Community Windpower’s Aikengall 2a wind farm has started generating electricity, making it the largest wind farm the developer has brought online. The 19 turbine, 81.7MW wind farm is located on the border of East Lothian and the Scottish Border.
The 2a addition brings the total capacity of the Aikengall complex to 190MW.
Installation of the Siemens Gamesa SWT-DD-120 turbines began in January this year and completed on time, a spokesperson for Community Windpower said.
CWL managing director Rod Wood said the outfit was “immensely proud” of the achievement, given construction took place during “unprecedented global conditions”.
Wood added: “Aikengall 2a will be our largest capacity project to date and this new milestone is a fantastic way to end 2021.”
The developer instructed two Scottish companies, RJ McLeod and Windhoist, to provide civil engineering and turbine installation respectively.
The original Aikengall Wind Farm built in 2009 generates 48MW, while Aikengall Part 2 built in 2017 has capacity of 60.8MW.
Wood said Part 2a would provide energy for 70,000 homes annually and represented the outfit’s eighth operational wind farm.
“Our long-term commitment to Scotland and its economy is reflected in the delivery of this project as well as our three next renewable energy developments.”
The wind farm projects are Sanquhar 2 outside Kelloholm and Sanquhur, Faw Side between Hawick and Langholm, and Scoop Hill near Moffat.
“These three projects are all next generation strategic schemes which can deliver leading economic benefits of £413.3m gross value added and support 5980 job years across Scotland,” said Wood.
It’s been three decades since the Edwards family launched the Delabole wind farm – so how did they do it?
The Edwards’ farm lies in Delabole, one of the highest villages in Cornwall, close to the Celtic Sea. In the early 1980s, a gale tore off part of a barn roof – and so began a journey that would transform the family’s dairy business into the UK’s first commercial wind farm.
“Mum had been involved in protests against a proposed nuclear station in Cornwall,” says Martin Edwards, who established the wind farm with his father, Peter, and mother, Pip. “One day over breakfast [during a conversation about alternative energy sources], she said: ‘Why can’t we do something with this damn wind?’”
Pip’s remark set the family on a pioneering path that eventually led them, in 1991, to establish the Delabole wind farm. Today, Peter is often referred to as the ‘grandfather of the UK wind industry’, and last month Delabole celebrated its 30th anniversary. But reaching this milestone hasn’t been without its challenges.
First, there was no wind industry in the UK in the 1980s, so the Edwards’ effectively had to build one from scratch. Inspired by the idea of generating power on the farm, Peter arranged a visit to Denmark, then a world leader in wind turbines.
“There were literally hundreds of manufacturers at that point. Every little engineering works was designing and building wind turbines, most of which didn’t work very well,” says Martin, speaking about what his father witnessed. “But investment was just getting going.”
Peter was encouraged by what he saw, and spoke to the then-South Western Electricity Board about installing a small turbine to help with the farm’s power demands. But when it became clear that connecting it to the grid would entail a standing charge higher than the family’s current electricity bill – and that they would not be paid for any excess power fed back into the grid – the plan was shelved.
Nevertheless, the Edwards’ interest remained strong. By the mid-1980s, when it was obvious the UK energy industry was going to be privatised, “We thought…if they’re going to privatise it, they’ve got to allow private generation,” says Martin.
Turbine technology had improved by then, reaching power capacity of up to 250 kW, with better reliability. Over the next few years, the family developed a fresh plan for wind power generation at Delabole, and “by the time we put in for planning [permission], the turbine size had crept up to 400 kW.”
They decided to install 10 Danish-built, 400 kW turbines. “There were no consultancies or anything, even for the layout for the wind farm and things like that,” recalls Martin. And with no clear national system in place for wind energy generation, they still couldn’t be sure whether they would be able to sell their power either.
Then, partway through the planning process, the Non-Fossil Fuel Obligation was put in place. This required electricity distribution network operators in England and Wales to purchase electricity from nuclear power generators, which remained state-owned until 1995. “It was basically to support the nuclear industry after privatisation,” says Martin. “They couldn’t possibly compete in an open market.”
The operative word in the obligation was ‘fuel’, Martin explains. As wind power isn’t a fuel, it wasn’t eligible for the same level of support. But after much to-ing and fro-ing with the then-Department of Energy, the government eventually changed tack, and the Delabole wind farm began to look more commercially viable.
I said that within 20 years I reckon turbines will be offshore and at somewhere in the region of five to 10 MW capacity. I was thoroughly laughed at
“We managed to borrow £2.1m from the bank and went on from there,” says Martin, “and by 1991 we had everything up and running.”
