The Community Energy Fortnight hopes to raise awareness of renewable energy projects this September. As part of the national event, Drumlin Wind Energy Co-operative is holding tours at one of its turbines on September 17.
The Drumlin Co-operative will be holding an open day for tours of the 147ft (45m) high Drumlin wind turbine. The event is free and runs from 5-6pm on September 17. Visitors can just turn up on the day and do not have to book.
Anyone attending will be able to walk around the site and view inside the turbine.
The turbine is located on 160 Ballyboley Road, Larne in Northern Ireland and development was completed this spring. It is the first community wind co-operative in Northern Ireland and raised £3.9 million through a crowdfunding campaign to build six turbines across the country.
Drumlin told Blue & Green Tomorrow more about their project.
Tell us a bit about your project – what inspired it, how did you decide on this technology, who did you involve?
Drumlin Wind Co-operative was conceived by Andrew McMurray after he had worked with several landowners across Northern Ireland to gain planning consent on a number of single 250 kilowatt wind turbines.
Andrew is an environmentalist, but was also conscious about who owned the projects he was developing and how the capital to build them was raised. Andrew had links with Energy4All through Friends of the Earth, which is how the idea of community ownership evolved.
Energy4All is a non-profit social enterprise that has created 13 renewable energy co-operatives since it was created by the Baywind Co-operative in 2002. Andrew and Energy4All created Drumlin and recruited various individuals from Northern Ireland to help raise the capital required to build the turbines.
In July 2012 the first share offer was launched. It gave priority on membership to individuals, organisations and businesses from Northern Ireland. This raised £2.7 million and with a loan from the Ulster Community Investment Trust, Drumlin was able to build four turbines, two near Pomeroy in County Tyrone, and two in County Antrim. Drumlin issued a tender and Wind Energy Partnership from the Republic of Ireland was awarded the contract to install four WTN250 turbines from Germany.
What benefits and opportunities has this project brought to the local community?
The project allowed residents and organisations from Northern Ireland to do something positive for the environment, whilst earning a reasonable return on an investment in the co-operative.
Ordinarily wind turbines are owned by private individuals, companies or utilities whose owners gain the benefit of selling the generated electricity and receiving incentives from the green levy placed on all our electricity bills.
Drumlin offered this opportunity to anyone who could afford to invest the minimum sum of £250 and offered the local community who were hosting the turbines, £2000 per annum in community benefit, more than twice the national average benefit offered by wind farm developers.
What has been the biggest challenge in getting your project off the ground?
Raising capital in Northern Ireland proved to be quite a challenge. This is perhaps because it’s the first project of its kind in the province and many people didn’t feel sure about risking their money in a scheme of this kind.
It took a bit longer to raise the money and delays in connecting the turbines to the national grid compromised the initial schedule, however the members have been very patient which has been rewarded as the first two turbines were generating more electricity than was predicted in their first three months of operation.
What has been your greatest success?
After raising the initial £2.7 million, the board of the co-op decided it would like to issue another public share offer to raise enough capital to build another two turbines. This was launched in March 2013 and managed to raise the £1.2 million it was looking for within two months and had to close early. Drumlin was also acknowledge as the best Community Energy Project at the annual Action Renewables Awards in April 2014
Given a second chance, what one thing would you have done differently?
We would have had more money in the marketing budget at the start of the project to raise awareness
Would you encourage others to get involved in community energy?
Absolutely, ownership of renewable energy by a co-operative of members is the way it should be. Energy is as vital to our lives as food and shelter, and local ownership engages people to consider where it comes from and how valuable it is
Top three resources
Energy4All, Morrow Communications and Nigel Brady (Chairman)
The Community Energy Coalition (CEC) formed in 2011 and runs the Community Energy Fortnight.
The CEC is made up of 36 members, from of a wide range of organisations and charities, including Forum for the Future, Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) and Co-operative Energy.
The fortnight hopes to inspire and educate people about the benefits of clean, green energy and encourages community groups to set up their own projects.
The public can see renewable energy projects close up with a variety of events and open days held across the UK from September 13–28.
Photo: Drumlin Wind Energy Co-operative
Will Self-Driving Cars Be Better for the Environment?
Technologists, engineers, lawmakers, and the general public have been excitedly debating about the merits of self-driving cars for the past several years, as companies like Waymo and Uber race to get the first fully autonomous vehicles on the market. Largely, the concerns have been about safety and ethics; is a self-driving car really capable of eliminating the human errors responsible for the majority of vehicular accidents? And if so, who’s responsible for programming life-or-death decisions, and who’s held liable in the event of an accident?
But while these questions continue being debated, protecting people on an individual level, it’s worth posing a different question: how will self-driving cars impact the environment?
The Big Picture
The Department of Energy attempted to answer this question in clear terms, using scientific research and existing data sets to project the short-term and long-term environmental impact that self-driving vehicles could have. Its findings? The emergence of self-driving vehicles could essentially go either way; it could reduce energy consumption in transportation by as much as 90 percent, or increase it by more than 200 percent.
That’s a margin of error so wide it might as well be a total guess, but there are too many unknown variables to form a solid conclusion. There are many ways autonomous vehicles could influence our energy consumption and environmental impact, and they could go well or poorly, depending on how they’re adopted.
One of the big selling points of autonomous vehicles is their capacity to reduce the total number of vehicles—and human drivers—on the road. If you’re able to carpool to work in a self-driving vehicle, or rely on autonomous public transportation, you’ll spend far less time, money, and energy on your own car. The convenience and efficiency of autonomous vehicles would therefore reduce the total miles driven, and significantly reduce carbon emissions.
