Monthly Archives: November 2013

//November

The Great British WindMeal: Celebrating farmers’ commitment to wind energy

Today celebrity chef Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall has joined forces with RenewablesUK to celebrate the wind industry’s role in British farming communities.

As the first of its kind, a menu has been created by the River Cottage Canteen, using ingredients by a range of UK farmers and food producers which have all been created by the power of renewable energy.

Wind power is breathing life into farming across the UK helping create products from cheese to ice cream, and WindMeal is helping to celebrate farmers commitment to lowering their carbon footprint, bringing down energy costs and providing their own source of much needed income.

64% of small to medium wind turbines in the UK are installed on farms today and people are now starting to see wind energy as a new ‘crop’. Hopefully more farmers will realise the potential for living in such a windy nation and how the opportunity can be embraced for both economic and environmental gains.

Are you aware of the upcoming FITs deadline?

If you’re a farmer you’ll know how rising energy costs and a fall in income from traditional farming methods has put a strain on the profession. Rural affairs regulator DEFRA have estimated that standard farm revenues are likely to be slashed by a further 50% in the coming year, so now couldn’t be a better time to look into alternative sources of income.

Many farmers have recently diversified their livelihoods by turning to renewable energy projects as an additional source of revenue. However, looming regulator deadlines mean that all new turbines need to be pre-registered by December 31st 2013 to reap the maximum available revenue. Farmers are now looking to beat the impending reduction in the governments green energy incentives and be connected to the grid by April next year.

Despite this, currently only 5% of farmers have wind turbines so the potential for an increase in interest is great. If you have a suitable site, now couldn’t be a better time to consider renewable energy projects, so what are you waiting for?

A new era of wind energy: electricity storage?

Some areas across the globe are producing too much electricity due to an abundance of wind. When energy demand at night is low, high winds are not an advantage, as too much electricity is being produced for the grid. However, recently, scientists have come up with a solution to this problem.

New studies show that energy generated by wind turbines could be stored deep underground in porous rocks to be used at a time when energy demand is higher and power supplies are put under a greater strain. The Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and Bonneville Power Administration have teamed up to put this theory into practice.

The new plants can switch from energy generation to energy storage in a matter of minutes, allowing flexibility for the variations in wind generation throughout the day and night. This concept could help manage and integrate more renewable energy into electricity grids across the world, encouraging further clean energy production.

So how does it work? When there is abundant energy, it is drawn from the grid and used to power a large air compressor which pushes pressurised air into an underground storage area. When the electricity is required again, the stored air is released back to the surface where it is heated and rushes through turbines to generate electricity.

It is thought that these plants can re-generate up to 80% of the electricity they take in. There are currently two such plants existing, one in Alabama and one in Germany, both using man-made salt caverns to store excess energy, however research is being done into using existing rock formations.

With more turbines being installed everyday, this concept could help us use even more renewable energy in the future.

Commitment from onshore wind industry to improve benefits to local communities

Wind power currently equates up to 20% of our electricity demand in the UK and not only does is help to tackle climate change, but it employs thousands of people and attracts more than £1.3 billions investment into the Scottish community. Now it’s planning on going one step further.

Scottish Renewables have made new regulations for their onshore wind farms creating financial benefits for local communities with the aim of making locals realise the potential of wind energy and generate less opposition. For every megawatt of installed capacity, £5,000 will be made available for local communities to invest however they wish.

So far communities have invested in energy efficiency, college bursaries, cycle paths and even community transport schemes, and Scottish Renewables see it as an opportunity to explore the potential for community ownership of onshore wind farms.

At existing wind farms like Earlsburn and Neilston, local residents have financial stakes in the turbines, making the development process much easier and involving as many of the local residents as possible.

By encouraging community involvement in these energy projects, Scottish Renewables hope to strengthen the relationship between developers and local residents, to maximise the benefits that wind turbines can bring.

Community owned turbines increasing in popularity

Across the UK, the benefits of community-owned renewable energy projects are gradually being realised, making popularity rapidly increasing. One particular project in Scotland has demonstrated how their original investment has resulted in significant long-term income as well as the security of clean, safe energy.

The Undy Community turbine in Aberdeenshire is the first wholly community-owned and operated wind turbine on the Scottish mainland and since it began turning just one year ago, it has helped to generate over £120,000 to benefit hundreds of local residents. Although the project required an original investment of £1.45 million, it is estimated to generate a staggering £5 million during the 20-year lifecycle of the turbine. This works out as the equivalent of £2,000 for each resident of the Undy Green and Pitmedden villages that the turbine is catering for.

As well as flood lights for the tennis club and a vehicle for the Pitmedden First Responders, the Undy Community Trust, who manage the income from the turbine, are now looking at longer term projects to benefit the community in the long run.

Earlier this month, SmartestEnergy, a leading buyer of renewable energy, revealed that smaller-scale renewable energy projects across Scotland could be generating over £200 million worth of power each year which is being sold to well-known companies like Marks & Spencer.

With the financial gains a clear benefit, as well as the ability to supply the country with clean energy, more and more communities are recognising the potential of renewable energy projects which suggests their popularity may well increase in the future.