As the first commercial wind farm in the UK, Delabole soon became a tourist attraction. To stop visitors from blocking the main road, the Edwards opened a car park and a small exhibition centre. Several years later, the Gaia Energy Centre was launched on the site, but closed a few years later due to funding problems. Today, renewable energy company Baleana has its offices there.
In 2002, the Delabole wind farm was sold to Good Energy, which replaced the existing turbines with four more powerful machines, more than doubling the total installed capacity of the site to 9.2MW. That’s enough power to provide around 7,000 homes with electricity. Martin, who sat on Good Energy’s board of directors for a time, says that turbine technology has “flown on” during the 30 years he’s been involved in the industry.
“I remember in about 1993, 1994, I got asked to do a talk for the Institution of Electrical Engineers,” he says. “Somebody asked me at the end where I saw turbines going in the future, and I said: ‘Well, within 20 years I reckon they’ll be offshore and at somewhere in the region of five to 10 MW capacity.’ I was thoroughly laughed at. But that turned out to be exactly where it’s gone.”
So, what predictions does he make for the future of wind and renewable energy in general? “Relatively small-scale solar and wind, in combination with battery storage, will slowly, totally transform how electricity is used, moved and generated in the UK,” he says. “It wouldn’t surprise me if the model of very large, centralised generation becomes a bit of a white elephant within 15 to 20 years.”
By which time, the Delabole wind farm will hopefully be celebrating its 50th anniversary.
Offshore wind power is the game-changer for Scotland’s sustainable ambitions. With the technology and the economics already proven, the winds of investment are blowing hard offshore and there is real confidence that Scottish and UK targets can be met.
The UK has just over 10 GW of offshore wind power in operation; its target is 40 GW by 2030. Scotland’s target is 11 GW by 2030, with 2GW currently constructed.
“If we can hit these offshore wind targets, that’s a game-changer in terms of using green power to heat homes instead of fossil fuels,” says Richard Cockburn, partner and head of energy at Womble Bond Dickinson. “And we probably can do it. We’ve got another 4GW of offshore wind under construction, and just under 24GW in planning, plus two big new competitions for new offshore wind under way [Round 4 in England and ScotWind in Scotland]. They could account for roughly 18 GW, so that’s more than 40 GW overall. The Scottish contribution would help significantly with the 2045 net-zero target.”
However, there are a number of challenges. Cockburn says: “The planning and consenting processes take a long time; there are supply chain bottlenecks, and overseas investors can be put off by the different processes in Scotland and the rest of the UK, which means more resources, more expense and more time. They would prefer one regime.
“We also need to build the infrastructure onshore and offshore to connect everything up. And we will need a few more auction rounds.”
The current auction rounds will not see turbines spinning until the mid-to-late-2020s, says Cockburn. However, this could be sped up because of the number of oil and gas firms involved in bidding. Some of the best-known industry names are moving into renewables – which is positive for net-zero ambitions, but not without other consequences.
“The presence of the oil and gas companies means more financial power behind the bids, meaning that established renewables developers need to fight harder to win offshore leases,” says Cockburn. “The involvement of the oil and gas majors – and their deep pockets – might mean time frames could be shorter for getting blades spinning, but it has caused a bit of a pause and rethink. How can revenues be maximised while at the same time retaining the goodwill of the longer-standing renewables developers?”
Another big issue is making sure Scotland derives greater economic benefits from the offshore wind boom. Paul Kenneth, a real estate and finance expert with Womble Bond Dickinson, says there is more focus on this nowadays – citing the Neart Na Gaoithe (NNG) site in the Firth of Forth, with a potential capacity of almost 0.5 GW. He says: “An operation and maintenance site [for NNG] is being built in Eyemouth, and turbines will be constructed in Dundee, so you will have a beneficial effect [in Scotland] from these operations.”
Cockburn notes that GE has committed to building a blade manufacturing plant at the new freeport on Teesside, and says: “We are seeing far more requirements to use local supply chains, and pretty much all offshore wind bidders are committing to have parts manufactured – or at least assembled – in the UK.”
Another important trend is the increase in floating wind turbines, with many more likely to be deployed as developers look further out to sea.
“Until now, it’s mostly been areas of shallower waters which have been put out to auction. In deeper water, including the harsher North Sea environments, floating offshore wind is the best way to do that,” says Cockburn, highlighting two current projects, HyWind Scotland and Kincardine Offshore Floating Wind Farm.