There’s a flip side to this argument, however. If autonomous vehicles are far more convenient and less expensive than previous means of travel, it could be an incentive for people to travel more frequently, or drive to more destinations they’d otherwise avoid. In this case, the total miles driven could actually increase with the rise of self-driving cars.
As an added consideration, the increase or decrease in drivers on the road could result in more or fewer vehicle collisions, respectively—especially in the early days of autonomous vehicle adoption, when so many human drivers are still on the road. Car accident injury cases, therefore, would become far more complicated, and the roads could be temporarily less safe.
Deadheading is a term used in trucking and ridesharing to refer to miles driven with an empty load. Assume for a moment that there’s a fleet of self-driving vehicles available to pick people up and carry them to their destinations. It’s a convenient service, but by necessity, these vehicles will spend at least some of their time driving without passengers, whether it’s spent waiting to pick someone up or en route to their location. The increase in miles from deadheading could nullify the potential benefits of people driving fewer total miles, or add to the damage done by their increased mileage.
Make and Model of Car
Much will also depend on the types of cars equipped to be self-driving. For example, Waymo recently launched a wave of self-driving hybrid minivans, capable of getting far better mileage than a gas-only vehicle. If the majority of self-driving cars are electric or hybrids, the environmental impact will be much lower than if they’re converted from existing vehicles. Good emissions ratings are also important here.
On the other hand, the increased demand for autonomous vehicles could put more pressure on factory production, and make older cars obsolete. In that case, the gas mileage savings could be counteracted by the increased environmental impact of factory production.
The Bottom Line
Right now, there are too many unanswered questions to make a confident determination whether self-driving vehicles will help or harm the environment. Will we start driving more, or less? How will they handle dead time? What kind of models are going to be on the road?
Engineers and the general public are in complete control of how this develops in the near future. Hopefully, we’ll be able to see all the safety benefits of having autonomous vehicles on the road, but without any of the extra environmental impact to deal with.
New Zealand to Switch to Fully Renewable Energy by 2035
New Zealand’s prime minister-elect Jacinda Ardern is already taking steps towards reducing the country’s carbon footprint. She signed a coalition deal with NZ First in October, aiming to generate 100% of the country’s energy from renewable sources by 2035.
New Zealand is already one of the greenest countries in the world, sourcing over 80% of its energy for its 4.7 million people from renewable resources like hydroelectric, geothermal and wind. The majority of its electricity comes from hydro-power, which generated 60% of the country’s energy in 2016. Last winter, renewable generation peaked at 93%.
Now, Ardern is taking on the challenge of eliminating New Zealand’s remaining use of fossil fuels. One of the biggest obstacles will be filling in the gap left by hydropower sources during dry conditions. When lake levels drop, the country relies on gas and coal to provide energy. Eliminating fossil fuels will require finding an alternative source to avoid spikes in energy costs during droughts.
Business NZ’s executive director John Carnegie told Bloomberg he believes Ardern needs to balance her goals with affordability, stating, “It’s completely appropriate to have a focus on reducing carbon emissions, but there needs to be an open and transparent public conversation about the policies and how they are delivered.”
The coalition deal outlined a few steps towards achieving this, including investing more in solar, which currently only provides 0.1% of the country’s energy. Ardern’s plans also include switching the electricity grid to renewable energy, investing more funds into rail transport, and switching all government vehicles to green fuel within a decade.
Zero net emissions by 2050
Beyond powering the country’s electricity grid with 100% green energy, Ardern also wants to reach zero net emissions by 2050. This ambitious goal is very much in line with her focus on climate change throughout the course of her campaign. Environmental issues were one of her top priorities from the start, which increased her appeal with young voters and helped her become one of the youngest world leaders at only 37.
Reaching zero net emissions would require overcoming challenging issues like eliminating fossil fuels in vehicles. Ardern hasn’t outlined a plan for reaching this goal, but has suggested creating an independent commission to aid in the transition to a lower carbon economy.
She also set a goal of doubling the number of trees the country plants per year to 100 million, a goal she says is “absolutely achievable” using land that is marginal for farming animals.
Greenpeace New Zealand climate and energy campaigner Amanda Larsson believes that phasing out fossil fuels should be a priority for the new prime minister. She says that in order to reach zero net emissions, Ardern “must prioritize closing down coal, putting a moratorium on new fossil fuel plants, building more wind infrastructure, and opening the playing field for household and community solar.”
A worldwide shift to renewable energy
Addressing climate change is becoming more of a priority around the world and many governments are assessing how they can reduce their reliance on fossil fuels and switch to environmentally-friendly energy sources. Sustainable energy is becoming an increasingly profitable industry, giving companies more of an incentive to invest.
Ardern isn’t alone in her climate concerns, as other prominent world leaders like Justin Trudeau and Emmanuel Macron have made renewable energy a focus of their campaigns. She isn’t the first to set ambitious goals, either. Sweden and Norway share New Zealand’s goal of net zero emissions by 2045 and 2030, respectively.
Scotland already sources more than half of its electricity from renewable sources and aims to fully transition by 2020, while France announced plans in September to stop fossil fuel production by 2040. This would make it the first country to do so, and the first to end the sale of gasoline and diesel vehicles.
Many parts of the world still rely heavily on coal, but if these countries are successful in phasing out fossil fuels and transitioning to renewable resources, it could serve as a turning point. As other world leaders see that switching to sustainable energy is possible – and profitable – it could be the start of a worldwide shift towards environmentally-friendly energy.
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