Wrexham is not exactly somewhere that you would normally associate with sunshine yet they are about to join cities like Freiburg (Germany), Sacramento (California), and Desert City (Abu Dhabi) as a centre for solar power.
The town in north Wales actually has one of the largest solar panel factories in Europe courtesy of SHARP and in the last month they have installed around 30,000 solar panels on 3,000 council homes. There are also plans to fit six schools and a number of other public buildings with the solar panels to generate another 90kW of solar power.
In an interesting turn of events the council shipped in scaffolding from the surrounding areas to help ensure that they would qualify for the higher pre 4th of March Solar Incentive rate. However this does all hinge on the Government losing their appeal.
Wrexham council have borrowed close to £28 million to help fund the scheme that will eventually generate 5MW of power by equipping one property in every three with solar panels.
The scheme looks to be of particular benefit to council housing tenants as they pay approximately £70 per week for their home and these solar installations are expected to save them around £200-£300 a year on energy bills. The council is also confident that given the electricity they will generate there is a £1m a year profit to be made from the feed-in tariff. This will in turn allow Wrexham to increase their housing budget by almost 10% that is to be re-invested in public housing.
The scheme is expected to help bring an end to fuel poverty in Wrexham and benefit the community as a whole including schools and old people, not to mention a CO2 reduction of about 3,000 tonnes a year.
The investment has allowed Wrexham to jump to top end of the league table for emission reductions and they’re expecting to have reduced 2005’s figures by 70% which could be the largest cuts of anywhere in Britain.
A worrying trend is occurring as wholesale energy prices are on the rise again. In fact this time the wholesale prices for gas and electricity have reached a 6 year high.
The London stock market has shown an increase of 28% taking it up to $520 per 1000 cubic metres.
The sharp increase in gas prices has been caused by the rapid onset of severe frost throughout Europe. This has resulted in what many believe to be reduced supplies of gas from Russian energy giant Gazprom. As you can imagine the rapid change in weather coupled with an increase in prices has certainly caused some panic.
Not to mention the fact that electricity supply prices in France have actually doubled to around the 140euro per MWh. This is due to an increase in demand which may soon reach its highest ever levels.
Some news agencies have already reported that Gazprom decreased their supply of natural gas to Europe to cover the increased in internal fuel requirements.
Interestingly Russia appears to be somewhat bewildered about all the talk of a decrease in supply; in fact Russia claims that in light of the ongoing frost issues they have actually increased gas supply to Europe.
In light of the recent legal debates regarding the FiT, Ministers have came out claiming it was a necessity to slash the subsidies as quickly as they did, because the cost of the panels has nearly halved in the past year. This is a much faster drop than was envisaged when the plan was put in place.
In 2010 the average domestic solar installation cost around £15,000 but this dropped to almost £8,000 in 2011 and is expected to hit £6,000 in the coming months.
The UK Energy Minister is expected to be announcing a reformation of the feed-in tariffs so that the subsidies gradually reduce in relation to the cost of the panels and installation.
This is very similar to current German system the idea is to ensure that the rate of return is maintained at around 5%. The common consensus is that 5% is enough of a return to give everyone the necessary incentive i.e. purchasers, installers and manufacturers.
The original allocation for the scheme was around £860m but this is expected to be increased to around £1bn. The tariffs are actually paid by additions to energy bills and not from public funds however the concern is that without some kind of slowdown on the scheme people bills could increase far too quickly.
Originally, the tariffs were allocated about £860m but this is likely to be increased to about £1bn. The tariffs are paid by additions to energy bills, not from the public purse, but the Treasury has limited the amount that can be spent on them because of fears that bills would rise too fast unless there is a brake.
The additional cash is being siphoned from large scale renewable projects that have been completed under budget.
One of the main reasons for current state of flux regarding the FiT is the massive investment in China that has resulted in hundreds of solar panel factories aimed solely for exports, thus driving down the cost of solar panels in the UK.
Good news for SSE this month as they have hit a huge milestone in their production of renewable energy. SSE has managed to build enough onshore wind farms throughout the UK to generate power for 700,000 homes.
It is believed that the generating capacity of the SSE wind farms has now exceeded 1GW.
This news comes even as SSE are looking to increase generating capacity even further by building onshore farms in Northern Ireland, Ireland and Scotland.
The Chief Executive of SSE Ian Marchant has made it clear he wants to continue to grow capacity “significantly” in the coming months.