“This is an area where Scottish developments are of worldwide importance, and where skills and technology could be exported. Other countries with harsh coastal environments are looking at lessons learned here.”
Onshore wind and solar are also crucial for the net-zero target, with 9 GW currently deployed and 16 GW of installed capacity expected by 2030. But what is the prospect for expansion?
“There are still high levels of activity in securing onshore wind farm sites but a lot of suitable sites have already been developed,” says Kenneth. “Sites now are more often scattered across various land ownerships, and can be more difficult to get to, so you might be dealing with several landowners to construct a wind farm rather than a single landowner.
“Developers are looking to areas like the north coast, which brings in considerations of how to get agreement to develop a wind farm on crofting land.”
Kenneth says the industry is already looking at the next generation: “Planning permissions last for around 25 years and leases 25 years-plus, so there comes a point where many developers need to decide if they’re going to install new turbines or try to extend the lifespan of existing turbines.
“With advances in technology, you can monitor performance and take action for maintenance and repair before catastrophic failure. In some circumstances, re powering will be appropriate and in others, extending the lifespan of existing assets will be the way forward.”
John Boyce, head of wind projects at RES, which manages more than 7.5 GW of renewable assets in Scotland, says onshore wind is increasingly able to do more with less.
He says: “Wind turbines are evolving and we are now able to produce more energy with fewer turbines. Installing the most modern turbines available will ensure Scotland reaps the benefits of great efficiencies and more clean, green electricity generation.
“Often, we find that people get very hung up on the numerical value of turbine heights and we’ve seen local planning authorities placing arbitrary limits, but we think the most important part is ensuring wind farms are designed sensitively.”
He adds: “Meeting our ambitions of net-zero and decarbonising all areas of society will require the deployment of more onshore wind, the cheapest form of new generation. Every scenario from the Committee on Climate Change to the International Energy Agency sees onshore wind playing a vital role.”
So where is the renewable energy revolution heading next? “I think wave and tidal power will become mainstream in the next few years as we have such fantastic resources,” says Cockburn. “The technology is coming on leaps and bounds.”
With so much going on, does Scotland need to focus on specifics, or do a bit of everything?
“There is only so much money available to invest in renewables,” says Cockburn. “That tends to go into proven technologies and ones with pipelines of work. We need to do what’s achievable – and sensible.
“From a human point of view, a lot of jobs in Scotland are dependent on oil and gas, particularly in the north-east, and there needs to be a just transition. Part of that is looking where skills can be redeployed. Carbon capture and storage, hydrogen, and engineering connected with offshore wind, wave or tidal are obvious places for that.”
Greener grid parks help with stability
An emerging and crucially important area for renewables, especially wind and solar, is energy storage and grid stability.
“Rather than having a handful of power stations reacting to supply and demand, there are now many different methods of generating renewable electricity on many different sites,” says Paul Mason, real estate partner at Womble Bond Dickinson.
Maintaining stability of the power grid has become a bigger challenge as more electricity is generated from renewables. Bringing solutions are firms such as Statkraft, which is developing Greener Grid Parks across the UK.
Guy Nicholson, head of grid integration at Statkraft UK, says: “We don’t always get to utilise all of the renewable electricity that could be generated, so our grid must be adapted to the rapid progress that renewable energy has made. Sometimes it’s been necessary to shut down wind farms and operate gas power plants to keep the grid stable. Projects such as our Greener Grid Parks will make this a thing of the past.”
The world’s largest offshore wind farm has moved a step closer after passing the last important milestone for the project’s delivery.
Joint venture partners SSE Renewables and Equinor have reached financial close on Dogger Bank Wind Farm C, the third phase of the vast North Sea wind facility which is due to complete in March 2026.
Due to its size and scale, Dogger Bank is being built in three consecutive 1.2 gigawatt (GW) phases. When completed, the wind farm, located off the north east coast of England, will have the capacity to power some six million UK homes.
SSE Renewables, part of Scottish energy giant SSE, and Equinor are already constructing the first two phases of Dogger Bank with Eni, joint venture partner on phases A and B.
Located off the north east coast of England, Dogger Bank Wind Farm in the North Sea is being built in three phases and will be the largest offshore wind farm in the world when operational, with an overall capacity of some 3.6 gigawatts.
Now, with financial close being reached on the project’s third phase, the wind farm has passed the last key milestone ahead of its construction delivery programme.
