Extending the Operational Life of the Project through expansion
The 4.5MW Hammars Hill project was commissioned in 2010 and is situated in the northeast of the Orkney Mainland. With planning consent for 25 years, the project has been running successfully for over ten years, is locally owned and locally managed. It consists of five operational Enercon E44 900 kW wind turbines which have a blade tip height of 67meters.
The company is exploring the potential to expand the project. The proposed development will form an extension, adjacent to northwest of Hammars Hill Wind Farm with two wind turbines generating approximately 8MW of additional renewable electricity.
The proposed development will make use of existing infrastructure at the Hammars Hill Wind Farm including access tracks, substation and control buildings which will help minimise potential effects on the local environment.
The proposed development would be classed as a ‘local’ development and planning determined by Orkney Islands Council (OIC), and as such the application would be assessed against the Local Development Plan and other material considerations.
Overall, we believe that the site presents an opportunity to further develop the project that has a demonstrable track record of being a successful area for wind turbine development. As it is an area where wind development already exists, there is a clear argument to present that a new development does not open new areas of visibility, as the development would always be seen alongside the existing wind turbines. Regarding policy, the site is within a broad area of search as an area with the highest inherent capacity for wind turbine development and is an area designated for potential strategic wind energy development. Therefore, a strong presumption in favour of the development may be demonstrated, and with the level of wind resource in the area, the proposed development is in an ideal location to help contribute to the UK and Scottish Government’s renewable energy targets and add weight to the Islands’ bid to improve grid connectivity to mainland Scotland.
Orkney has been at the forefront of renewable energy development for over 30 years. With a history of land-based wind development at Burgar Hill, and the more recent arrival of wave and tidal development, hosted by EMEC, this has resulted in the concentration of unique expertise in the field of renewables, with its associated disciplines of environmental, civil, electrical, and mechanical engineering. This human resource, when combined with some of the best wind and marine resource in Britain, makes Orkney the perfect place for the commercial generation of electricity by means of renewable generation and the Hammars Hill windfarm is an excellent example of the transformational nature of Island projects in terms of economic growth, sustainability, and transformation to a low carbon economy.
Orkney is also home to the highest concentration of small and micro wind turbines in the UK, as well as several larger community owned and commercial turbines, one locally owned wind farm (Hammars Hill), and one commercial wind farm (Spurness, Sanday – SSE). Wind power is the main energy source that allowed Orkney to become a net energy exporter since 2013.
Onshore wind is one of the lowest cost forms of new-build electricity generation in the UK. It is delivering for businesses across the UK, creating jobs, economic growth, security of supply, promoting sustainability in local communities and in doing so delivering on the grand challenge of clean growth. Already considered the cheapest form of large scale new-build electricity generation, the sectors levelised cost of energy is forecast to continue to fall further over the next decade as innovation progresses. At the same time demand is forecast to increase through the decarbonisation of transport and heat. Against this background the withdrawal of the Japanese from investing in new nuclear in the UK appears to leave the UK energy policy in tatters. The message is clear. Time is running out. The world is nowhere near where it needs to be on the transition to a low carbon economy. Within a decade we need to get most of our electricity from renewables. We believe that Orkney can contribute significantly to the security of supply that the UK needs.
Orkney Transmission Connection Project/Ofgem “Final Needs Case” Decision
The distribution network in Orkney is supplied from Thurso in Caithness by two 33kV subsea cables. At present there is no transmission infrastructure on Orkney. In 2012 the Orkney network reached full capacity and Scottish Hydro Electric Power Distribution (SHEPD) introduced a moratorium on the connection of any new renewable projects to the distribution network.
Following conventional technical and commercial approaches, the evolving contracted position of generation on Orkney over the last decade has been a challenge for Scottish & Southern Energy Networks (SSEN), previously known as SHEPD, to demonstrate that a transmission connection is needed. To try and overcome this impasse and help Orkney realise its vast renewables potential, SSEN began developing an “Alternative Approach”. Costs are apportioned across each of the individual generators based on the total cost of local infrastructure on a per MW basis. Individual sole use assets that will be installed are fully charged to each development. As such, costs may vary if other generators decide not to proceed as the infrastructure will be required to be funded by lesser developments.
SSEN’s Alternative Approach aims to unlock Orkney’s renewable potential by creating an opportunity for those ‘ready to connect’ via a staged approach to network reinforcement. SSEN believes that the most economical and efficient solution is to reinforce the network in incremental stages. They plan two phases, each of 180MW. Capacity made available from the reinforcement will then be allocated on a ‘ready to connect’ basis to ensure that capacity is efficiently utilised in comparison to the standard industry practice of ‘first to contract, first to connect’ which can cause capacity to become fixed but not utilised. This Alternative Approach would allow reinforcement to be progressed and overcome barriers previously faced by the reinforcement project.
Ofgem issued its final decision on the Orkney Needs Case on 16th September 2019 in which the energy regulator has maintained several challenging conditions that need to be met before funding approval for the proposed transmission link is granted. What we have is in effect conditional approval.
In its final decision, Ofgem has maintained its position that 135MW of new renewable electricity generation needs to secure planning permission and demonstrate financial viability prior to granting approval for the construction of the link to proceed.
Ofgem has extended the date in which developers need to meet these conditions from December 2019 to December 2021. This means, in turn, that the construction of the transmission link may be delayed for at least a two-year period (to 2025), if the full timescale is required to secure the 135MW target, or shorter if the need is met at an earlier stage.
Challenges & Opportunities
Since the original turbines were constructed in 2010, the design and economics of wind turbines has evolved. The most significant change is that turbines have become larger. The existing five turbines each have a rated capacity of 900kW with a blade tip height of 67meters. The proposed turbine design for the expansion project is a 4.2MW turbine with a blade tip height of up to 150 meters.
The proposed development will make use of existing infrastructure at the Hammars Hill Wind Farm including access tracks, substation, and control buildings. The proposed development is expected to include:
- Two wind turbines at up to 150 metres in height to blade tip
- Turbine foundations
- External transformer housing
- Crane pads
- Underground electricity cabling
- New access tracks
- Temporary borrow pits
- Temporary construction and storage compounds, laydown areas and ancillary infrastructure.
- Drainage and drainage attenuation measures (as required)
With the level of wind resource in the area, the proposed development is in an ideal location to help contribute to the UK and Scottish Government’s renewable energy targets and add weight to the Island’s bid to improve grid connectivity to mainland Scotland. As far as possible, the proposed development will also utilise existing tracks, which will help minimise potential effects on the local environment.
The planning application for the development was submitted to Orkney Islands Council in March 2020.