables in Q4 of 2010
* A large wind turbine in the UK supplies, on average, 50% more energy than the same sized tubine erected in Germany
* 10,000 people are employed in the UK wind sector and this is expanding.

Friday, 21 January 2011

If it ain't broke don't fix it...?

Recent announcments from the Coalition Government on Electricty Market Reform spell the start of another period of investor uncertainty in the renewables industry - just at a time when developers and manufacturers are 'tooling up' for the next wave of offshore development, and green energy - mainly wind - is proving not only its economic worth in an uncertain economic climate, but in terms of making a serious dent in our use of fossil fuel generated power.
Only last weekend, despite reports of 'the wind slowing down' from some broadsheets which should really know better, wind was putting almost a tenth of all power consumed onto the UK grid, giving our dominant gas generators a breather and slowing down the UK import meters connected to French nuke stations.
In the meantime our ageing nuclear fleet kept humming away in the knowledge that it is to be re-branded the new green fuel, and its future UK developers (mainly French, German and Spanish) are now lined up to be guaranteed some form of public support mechanism to allow new plant to be built alongside a potentially 'one-size-fits-all' deal for low carbon generators.
In doing so, renewables could be forced down the same 'market reform route', as apparently the current renewable price support system - the Renewables Obligation - isn't working. Well, whilst not perfect, it is working, and as more renewables capacity gets approved and built, it will get even better. Of course there is a consumer cost to the RO - just over a billion last year - but in the context of the £2.4bn spent over the same period to clean up decommissioned atomic plant this seems quite a bargain, not least as renewables are set to take nuclear's 3rd place in the power generation game after gas and coal within the decade.
The EMR is out for consultation at present, with proposals ranging from opening up the curently limited Feed in Tarriff to larger generators (good), to more complex market intervention arrangements such as 'capacity payments' and 'contracts for differences' which are most notable by their lack of detail (not so good!). But then what else are such consultations for, if not for industry to let Government know exactly what it wants!
Whichever mechanism evolves it needs to be fair, transparent, affordable and simple. But above all, it must be put in place in such a way to maintain market confidence if we are to continue to reduce our dependance on imported fossil fuels, decarbonise the economy and achieve the energy mix we are looking for.

Saturday, 24 April 2010

Would a turbine work on my land?

We're never short of enquiries from folk asking about whether their site might be suitable for wind power, and we're always happy to help out if we can. The recently announced Feed in Tariff however has generated a huge surge in interest in the small wind turbines sector, the tariff structure now making home-made power a viable prospect for many householders, whether from solar PV roofs in urban areas or standalone wind turbines on farms and small holdings.

But before being taken in by the claims of equipment manufacturers and suppliers, it is always prudent to check the reality of your renewable energy resource to avoid dissappointment a couple of years down the line due to poor energy yields, and thus a much longer payback than first expected.

With PV this is fairly straightforward. Our 1.08kW system at East Cambusmoon (central/west of Scotland) has produced around 800kWh per annum over each of the last 6 years; the same setup would probably priduce 10-20% more on the south coast of England. In other words, expect around 800kWh per kW of solar PV capacity installed in the UK; a bit more in southern England, a bit less in northern Scotland! This assumes the panels are facing south and tilted at an angle of 20 degrees less than your position of latitude (eg. if you're at 56 degrees north, the panels work best tilted at 36 degrees from the horizontal - conveniently the pitch of many a roof!). It goes without saying they shouldn't be in shadow by any nearby obstructions!

But the wind is a bit more tricky. At any one time it's fickle, inconsistent, and above all very site specific. On the plus side a few things are predictable; it's windier near to the coast and high on the hills, it tends to blow harder during the day than at night, and more often in winter than in the summer. These patterns also loosely correlate to energy use, such that a wind turbine is more likely to generate electricity when its needed.

So how do we work out whether a site is any good? The 'near-to-coast' and 'high-as-possible' rules are a good start, followed by a quick check on the well-worn NOABL database which provides the estimated annual mean windspeed on each 1km square of the UK. The database however carries a long list of health warnings, as it takes no account for local topography and obstructions, and simply boils down to a computer model.

The best way is to measure and record the windspeed and direction where the turbine is intended to be installed. For 'big wind' we go to great lengths to do this, using superbly engineered wind-tunnel calibrated instruments mounted at several levels on a mast which needs to be at least 2/3 the intended hub height of the turbines. The recorded data - typically wind speed, direction, temperature, and sometimes humidity and rainfall - are transmitted daily via the cellphone network to the office for collection and analysis.
Whilst the high cost and complexity of this kit is prohibitive for the prospective home-generator, working out whether to invest the equivalent cost of a high-end family car in a wind turbine warrants somewhat more than poking a wet finger in the air.

Enter the Power Predictor, a new device on the market which combines th measurement of windspeed, direction and solar energy with a data loggr in a package for around £150. We've been testing one at East Cambusmoon since last Autumn, and both performance and useability have so far been impressive, even through our severe winter.

Data is recorded onto an SD card, which can be removed from the logger and the data uploaded every few weeks or so to a website which provides an analysis of the results, thus requiring no specialist analytical knowledge. Wind geeks can also pour through the raw data by downloading to Excel.