In the past 6 years SSE’s onshore generating capacity has increased massively from 40MW to exceed their more conventional hydro electric capacity, of 1,150MW.
And with construction work ongoing in Northern Ireland, Ireland and Scotland it is expected that the generating capacity of SSE is only going to increase in coming months.
The real question is what are the rest of the big six energy companies doing to follow this example?
SSE is clearly betting big on the renewable future of the UK, do they know something the others don’t? Or are the others just working away quietly whilst SSE courts all the publicity?
Please feel free to share your thoughts and ideas on this ….
I read a fantastic article on the Business Green Industry Voice Blog today about how the London Olympics has the potential to make some permanent changes regarding Londoners approach to a more sustainable way of life. As it says in the blog post “It is easier to get people to think about changing their behaviour when their normal routines are disrupted.”
The main disruptions look like they will form around transport givenm that there is to be an expected influx of around 5.3 million visitors over the 100 day affair. In fact on some of the more heavily scheduled days this will create a staggering 855,000 fan trips. So with over 100 miles of Londons roads being shut off as the official Olympic Network things could get interesting.
It looks set to be another booming year for renewables in Scotland, especially with the reputation as a welcome home for green energy investment starting to grow. In fact initial figures are showing that there is a pipeline of around £46 billion of investment for renewables in Scotland which should generate up to 17GW of renewable energy capacity.
Fergus Ewing – Scotland’s Energy minister has said he is “relentlessly positive” regarding 2012.
It is believed that such a large scale investment in renewable energy will not only create jobs throughout Scotland and further strengthen the renewable industry there but it will also put Scotland even further on its way to being able to create 100% of its electricity from renewable energy sources by 2020.
In fact, figures showed that in the first quarter of 2011 Scotland had generated 94% of 2010’s entire output. Now that is a massive increase in generating power and the Scots are expecting at least the same again.
This relationship between Scotland and renewable energy has risen from the realisation that Scotland is almost perfect for wind and wave energy generation. There is an abundance of rugged coastline and flat tree-less land and when you add that to a co-operative Government it almost becomes the perfect place to build a renewable energy industry.
How do you feel about Scotland being a hub of renewable activity?
Well I think it’s fair to say that winter is definitely upon us now…. And with winter comes the cold and with the cold comes high heating bills. But fear not because the lovely folks at Videojug have provided us with a great video that shows exactly how to seal up your home and make sure you’re not wasting any energy.
A new wind farm in the Scottish Highlands has finally been connected to the national grid, with the first two turbines now online and generating electricity. This is good news for SSE as it means they are beginning to see a return on what is expected to be a £100 million investment.
The wind farm will be home to 35 turbines in total that once complete will generate around 180GWh a year. At the moment 15 of the 35 wind towers have been erected and the full site is expected to be operational by the end of this financial year.
SSE’s Managing Director of Renewables Jim Smith said “As the UK’s leading generator of electricity from renewable sources, SSE is committed to helping increase the amount of renewable electricity generation in the UK, and the export of electricity at Gordonbush is a step towards achieving this.” Source: www.SSE.com
Scotland has been granted permission to invest around half of the funds available in the UK’s fossil fuel levy on renewable energy sources such as wind farms.
However, while this money is of course a step in the right direction, things are apparently not as rosy as they seem, with Holyrood Finance Secretary John Swinney saying that the move is ‘long overdue’ and that “For too long Scotland’s money has been sitting unspent in an Ofgem account in London”.
Apparently the Scottish government have been submitting proposals to try to encourage the UK government to release the spending allowance, but all we can say is better late than never. Let the renewable energy spending commence!
Hopefully the government can use some of it to ensure renewable energy prices are affordable so it will be achievable for the majority of Scottish homes in future.
Here’s hoping this means wind farms and solar panels are cemented into Scotland’s future!
The housing plans are part of the governments ‘Green Deal’ to reduce carbon emmisions, and will be the biggest home renovation programme since World War 2, if it is to go ahead.
Energy company’s are also predicted to roll out their own Green Deal packages for homeowners, aimed at helping to reduce carbon emmisions.
This change could help improve the environment across the board, and with the government involving this many homes it is bound to make an impact – as well as creating jobs in the meantime. Just another of the numerous reasons it’s good to be green. What do you think of the Green Deal’s home renovation strategy and the fact that it could create more construction jobs in a tough economy?