The Energy Technologies Institute (ETI) is recommending more emphasis is placed on floating foundations to access the best offshore wind resources in the UK to help bring costs down further.
This comes as it releases data from its research into offshore wind in the UK including a FEED (front end engineering design) study into its floating platform demonstration project.
Reflecting on their 10 years of research, development and demonstration into offshore wind, the ETI recommends that more work should be carried out to develop floating offshore wind platforms alongside producing bigger more durable blades that can be assembled close to site to reduce operational costs.
In waters less than 30 metres deep, ETI analysis points to fixed foundations offering the prime solution from a cost-effective perspective but when you go more than 50 metres deep, floating foundations would provide the lowest cost solutions.
Larger turbine blades also make a difference to the cost of energy but how they are constructed matters as much as the physical length in reducing capital costs per MW and enabling greater energy yield. Without manufacturing and material improvements a longer blade will be heavier and this can negate other performance benefits. ETI believes that if manufacturing solutions can be found to allow for modular assembly close to deployment locations this can also make a material difference to the operational cost of offshore wind. This was evidenced in its partnership with Blade Dynamics, a UK SME subsequently purchased by GE, who worked on an ETI project to develop larger blade technology through new design and manufacturing concepts – by producing blades as a series of sub-sections to deliver improvements in quality, cost, transportability and performance.
Current developers of larger windfarms can also be constrained by the wishes and needs of multiple stakeholders which has in the recent past restricted the deployment levels of offshore wind. The ETI believes that by taking another approach and potentially absorbing consenting costs this could become a game-changer for the UK market by making offshore wind more attractive to investors.
In Holland for example consenting costs are absorbed by the Government (in July 2016 DONG Energy won a tender for new Dutch wind farms at €72 – approximately £62 per MWh) and the ETI says if the UK was to follow this model then it has a ready-made solution for a consenting managing agent in The Crown Estate.
Offshore Wind is not simply competing with other renewable sources but with other technologies generating low carbon electricity
Commenting on their 10 years of offshore wind work, Andrew Scott, ETI Offshore Renewables Programme Manager, said:
“Our work has consistently shown that offshore wind can have a significant role in the UK’s energy mix. To date costs have come down significantly (approximately 50% over the last 10 years) but we believe they can come down further through the employment of new policy and technology levers.
“Offshore Wind is not simply competing with other renewable sources but with other technologies generating low carbon electricity. From our work we see that there is a clear and credible trajectory to delivering subsidy free UK commercial offshore wind farms as part of the UK 2050 energy mix
“When we started work in this area we modelled the role of offshore wind in a least-cost 2050 UK energy system to meet the country’s climate change targets. Then it was seen as a hedging option to fill the gap if other technologies did not progress. But during the last decade we have seen its role change. It is now a core component of a least cost balanced 2050 energy system that delivers a low carbon transition alongside new nuclear, carbon capture and storage, bioenergy, gas and offshore renewables (predominantly wind) alongside efficiencies in the heating of buildings and transport fleets, both heavy duty and light vehicles.
“If industry can find routes to more repeatable manufacture of bigger turbine blades – such as in “kit form” close to site – it could lead to even further cost reductions as well as opening up export market opportunities. But there is also a continued need for the sector to learn by doing. The industry needs to increase its practical experience through even further deployment, development and demonstration of new technologies and learn from this to contain operational costs.
“We have identified that the consenting and approval process should be streamlined as this can have a negative impact on developers wanting to build larger offshore wind farms. And our work shows that the advancement of floating technology also looks like it matters because it opens up more of the sea bed and we recommend that more emphasis should be placed on floating turbine development as they should be more economic for high wind, deep water sites – the best locations to exploit UK resources.”
During 2017 the ETI will be releasing additional technical data and reports from projects delivered across its technology programmes over the last 10 years. It has just released to its website material from its Offshore Wind programme in the areas of concept turbine designs, feasibility studies of tension leg platforms and wind turbine monitoring to help inform the debate in this area in the UK.
Information from its offshore wind programme can be found at http://www.eti.co.uk/programmes/offshore-wind
Are the UK Governments Plans for the Energy Sector Smart?
The revolution in the energy sector marches on, wind turbines and solar panels are harnessing more renewable energy than ever before – so where is it all leading?
The UK government have recently announced plans to modernise the way we produce, store and use electricity. And, if realised, the plans could be just the thing to bring the energy sector in line with 21st century technology and ideologies.
Central to the plans is an initiative that will see smart meters installed in homes and businesses the length and breadth of the country – and their aim? To create an environment where electricity can be managed more efficiently.
The news has prompted some speculation about how energy suppliers will react and many are predicting a price war. This could benefit consumers of electricity and investors, many of whom may be looking to make a profit by trading energy company shares online using platforms such as Oanda – but the potential for good news doesn’t end there.
Introducing New Technology
The plan, titled Smart Systems and Flexibility is being rolled out in the hope that it will have a positive impact in three core areas.