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

FiT for purpose?

The Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC) last week ended years of lobbying, months of anticipation and a few weeks of anxiety for the micro-generation sector by announcing the rules and tarriffs for a new system of supporting small and micro-scale renewables, the Feed-in Tarriff (FiT).

FiT's work by offering a Government-backed and guaranteed price for electricity generated from power producers, a system which has been successfully used for at least a decade in other countries to stimulate growth in renewable energy development.

In the UK, commercial scale renewable energy has been supported by the Renewables Obligation (RO) since 2001, a 'carrot & stick' approach which requires electricity supply companies (ie. the folk who send you the bill!) to supply a set percentage of electricity from renewable sources to consumers. As such it is in the supply companies' interest to contract to buy electricty from renewable generators or develop their own green capacity, which is why the big utilities are the major developers in the market.

Small projects (typically less than 5MW installed but down to domestic solar panels and wind turbines) have also been supported under the RO alongside a mish-mash of capital grant schemes, but neither have really provided sufficient market stimulus or caught the public's attention at a scale beyond dedicated early adopters and self builders. The FiT is therefore game-changing for this sector, being ultimately designed to yield a ca. 5-8% tax-free return across the various technologies supported - a relatively low risk investment which many a financial adviser might struggle to match in the current market.

Take solar PV. A retrofitted 4kW system might cost £20k to install, yet produce around 3,200kWh of electricity per year - not far short of the UK average domestic electricity consumption. For this the FiT would pay 41.3p for each kWh generated, giving a 'FiT' annual income of £1,322. About 60% of the electricity generated would by used within the property, avoiding the use of 'imported' electricty at 10p/kWh, so this is worth £192 annully. The remaining 40% is exported at guaranteed price of 3p/kWh, worth £38. So the annual total is £1,552; not bad for a £20k investment, plus an uplift in the value of the house.

Expect your local electricity supplier to offer to install solar PV panels alongside a new electric shower and a house re-wire in your next bill...!

Details of the FiT can be found here on DECC's website.

Friday, 15 January 2010

Merkins Wind Farm - First Public Meeting

Consultation and public engagement are so very important to good planning, whatever the subject matter. Over the past year greater direction has come from the government on the requirements for public consultation for larger schemes, including proposed wind farms over 20MW in size. Pretty much all the developers we know in the wind industry carry out consultation and engagement activities in excess of the guidelines and usually apply it to schemes under 20MW as well. Its a matter of best practice and good professionalism.
Last evening the first public information evening in respect of the Merkins Wind Farm proposal took place in Gartocharn. Despite the inclement weather conditions some 30 people attended to hear Steve's presentation on the project, the work undertaken so far and our plans to be in a position to complete the Environmental Impact Assessment and submit a planning application in Summer 2010. A lengthy and interesting Q&A session followed the presentation. We shall also be carrying out similar public information in neighbouring communities.

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Beauly-Denny green light...

BBC Radio Scotland ran a phone in this morning over the long awaited Beauly Denny power line upgrade decision which was made today. Of course opponents jammed the lines, the debate often transgressing to the well worn (and discredited) rants against onshore windfarms and renewable energy policy in general.
I didn't get this is what I wanted to say to if I had:

Myth 1: Wind doesn't work when we most need it, ie now!
Answer: From the actual output data of operating windfarms I am involved with, they certainly have been generating lots of electricity during the recent cold spell! This myth is often rolled out by objectors at times of crisis, but nobody in our industry is advocating wind as the sole source of our energy needs; the balancing capacity is already there and will continue to be there.

Myth 2: We need's most reliable.
Answer: Since when was uranium mined in Scotland? The UK? At risk of opening this can'o'worms, let's just say the Scotland givernment is currently saying no to future nukes; it's not on the agenda north of the border. And why should it be when we are blessed with our own natural resources to generate more power than we need?

Myth 3: Let's build big hydro again to meet our renewable needs!
Answer: Good idea, but fraught with environmental difficulties. Let's not forget that onshore wind capacity built in the last decade now produces more eletricity than hydro capacity built in the last century...but we do need both.

The decision is a good one for the renewables industry and shows real political action over rhetoric. As far as the undergrounding question goes, the Scottish Government in its statement on the decision makes it clear that it has no legal powers to enforce undergrounding - so why the apparent confusion?

Monday, 14 December 2009

Welcome to our blog...

I must admit that the launch of our new website, this blog and the imminent submission of another two wind farm planning applications is entirely accidental timing alongside the crescendo building at the Copenhagen summit (COP15) and renewable energy hitting the headlines again!
Yet for all the media coverage of Climate Change, depletion of fossil fuels and the balance of energy independance in the UK moving beyond our control, I often wonder whether more can be done to promote the link between these factors and the real opportunities we have to further develop our renewable energy industry in the UK.
As a small independant developer in an industry which is rapidly maturing, we're certainly keen to play our part in putting that message across through this blog. In doing so we'll be sharing our thoughts on energy politics, technologies, our detractors, and any other stuff we just want to get down on a post which makes a contribution to the debate! We hope you enjoy our blog and look forward to your feedback.