Total investment will be around £9 billion, of which some £3bn is for phase C, including offshore transmission capital expenditure in the range of £900 million to £1bn.
Dogger Bank A and B is a joint venture between SSE Renewables (40 per cent), Equinor (40 per cent) and Eni (20 per cent). At the start of last month, SSE and Equinor announced the sell down of a combined 20 per cent share in Dogger Bank C to Eni (10 per cent each) for a total consideration of £140m.
Alistair Phillips-Davies, SSE chief executive, said: “It is a fantastic achievement to be reaching financial close on the third phase of the world’s largest offshore wind project, just weeks after COP26 concluded in Glasgow and today marks an important early milestone in the delivery of our own Net Zero Acceleration Programme.
“Our plans will enable delivery of over 25 per cent of the UK’s 2030 40 GW offshore wind target, whilst also expanding overseas, delivering over 20 per cent of upcoming UK electricity networks investment and deploying the critical flexibility technologies to provide security of supply.
“Construction is well underway on the first two phases of Dogger Bank with work on the third phase already progressing and we look forward to this ramping up in the new year.”
Pål Eitrheim of Equinor added: “Reaching financial close on the third phase of Dogger Bank is a significant milestone as it demonstrates that we are on track with developing what will become the world’s largest offshore wind farm.
“The extensive interest from lenders underpins the attractiveness of UK offshore wind assets and the confidence in SSE and Equinor as developers. The level of interest achieved reflects the quality of the project and enables strong return on equity.”
The news comes just weeks after Perth-headquartered SSE outlined plans to invest a bumper £12.5bn over the next five years as it looks to accelerate its net zero plans.
The firm said the move makes it the biggest constructor of offshore wind in the world and will increase the amount of renewable energy produced by four gigawatts over the period.
The UK Government has earmarked £10 million ($13.4 million) in funding for a hydrogen storage project near Glasgow, Scotland.
The Whitelee green hydrogen project will develop the UK’s largest electrolyser and will be located alongside ScottishPower’s Whitelee Windfarm
Developed by electrolyser manufacturer ITM Power and clean fuel company BOC, in conjunction with ScottishPower’s Hydrogen division, the facility will be able to produce 2.5 to 4 tonnes of green hydrogen per day.
Once stored, this could provide the equivalent of enough zero-carbon fuel for 225 buses travelling to and from Glasgow and Edinburgh each day, according to the UK’s Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy.
Secretary of State for Scotland Alister Jack said: “The Whitelee project will be the UK’s largest power-to hydrogen energy storage project, using an electrolyser powered by the renewable energy from the Whitelee Windfarm. This will create green hydrogen, a zero-carbon gas that is produced via electrolysis (splitting) of water, using renewable power.”
Jim Mercer, Business President, BOC UK & Ireland said: “The Green Hydrogen for Glasgow project is both innovative and exciting. It will help to shape the future of energy storage and demonstrate the value of hydrogen to Scotland’s growing low-carbon economy. This project will accelerate development across multiple disciplines – from production and storage, to transportation and end use.”
An additional £2.25 million ($3 million) in new government funding will support the development of hydrogen skills and standards in the UK.
The funding falls under the Net Zero Innovation Portfolio and will see the British Standards Institution (BSI) develop technical standards for hydrogen products, and a consortium comprising Energy and Utility Skills and the Institution of Gas Engineers and Managers, establish new standards and training specifications to facilitate the training of hydrogen gas installers.
Jones Bros project manager James Lockwood said: “The arrival of the cable drums marks a significant point in our works on the grid connection and land-based infrastructure.
“The site team have done a fantastic job over the past four months to allow for deliveries of the cables to start on time and on programme.
“The 80 miles of cabling will be used along a 20 mile route to help connect the offshore wind farm to the national grid, and we remain committed to minimising disruption in the local area as we carry out this work.”
Dogger Bank onshore project manager Oliver Flattery said: “The Jones Bros team has worked hard since the start of 2020 to safely and efficiently prepare the ground in East Riding, in readiness for more than 3000 tonnes of cables to be installed from July onwards.
“We thank local residents and businesses for their patience over the last 18 months, and continue to focus on operating safely and with minimal disruption as we progress our work with the installation of the cables that will transmit renewable energy to millions of UK homes.”
Dogger Bank is currently being developed in three 1.2GW phases, known as Dogger Bank A, B and C.
Dogger Bank A and B are owned by SSE Renewables (40%), Equinor (40%) and Eni%), while Dogger Bank C is a 50:50 joint venture between SSE Renewables and Equinor.