- To offer consumers greater control by making smart meters available for all homes and businesses by 2020. Energy users will be able to monitor, control and record the amount of energy they use.
- Incentivise energy suppliers to change the manner in which they buy electricity, to offer more smart tariffs and more off-peak periods for energy consumption.
- Introduce new standards for electrical appliances – it is hoped that the new wave of appliances will recognise when electricity is at its cheapest and at its most expensive and respond accordingly.
How the Plans Will Affect Solar Energy
Around 7 million houses in the UK have solar panels and the government say that their plan will benefit them as they will be able to store electricity on batteries. The stored energy can then be used by the household and excess energy can be exported to the national grid – in this instance lower tariffs or even payment for the excess energy will bring down annual costs significantly.
The rate of return on energy exported to the national grid is currently between 6% and 10%, but there are many variables to take into account, such as, the cost of battery storage and light levels. Still, those with state-of-the-art solar electricity systems could end up with an annual profit after selling their excess energy.
The Internet of Things
Much of what the plans set out to achieve are linked to the now ubiquitous “internet of things” – where, for example, appliances and heating systems are connected to the internet in order to make them function more smartly.
Companies like Hive have already made great inroads into this type of technology, but the road that the government plans are heading down, will, potentially, go much further -blockchain technology looms and has already proved to be a game changer in the world of currency.
It has already been suggested that the peer to peer selling of energy and exporting it to the national grid may eventually be done using blockchain technology.
“The blockchain is an incorruptible digital ledger of economic transactions that can be programmed to record not just financial transactions but virtually everything of value.”
Don and Alex Tapscott, Blockchain Revolution (2016)
The upshot of the government’s plans for the revolution of the energy sector, is that technology will play an indelible role in making it more efficient, more flexible and ultimately more sustainable.
4 Case Studies on the Benefits of Solar Energy
Demand for solar energy is growing at a surprising rate. New figures from SolarPower Europe show that solar energy production has risen 50% since the summer of 2016.
However, many people are still skeptical of the benefits of solar energy.Does it actually make a significant reduction in our carbon footprint? Is it actually cost-effective for the company over the long-run?
A number of case studies have been conducted, which indicate solar energy can be enormously beneficial. Here are some of the most compelling studies on the subject.
1. Boulder Nissan
When you think of companies that leverage solar power, car dealerships probably aren’t the first ones that come to mind. However, Boulder Nissan is highly committed to promoting green energy. They worked with Independent Power Systems to setup a number of solar cells. Here were the results:
- Boulder Nissan has reduced coal generated electricity by 65%.
- They are on track to run on 100% renewable energy within the next 13 years.
- Boulder Nissan reduced CO2 emissions by 416,000 lbs. within the first year after installing their solar panels.
This is one of the most impressive solar energy case studies a small business has published in recent years. It shows that even small companies in rural communities can make a major difference by adapting solar energy.
2. Valley Electric Association
In 2015, the Valley Electric Association (VEA) created an 80-acre solar garden. Before retiring from the legislature, U.S. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid praised the new project as a way to make the state more energy dependent and reduce our carbon footprint.
“This facility will provide its customers with the opportunity to purchase 100 percent of their electricity from clean energy produced in Nevada,” Reid told reporters with the Pahrump Valley Times. “That’s a step forward for the Silver State, but it also proves that utilities can work with customers to provide clean renewable energy that they demand.”
The solar energy that VEA produced was drastically higher than anyone would have predicted. SolarWorld estimates that the solar garden created 32,680,000 kwh every year, which was enough to power nearly 4,000 homes.
This was a major undertaking for a purple state, which may inspire their peers throughout the Midwest to develop solar gardens of their own. It will reduce dependency on the electric grid, which is a problem for many remote states in the central part of the country.
3. Las Vegas Casinos
A number of Las Vegas casinos have started investing in solar panels over the last couple of years. The Guardian reports that many of these casinos have cut costs considerably. Some of them are even selling the energy back to the grid.
“It’s no accident that we put the array on top of a conference center. This is good business for us,” Cindy Ortega, chief sustainability officer at MGM Resorts told Guardian reporters. “We are looking at leaving the power system, and one of the reasons for that is we can procure more renewable energy on the open market.”
There have been many benefits for casinos using solar energy. They are some of the most energy-intensive institutions in the world, so this has helped them become much more cost-effective. It also helps minimize disruptions to their customers learning online keno strategies in the event of any problems with the electric grid.
4. Boston College
Boston College has been committed to many green initiatives over the years. A group of researchers experimented with solar cells on different parts of the campus to see where they could produce the most electricity. They discovered that the best locationwas at St. Clement’sHall. The solar cells there dramatically. It would also reduce CO2 emissions by 521,702 lbs. a year and be enough to save 10,869 trees.
Boston College is exploring new ways to expand their usage of solar cells. They may be able to invest in more effective solar panels that can generate far more solar energy.
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