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Archive for the ‘wind turbines’ Category

pllWith the election looming, it’s time to nail your colours to the mast. Ain’t no purdah round here, so here’s my contribution…

If I were Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, my mission would be to put us firmly on the path to zero carbon heat and electricity. Only by doing this will we meet our legally binding promise to decarbonise the UK economy and mitigate the worst effects of climate change.

As you’ll see, I also wouldn’t get too hung up on where my remit officially stopped.

To get back on the path, we’ll need to radically improve energy efficiency, develop our ability to shift electricity demand, enable renewables to meet the bulk of our electricity requirements, and rapidly develop our district heating market.

First: ramp up energy efficiency

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It’s been a long and protracted death, but the Queen’s Speech finally spelled the end for plans to drastically reduce emissions from new build.

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As flagged up by Tom at XCO2e, the Warwick wind trial final report (pdf) is out and the results aren’t good. Keeping in mind that the trials included only sub-2kW turbines, there are some important things to take away from the report:

  1. We consultants must be cautious – it’s not enough to take an average wind speed or a predicted output from the London Plan and think it has any relationship to reality. It’s becoming even clearer that a lot of site specific analysis is required before considering micro-wind.
  2. NOABL isn’t applicable in the built environment – the study found that the NOABL database consistently overestimated wind speeds by around 16x relative to measured data. The study recommends scaling factors for NOABL data that bring the predictions in line with measured data (these are based on a limited sampling period so should be treated with caution – but it’s a good start).
  3. Manufacturers can’t be trusted – using measured wind speeds and manufacturers’ power curves overestimated power output by 170% – 340%. As the report points out, there are other reasons why this might be: accuracy of monitoring equipment, response times, etc. But check out the graphs on page 30 of the report showing sampled power output vs. manufacturers’ Cp curves. OUCH!
  4. Micro-wind in the built environment may be a bad application of a good technology.

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According to the Guardian, most domestic turbines are only generating 5-10% of the manufacturers’ claims. Dramatic stuff but maybe not a huge surprise. I think there’s been a growing realisation among professionals in the built environment that small wind in built up areas rarely works.

But it’s important to remember that in most cases this poor performance is not the fault of the turbines themselves; they’ve just been placed badly by designers and over-hyped by manufacturers.

Located somewhere with decent wind (on the back of a sailboat, on top of a tall mast on a windy hill, etc) they’ll do the job. But bolted to the chimney of a Victorian semi in Surbiton? Almost definitely not. Even Ashenden House, a 13-storey tower in Elephant and Castle, hasn’t proved to be a salubrious place for turbines.

So blame the engineers and architects, blame manufacturers for short-sightedly over-hyping their own products, but don’t blame the turbines. It would be a mistake if we were to dismiss the technology as a result. Small wind still has an important role to play, even if that role is more limited than many people hoped.

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From the zero carbon consultation, you can see that CLG has accepted that we need to resolve the onsite / offsite question. They have also moved away from the requirement for private wire networks or “direct connections” between generators and homes since it caused all sorts of problems.

So positive moves from CLG, but there is still a huge amount of confusion over what onsite and offsite actually mean. This is a crucial issue since only onsite energy will count towards carbon compliance, while offsite energy is only likely to count as an allowable solution.

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Last night, Lord Hunt came back with his amendments to the Energy Bill and, as promised, here’s an update. For electricity feed in tariff, he’s proposed:

  • Feed in tariff for renewable generation up to a maximum of 3MW (excellent).
  • Qualifying technology: biomass, biofuels (oh dear), fuel cells, photovoltaics, water (including waves and tides), wind, solar power, geothermal sources, combined heat and power systems with an electrical capacity of 50 kilowatts or less.
  • No timetable for implementation (as far as I could see – is it buried in there somewhere? What will the Baroness say?)

On a heat incentive:

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Away from the fanfare around Ed Miliband’s announcement that a feed in tariff (FiT) is on the way, the Lords have been debating an amendment to the Energy Bill that has the support of Conservatives, Lib Dems, and even some Labour peers.

What’s in the amendment? It says the Secretary of State has one year from the passing of the bill to bring in a feed in tariff. And the qualifying technologies, their maximum capacity, and their level of support are left to the Secretary of State to decide with no specified cap.

Despite wide support, it was clear that the Government wouldn’t officially get behind the bill as it wasn’t their idea. In fact, as recently as June the Government were firmly against a feed in tariff.

Baroness Wilcox, the amendment’s sponsor, has now withdrawn it, but only on the condition that the Government meet specific terms in their own amendment, which they’re expected put forward on 5 November. However, if the Government doesn’t fulfill her demands, she will reintroduce her original amendment. Here are her terms in a nutshell (my comments in italics):

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Yesterday BERR and OFGEM released proposals for changing the way the electricity regulations work with regard to distributed energy generation. This is particularly important because it’s BERR’s first public reaction to the Citiworks ruling by the European Court of Justice two weeks ago.

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Listening to Radio 4 on my phone on the way home I heard the evening news: Gordon Brown, keen to show he’s doing all he can to ease the fuel crisis, has taken two decisive actions.

First he’s met with North Sea oil producers to urge them to pump more petroleum from their fields, which have been in decline since 1999. He apparently managed to persuade these producers to up their output by promising them a tax break (i.e. subsidy), which will make costly enhanced recovery techniques economically viable.

The total additional output is expected to amount to about 50 million barrels, enough to keep the world running for about 13 hours. Given that petroleum is a fungible globally traded commodity (there’s no such thing as local prices as the oil price is entirely determined by global factors), this tiny drop in the bucket won’t do anything to lower the price of fuel here in the UK or anywhere else. And you’ve got to think that if $130 a barrel wasn’t enough to stimulate recovery, maybe that subsidy would be better spent elsewhere. After all, given the record profits posted by oil companies this year, I think we could find one or two other technologies more deserving of a break.

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From out of nowhere, twice in one week, there have been indications that a feed in tariff is on the way. First, at Tuesday’s PRASEG (Parliamentary Renewable and Sustainable Energy Group) meeting, BERR and DEFRA both hinted that a feed in tariff would replace the renewables obligation for installations under 50kW. Then on Thursday at Think08, Hillary Benn delivered the same message (thanks to Phil for pointing that out).

So how soon might this happen? Probably not as quick as we’d like as it’s likely to require a change to the RO legislation. But until then hopefully small generators will be able to console themselves with double ROCs.

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